What to Do With Nuclear Waste

Under pressure from the nuclear lobby, the Senate is considering legislation to slash environmental standards, preempt state law, and force an "interim" storage facility for the nation's high-level nuclear waste in Nevada. In the opinion-page article "It's Time to Build a Site To Store Nuclear Waste," May 30, the author's endorsement of this notion is shortsighted.

Despite vigorous state opposition and scientific uncertainty, Yucca Mountain in Nevada is the only site under consideration as a permanent nuclear- waste repository.

Now Congress may designate the area as an "interim" dump site before a determination is made on its suitability as a permanent repository. Doing so would prejudice the studies and divert funds from the long-term program, resulting in a de facto permanent facility that lacks adequate safeguards.

"Interim" storage is no solution to the nation's nuclear-waste dilemma. Indeed, the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, the scientific oversight body for the nation's waste program, recommended against pursuing interim storage. While the industry claims that centralization reduces the number of high-level waste sites from 110 to one, every reactor will remain a waste site so long as it operates.

Bluster about a waste "crisis" has masked the industry's assault on environmental regulation. The Senate bill attacks the Environmental Protection Agency, sets a repository radiation standard far in excess of comparable rules, and allows the preemption of every federal and state environmental law.

When all the rhetoric clears, we are left with a simple trade-off. The industry gets to transfer title and liability for the waste it chose to generate to the taxpayer. In return, citizens accept the safety risks of transportation, the fiscal risks of liability, and the environmental risks of slashed standards. We should hold out for a better offer.

Michael Grynberg


Energy Policy Analyst

Public Citizen

Her majesty's soccer team(s)?

The author of the opinion-page article "Of Circles and Centers," July 11, refers to "Britain's" soccer team as competing in Euro '96, the European soccer championships. Great Britain comprises three separate nations - England, Scotland, and Wales - each having their own national soccer team. England and Scotland competed in the Euro '96 championships.

Furthermore, not all the matches took place at Wembley Stadium, London, as the author implies. Matches were held in eight cities throughout England.

Alistair Budd

Rolle, Switzerland

Contract labor in Burma

The allegations regarding Unocal's involvement in the Yadana natural gas development project in the letter "Forced Labor in Burma," June 28, are absolutely false. Such allegations distort the facts about the project and ignore the benefits it is bringing to the people of Burma.

There is no slave or child labor being used on the project. All labor is directly-paid contract labor and is carefully documented. All workers must be at least 18 years of age and must pass a free, company-sponsored physical examination. They must also complete basic first aid, work safety, and firefighting training. These requirements have been in place since the project began.

Neither Unocal nor Total, the project operator, will tolerate any human rights abuses. Specific, contractually binding policies have been established to ensure that it is conducted ethically and responsibly:

*All contractors recruiting on Total's behalf must commit to fair hiring practices, and must show evidence of an ongoing comprehensive health and safety management. Contractors are audited for compliance with employment and health and safety management policies.

*Employment targets have been established for the villages in the vicinity of the pipeline route to ensure that each village has a proportional opportunity to participate in the local project work force.

*We have set wage scales - higher than prevailing local wages - for all those working on this project. All work arrangements are formalized through labor contracts. Workers receive their pay directly and are required to sign pay records.

*All contract workers receive food, potable water, lodging, hygiene facilities and medical and preventive health care, and safety clothing and equipment.

Since November 1995, the four Yadana project partners have invested more than $2 million to fund projects that are making a meaningful difference in the lives of the 20,000 people living in the region's 13 principal villages.

We are helping the villagers develop sustainable local enterprises, including about 100 small-scale pig farms. We're bringing improved agricultural practices and veterinary care into the region, and working to build or renovate schools and health centers. We've recruited 12 new physicians into a region that has been severely underserved.

Over the past 30 years, we've seen our activities improve the quality of life for thousands of families and communities in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and other developing countries. The Yadana project is no exception.

David M. Garcia

El Segundo, Calif.

Senior Public Relations Representative

Unocal Corporation

Your letters are welcome. For publication they must be signed and include your address and telephone number. Only a selection can be published in the Monitor and the Monitor's on-line edition and none acknowledged. All letters are subject to editing. Letters should be addressed to "Readers Write" and may be sent by mail to One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, by fax to 617-450-2317, or by Internet e-mail (200 words maximum) to OPED@CSPS.COM.

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