SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. has urged Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman to have nuclear waste remain stored at the reactors that produce it, rather than shipping it to a temporary storage facility proposed at a Goshute reservation 50 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.
Huntsman, who was in Washington, also said Monday that he will ask Interior Secretary Gale Norton to override the Bureau of Indian Affairs' decision to approve the lease between the utility companies seeking to build the repository and the Skull Valley Band of Goshutes.
"As I told Secretary Bodman, there's no such thing as temporary storage in today's world. If this finds its way to Utah, I'm not sure it would ever leave," Huntsman told The Salt Tribune's Washington office.
He urged the Energy Department to develop a long-term energy storage plan that would allow waste to be stored at reactors for half-a-century.
"Let's let research and development catch up. If we were to buy 30 to 50 years onsite, reprocessing could happen. That's not beyond reality," Huntsman said.
Bodman did not commit to any action, the Tribune said. The Bush administration has budgeted $651 million in the coming year for work on a permanent nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada and remains committed to that site.
Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett, both R-Utah, said after a meeting last week with the White House that rapidly getting Yucca Mountain into operation is the best way to prevent interim storage in Utah. Both senators previously had agreed to support the Yucca Mountain storage in exchange for a White House pledge not to use federal funds to ship the waste to Utah.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said last week that will introduce legislation that would allow the Energy Department to take ownership of waste at the reactors and store it there.
In another development Monday, Nils A. Diaz, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told reporters at the National Press Club that the canisters holding nuclear waste are designed to withstand attacks and "pose no radiological hazard with the present weaponry" available to terrorists.
"I think the casks there will be well protected," Diaz said, as reported by the Deseret Morning News.
He said the concentration of canisters in one location could make it so that an attack -- by an aircraft flying into a cluster of casks, for example -- could result in damage to a few casks being knocked into one another. But even if the casks were breached, the radiation leakage would be confined to the immediate impact area, and radiation would not extend beyond a two-mile zone around the site, he said.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)