The Honorable Gray Davis
Governor of California
Sacramento, CA 95814
Dear Governor Davis,
The signatories of this letter are scientists and engineers with many years of service in both the public and private sectors. In the interests of maintaining the health and welfare of our citizens, and California's position as the leading state in science and technology-based economic progress, we urge you to take all steps necessary for the prompt completion of the proposed Ward Valley low-level radioactive waste disposal facility. A safe, reliable disposal facility is needed by organizations that use radioactive materials including universities, utilities, industries, and medical centers. Industries for which radioisotopes are essential provide California with over 200,000 jobs, more than $3 billion in tax revenues, and over $17 billion in commercial sales, besides vitally adding to the health of our citizens.
We were encouraged by your campaign statements that your administration's actions on Ward Valley and the safe disposal of low-level waste will be dictated by good science. The proposed project is based on sound science and regulatory practice. Not only was a license issued for Ward Valley and the Environmental Impact report certified by the California Department of Health Services, the project also has the endorsement of two independent, outside scientific reviews. In 1991, a blue ribbon panel of experts reviewed the design of the facility and its monitoring system at the request of Dr. Kenneth Kizer who was, at the time, Director of Health Services. The panel came up with positive conclusions.
In 1994, at the request of Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) convened a special panel to examine safety and environmental concerns of Ward Valley opponents. The panel's highly favorable report, issued in May, 1995, provides political leaders with an extra measure of assurance that the proposed site is safe. Indeed, after release of the NAS report, Secretary Babbitt said he was prepared to move forward with the transfer of federal land to the State. He failed to do so, and the handling of the matter by his Department of the Interior was severely criticized by the General Accounting Office in a formal report.
We are concerned by recent developments which sell short the scientific basis for proceeding with the Ward Valley project. The state budget signed in June deleted funding for the Department of Health Services' regulatory program. Your administration decided not to appeal an adverse decision of the federal district court in Washington. Most disturbing is the failure to request extension of the Bureau of Land Management's withdrawal of the federal lands in Ward Valley, which constitute the proposed site of the Southwestern Compact's regional low-level waste disposal facility Some of us have followed California's implementation of the federal Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act over the years. The Act's genesis was bipartisan and environmental. The same is true for California's siting and compact ratification laws. The State's regulatory oversight of the Ward Valley project has been thorough. Thus, it should be clear that the opposition to Ward Valley is not to remedy safety issues, but rather to stop its construction without rational consideration of the facts.
We understand that several months ago you indicated a desire for yet a third outside review to be led by the President of the University of California. There is more than an adequate basis in law and science to proceed with Ward Valley now. But if another review is your desire, it should begin promptly and move expeditiously. As you know, South Carolina is moving quickly to foreclose further use of the Barnwell disposal facility by states such as California and our partners in the Southwestern Compact.
Every competent organization that has reviewed the proposed Ward Valley project has commented favorably. Aside from Dr. Kizer's panel, the Dept. of Health Services, and the NAS, there were reviews by federal agencies: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Bureau of Land Management which completed a favorable Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement in 1993.
Governor, you are in a position to end the squabbling between the State and the federal government. You have the ability to persuade the President to put science, and state and national welfare, ahead of the damaging effects of irrational opposition. Please do so.
The California signatories below hope this letter will be of value to you and our State.