Group Fights Utah Efforts to Block Goshute Waste

Group Fights Utah Efforts to Block Goshute Waste

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Organizers of a proposed temporary nuclear waste dump on an American Indian reservation are trying to block a late effort to prevent regulatory acceptance of the project.

The State of Utah had filed a contention with the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board alleging that new information from the Department of Energy means the waste won't be transported for permanent storage, as planned, at the proposed Yucca Mountain facility.

The state has long opposed the project planned for Skull Valley Band of Goshutes' land, but filed that complaint Nov. 12, after the time limit for filing new arguments had closed.

It alleged that Gary Lanthrum, a DOE official involved with transporting nuclear waste, told state officials in October in a private conversation the DOE wasn't obligated to accept waste from the Goshute site because it would be in welded canisters.

In its response Monday, Private Fuel Storage, a nuclear power utility consortium that is organizing the project, argued the alleged statement -- presented in an affidavit from a state official and a newspaper report in The Salt Lake Tribune -- wasn't on official transcripts, and therefore wasn't sufficient.

PFS also argued the statements were wrong in the first place, because DOE is legally required to accept all spent nuclear fuel from utilities.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board is deciding whether Skull Valley can safely keep nuclear fuel. The board in March 2003 stalled construction by ruling the chances of a fighter jet from Hill Air Force Base crashing into the storage pad makes the project too risky. It has taken arguments for and against that decision and is weighing other aspects of the project.

As planned, the storage pad would hold up to 4,000 casks filled with depleted nuclear fuel -- about 10 million rods -- across 100 acres of the Skull Valley. The waste would be shipped over rail lines, mostly from reactors east of the Mississippi. Utah has no nuclear power plants.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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