May 13th, 2008
Joseph Egan, a lawyer for numerous radiation victims, has died of cancer at age 53.
In 2002 the state of Nevada hired Egan's law firm to head up the legal fight against Yucca Mountain.
Egan, one reporter wrote: "is so confident of victory that he's willing to accept a fee only if the state wins. 'I'll put my money where my mouth is,' [Egan] said he does not believe [Yucca Mountain] will ever open. 'We don't expect to win every battle but we're going to win the war,' said Egan, considered an expert on nuclear law." (1)
Among other things, Nevada claimed that the Department of Energy "failed to address realistic sabotage scenarios involving spent fuel transport and thus vastly understated the risks and consequences of undertaking thousands of such shipments if Yucca proceeds." (2)
At the time, Antonio Rossman, an attorney/expert on land use and natural resources law, called Yucca Mountain "one of the gravest mistakes the [federal] government has ever made." (3)
On July 9, 2004, a federal appeals court found that the Bush Administration's proposed 10,000-year limit for protecting the public from Yucca Mountain's radiation was woefully insufficient. We can thank Egan (and the State of Nevada) for that important legal victory. (4)
Nearly four years later, Yucca Mountain is still being pushed by the federal government, which sees NO NEED TO END THE "LEGAL" DEBATE IN A HURRY, even if they are CERTAIN they are going to LOSE eventually (at least, they might have been certain while Egan was their adversary). While the courtroom drama drags on, nuclear power WINS BY DEFAULT, and everyone's cancer risk is gravely increased, and our country is led towards BANKRUPTCY. But that's all fine with the DOE and the rest of the Nuclear Mafia. They fiddle while our insides burn.
Egan also helped unmask a cover-up of email records of scientific fraud by the federal government's Yucca Mountain team of scientists. (5) Additionally, he argued the unconstitutionality of the Bush Administration's Yucca Mountain decision, because it pitted: "49 other states against Nevada." (6)
Egan was hard-working, smart, educated, had worked in the nuclear field, was dedicated to the law, and was undoubtedly very effective. Even Matthew Wald of the New York Times managed not to denigrate Egan in yesterday's obituary. Wald's pro-nuclear bias is usually plainly evident, but in Egan's case, Wald limits himself to reciting credentials and actions, so you know Egan MUST have been remarkable. Wald's obituary for Egan shows how Egan came to lead the legal team fighting against Yucca Mountain: "Mr. Egan earned an undergraduate degree in physics from M.I.T., and then two master's degrees, in nuclear engineering and in technology and policy. He worked as a nuclear reactor engineer for Commonwealth Edison in Illinois and later for the New York Power Authority. He received a law degree from Columbia University, and was a partner at Shaw Pittman in Washington and a senior associate at LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae in New York before founding his own firm in Washington." (7)
Others who are currently in the Nuclear Mafia should take note: You, too, can wake up before it's too late! Egan came out of the belly of the dragon to lead the fight against it, and so can you!
In 2003, the Justice Department joined in a lawsuit against Lockheed-Martin which Egan had filed, so he must have "had a case" as the saying goes. Here's Egan's own comments, from an article at the time: "We're extremely pleased that they're intervening," he said. "In a case like this, it's very important to have the resources of the government behind you." (8)
For many years I have believed that the rule of law will ultimately be what stops nuclear power -- as it should be, as it can be, as it must be. (Indeed: My last newsletter was on the unconstitutionality of nuclear power.)
Egan obviously believed in the power of the law, too, and additionally, he had the training, the skill, and the willpower to make change happen. He just didn't have the time.
The rest of us will have to work very hard to fill the void left by "young" Joseph Egan. And one must ask: Did man-made radiation kill him, as it has killed so many millions of others? Being just two years younger than Egan, and having survived a thumb-sized tumor in my bladder last year, shudders go through my body when I think about what he must have gone though, dying of gastroesophageal cancer.
My heart goes out to Egan's family, friends, coworkers and other admirers. I hope that a law school, and in particular a law school specializing in nuclear-related law issues, presumably at a Nevada university, will be founded in Egan's name.
(1) Las Vegas SUN, Inc., August 28th, 2002, Cy Ryan: "Nevada State's nuke dump attorney sure of victory"
(2) Las Vegas Journal-Review, December 3rd, 2002, Keith Rogers: "Nuclear Waste: State files challenge to Yucca"
(4) New York Times, July 9th, 2004, Matthew Wald: "Court Sets Back Federal Project on Atom Waste Site's Safety." The article includes this interesting claim: "Even before today's decision, the 2010 target date for opening the site was regarded by people in the nuclear industry as highly suspect."
(5) New York Times, April 2, 2005, Matthew Wald: "E-Mails Reveal Fraud in Nuclear Site Study"
(6) State of Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, Yucca Mountain Update, January 9th, 2004: "Arguments in Nevada's Lawsuit Against Yucca Mountain"
(7) New York Times, May 12th, 2008, Matthew Wald: "Joseph Egan, Lawyer Who Fought Nuclear Waste Site, Is Dead at 53"
(8) Kentucky Enquirer, May 31, 2003, Nancy Zuckerbrod (The Associated Press): "Justice joins Paducah environmental lawsuit: Plant handled radioactive, hazardous waste"
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