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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- New Gov. Olene Walker says she will continue predecessor Mike Leavitt's battle against the proposal to store spent nuclear-reactor fuel rods on the Goshutes' Skull Valley reservation.
"I'm strongly opposed to nuclear waste and anything hotter than we currently accept," she said.
The proposal calls for temporary storage on the Goshute property for up to 44,000 tons of depleted nuclear fuel, until it is sent to a permanent repository, now planned for Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
Private Fuel Storage, a consortium of nuclear power companies, has been pursuing a license for the Goshute site from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The NRC's adjudicatory arm, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, ruled earlier this year that the risk was too great that a jet fighter using the nearby Utah Test and Training Range might crash into the storage site.
PFS contends the storage casks could successfully survive such a crash and the issue still remains before the NRC.
PFS spokeswoman Sue Martin said the consortium hopes Utah's new governor will meet with proponents and keep an open mind about their project.
She said Leavitt, who quit to become head of the Environmental Protection Agency, "never even sat down and talked with us about it."
Dianne Nielson, director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, doubted the new administration will back away.
Walker "remains opposed to the siting of this facility in Utah," Nielson said. "There is no indication the state's position has changed."
The Legislature provided $3.8 million in recent years to fight the proposal. Budgets are being drafted now and it is not clear how much money the state will pump into the opposition in the future.
Anne Sward Hansen of the Environmental Justice Project said the handful of Goshutes who have spoken out against the project still need the state's help with what she described as a fight to protect the tribal members' civil rights. She counted Walker as a champion in that fight.
"I think she could stand up to people," said Hansen, "and that's what we need."
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)