Two public interest groups have called for an investigation into possible design flaws concerning storage containers that would be used in transporting nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain.
Audits in 2000 showed nine quality assurance problems suggesting dry storage containers designed by New Jersey-based Holtec International may not match government specifications, according to Public Citizen and the Nuclear Information and Resource Service.
In a letter Thursday, the two groups asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's independent inspector general to investigate whether the agency was"appropriately responsive to public safety concerns."
The audit turned up possible welding violations, brittle materials, damages to neutron shielding and falsified quality assurance documents, according to the groups.
"If plans go forward for the Private Fuel Storage (in Utah) and Yucca Mountain and the NRC is banking on analysis that has a questionable correspondence to reality, that raises questions whether the NRC is operating in La-La Land,"said Public Citizen policy analyst Lisa Gue.
The Department of Energy has not yet selected designs for the containers, although Holtec is expected to be among the companies competing for the contract.
Brian Gutherman, Holtec manager of licensing and technical services, said the company has never been contacted by the NRC about problems with its container designs.
The Energy Department plans by the end of 2004 to submit to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission an application to operate the nuclear repository 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Plans call for the burial of 77,000 tons of commercial, industrial and military waste at the site.