A newly discovered series of emails from scientists working on the Yucca Mountain project, reported to have been found on a public database of documents, suggest the Energy Department were aware the volcanic rock at the site could not prevent moisture transport as long as eight years ago.

According to comments attributed to Joe Egan, a Washington attorney representing Nevada in its bid to block the development, the emails detail a late 1990s shift away from a repository reliant on impermeable geological barriers to one that relied on engineered barriers, such as metal waste containers.

Reputedly, a 1997 message from department scientist Larry Rickertsen, titled “Real Trouble Ahead” says, “The answer is clearer than ever. Engineering has to do the job.” Egan is thought to have discovered the e-mails by entering the key word “falsification” in a search of the Energy Department’s database

“They (the e-mails) show the site not only flunked but it flunked spectacularly and there is nothing they can do to stop it,” Egan is quoted as saying. However, an Energy Department spokeswoman said the e-mails only demonstrate an ongoing collaborative scientific process.

If the project moves into a Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing hearing, Nevada officials plan to use the e-mails to resurrect arguments challenging the basis for selecting Yucca Mountain.

Meanwhile, Nevada Rep. Shelley Berkley has asked President Bush to call off work on Yucca Mountain following the recent revelations that workers had allegedly falsified key findings with regard to water transport on the site. Berkley concludes by saying, “To maintain the integrity of this project, it is necessary that an independent entity conduct a comprehensive review, prior to license application submission, of all documentation citing key scientific findings and research addressing safety compliance of the proposed repository.”