Federal Board Rejects State Appeal on Goshute Nuclear Dump

Federal Board Rejects State Appeal on Goshute Nuclear Dump

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board on Tuesday rejected Utah's appeal to thwart the stockpiling of spent nuclear fuel rods at an American Indian reservation 45 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.

The ruling comes after an appeals hearing in April, when the state argued that radiation could escape from waste casks if an outer protective shield was breached -- even if the interior lead-lined canister holding the fuel rods remained fully intact.

The Goshute tribe is trying to build a waste station for spent rods at the tribe's reservation in Skull Valley. The largely impoverished tribe has been seeking ways to make money and eventually teamed with Private Fuel Storage to propose the station.

The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board has cleared the way for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to approve the project, but agreed to hear Utah's last-minute in April.

At that hearing, NRC lawyers said Utah's argument was too late and lacked scientific merit, advising the three-member licensing board to reject it on procedural grounds.

"We find ourselves unconvinced that the asserted procedural and substantive deficiencies to which the State points are of sufficient merit ... to alter" the board's previous findings, the panel wrote in its ruling Tuesday.

Private Fuel Storage has spent eight years seeking federal approval for a "temporary" waste dump in Utah pending the opening of a national repository at Nevada's Yucca Mountain.

The Yucca effort has been delayed by allegations that project scientists may have fabricated data to prove it was safe.

The Atomic Safety and Licensing Board had already rejected Utah's strongest argument against the Goshute stockpile.

The state claimed the chances of a fighter jet crash from Hill Air Force Base crashing into a pad containing the fuel casks made the project too risky. The licensing board dismissed that scenario as unlikely, concluding the odds of it happening were less than 1 in a million a year.

The board's ruling in April sent the disposal project to the full Nuclear Regulatory Commission for final approval, but Utah -- which has long fought the proposed dump -- asked the licensing board to reconsider.

It was not immediately clear when the NRC would issue its final decision.

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

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