Officials Wrap Up Skull Valley Inspection

Officials Wrap Up Skull Valley Inspection

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- U.S. Homeland Security Department officials on Friday concluded on Friday a weeklong visit to Utah's west desert, studying safety plans that would allow the Skull Valley Band of Goshutes to use their reservation as way station for nuclear waste.

The visit was low-profile and their findings won't be made public.

But their work got the attention of many in Utah concerned about the Skull Valley proposal.

"It was very important to all of us," Utah's U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch said.

The Republican has complained about the federal government's involvement in the waste storage plan, a joint enterprise of a consortium of nuclear-power utilities and the tribe. Hatch and others see Utah's west desert, which is home to several U.S. military installations, as a high-risk terrorism target.

"I don't see how anyone in Homeland Security couldn't see this is a dangerous place to put" 44,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste," Hatch said.

Traveling with Homeland Security officials was an adviser from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal agency that will make the final decision on licensing the waste site.

Plans by the consortium, Private Fuel Storage, call for leasing 820 acres of the Goshute reservation to build a 100-acre storage site for 4,000 steel-and-concrete containers of used nuclear reactor rods. The license would be for 20 years, with a possible 20-year extension.

Officials toured the site Thursday and were expected to meet with tribal officials Leon Bear and Lori Skiby. The delegation included Bob Stephan, acting Undersecretary for Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection. Other meetings were held with those in Utah who over see environmental laws, public safety and security.

"They were fruitful meetings," said Homeland Security spokeswoman Michelle Petrovich. "We felt like we got a lot out of it."

Utah's government has been a vocal opponent of the project, although it has practically no control over it because it would be built on sovereign tribal land.

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

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