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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Several disgruntled members of the Skull Valley Band of Goshutes tribe are suing the federal government to block a proposed nuclear storage facility on the reservation.
The suit, filed against the U.S. Interior Department and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, claims federal administrators have erroneously negotiated with disputed leaders and failed to take into account the concerns of the 124-member tribe.
The site, to be operated by a consortium of utility companies called Private Fuel Storage, would hold 44,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel on Goshute land about 50 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.
PFS signed a lease with disputed Tribal Chairman Leon Bear in May 1997 to house spent fuel from nuclear power plants used throughout the country to produce electricity.
The Goshutes who filed suit Tuesday want the BIA to stop recognizing Bear as the chairman of the tribe's executive committee. The plaintiffs, members of the tribe's general council, say they recalled Bear in 2001 and replaced the executive committee members with new leaders.
The BIA refuses to recognize the authority of the new elected committee members. The suit claims the leadership dispute throws the entire waste lease into question. After a new election, the plaintiffs want to reopen the lease agreement, allowing for new negotiations. Bear's attorney Scott York said he had not yet seen the federal lawsuit and declined comment.
Abby Bullcreek and the other five individuals named as plaintiffs say they have "a strong interest" in blocking Private Fuel Storage from gaining federal approval to build a nuclear storage site on their reservation.
"A release of radiation from the stored material has the potential of causing widespread injury, death, property damage, and permanent harm to the environment of their permanent homeland," the lawsuit says.
The consortium's proposal received the approval of a panel of Nuclear Regulatory Commission judges two weeks ago, clearing the way for the full NRC to grant the federal license.
Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has promised to continue the state's fight against the proposed waste site, indicating that an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is "becoming increasingly viable."
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)