Supreme Court Turns Down Utah's Appeal on Nuke Waste

Supreme Court Turns Down Utah's Appeal on Nuke Waste

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to take up an appeal filed by Utah to restore a set of laws blocking a nuclear waste repository at the Skull Valley Goshute Indian Reservation.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals nullified the laws last year, saying Utah didn't have authority to regulate nuclear waste. Utah appealed to the Supreme Court, but on Monday it refused to get involved, listing the case among others it was refusing to hear, without comment.

Utah still is fighting in court. Last month, the state asked the District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a September decision granting approval for the repository by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The state contends the Nuclear Regulatory Commission underestimated the risk of a fighter jet crashing into upright steel casks and releasing radiation at a site about 45 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. Hill Air Force Base uses Skull Valley as a flight path to a training range in Utah's western desert.

Gov. Jon Huntsman says he's sparing no effort to block the dump in the courts, in Congress with a plan to designate a Skull Valley wilderness area and with the help of federal agencies overseeing the tribe and government land in Utah.

The case the Supreme Court refused to hear Monday turned on a series of state laws enacted from 1998 to 2001 that would have prohibited the transportation or storage of spent fuel rods in Utah. The 10th Circuit in Denver and a lower court said those laws trespassed on federal authority and struck them down.

As planned, utilities would send up to 4,000 casks filled with depleted nuclear fuel -- about 10 million rods -- to the Skull Valley storage pad until the federal government can open a national repository at Nevada's Yucca Mountain.

The waste would be shipped over rail lines, mostly from nuclear reactors east of the Mississippi. Utah has no nuclear power plants.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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