The Energy Department discovered groundwater contamination five years ago at the Nevada Test Site, according to a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
"I'm absolutely shocked and I'm thoroughly infuriated about the hypocrisy of the Department of Energy," Gov. Bob Miller said Thursday. "It appears they have covered up something that threatens the safety of the people of Nevada in violation of an agreement in which they committed to tell us."The newspaper said scientists discovered the contamination at the sprawling federal facilityin 1985 from a nuclear test in 1977 and quietly have been studying the problem ever since.
The department signed an agreement with the state this year that requires it to notify the state if contamination is found at the test site.
Nick Aquilina, manager of the DOE Nevada Operations Office in Las Vegas, said there was no reason to tell the state of the discovery.
"Contamination was and still is within the existing test area and there is no reason to think there is any risk to the public or workers," Aquilina said in a statement.
Miller ordered the state Environmental Protection Division to conduct a thorough investigation of the problem and said he would demand Energy Department cooperation.
The Review-Journal this week obtained several documents related to the 1985 discovery - a 1987 panel report commissioned by the department, two Energy Department letters and two memos from a government weapons laboratory.
The report said the radioactive materials were not expected to migrate from the test site.