Establishing Baselines & Citizen Oversight for Yucca Mt.
HOME consulted with leading scientists on how to best protect the future generations. Their advice: measuring changes in the future must be based on accurately knowing the conditions now. Furthermore, those who most throughly know an area and are motivated to protect it are those who live there.
1. Background Definitions
Other U.S. communities who's health is now impacted by radioactive contamination from DOE sites did not measure radioactive levels beforehand. (In fact, no measurements were taken anywhere in the U.S. before fallout from nuclear bombs started drifting on the wind.) Therefore, determining dose reconstruction and responsibility for rising health problems such as cancer is hampered by the inability to prove what changes actually occurred or why.
At Yucca Mountain, some radioactive emissions will occur from nuclear weapons testing and some from natural elements. It is important to identify the most likely emissions from the Yucca Mt. site, both radioactive and other toxins, and establish background definitions for these elements in particular. Current Program: Phase 1 Groundwater Baseline Data for Domestic Wells and Springs.
2. Disease Registry & Exposure Data
Disease history is important to establish in case an increase occurs, for whatever reason. The incidence of disease could be affected by the standard of living going up or down, changes in climate or food source, etc. these same lifestyle changes could affect rates of exposure to whatever contaminants exist as well. For example, Safe Drinking Water Standards are based on drinking two liters of water a day. However, in the Death Valley area, everyone should drink twice that much, and outdoor workers drink even more. Establishing accurate data as much as possible beforehand is vital.
3. Stakeholder-Approved Database and Methods
Too often data that are used to estimate exposures, uncertainties and risks do not reflect the site being addressed. This tool should be able to be understood and used by everyone, and use models and methods approved by stakeholders who know the local situation.
4. Stakeholder's Advisory & Oversight Board
Local people know their homeland and issues and they care about the outcome. A credible board of stakeholders (affected people) should include a diversity of skills, such as non-technical ranchers, university or other researchers, local government and representative nonprofit organizations. A wide range of opinions and points of view should be included. The board should be independently funded, not a DOE supported 'citizen's advisory board' so as to maintain objectivity. We feel strongly about establishing such a group before the site begins any operations.