[ RadSafe ] NYT Article: Interior Department Rejects Interim Plan for Nuclear Waste

John Jacobus crispy_bird at yahoo.com
Tue Sep 12 11:54:25 CDT 2006

Sorry for taking so long to get this out.

September 9, 2006
Interior Department Rejects Interim Plan for Nuclear

SKULL VALLEY, Utah, Sept. 8 — The Interior Department
has moved to block a huge “interim” nuclear waste
storage plant on an Indian reservation here, citing a
lack of confidence that it would truly be temporary
because there is so much doubt about completion of a
permanent repository, at Yucca Mountain, Nev.

But sponsors of the project, which was granted a
license by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in
February, said that the Interior Department decision
had numerous errors and that they were considering an

A consortium of eight utilities negotiated a lease 10
years ago for an 800-acre corner of the reservation
that belongs to the Goshute band, a tiny tribe, about
50 miles west of Salt Lake City. The lease would run
for 25 years with an option for another 25, and the
waste would be stored in above-ground casks of a type
already used at reactors around the country.

Some waste is so old that the reactors that generated
it have been torn down. And many nuclear power plants
still operating have expanding fields of storage casks
and no place to ship them.

But in a decision issued Thursday, the Interior
Department said that acting as a “prudent” trustee of
Indian lands, it could “derive no confidence from the
public record” that there would be someplace for the
fuel ultimately to go.

“Construction of Yucca Mountain could be indefinitely
delayed by any number of factors, including protracted
litigation,” the department said, adding that the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission “acknowledges that
‘decades’ are the most relevant unit of time for
predicting the completion date.” 

The decision was hailed by many elected officials in
Utah, which has no reactors, and where many
non-Indians oppose the plan. 

But John D. Parkyn, the chairman of the board of
Private Fuel Storage, the consortium, said in a
telephone interview on Friday that the opinion about
Yucca Mountain was contrary to federal policy and that
there were various errors in the decision. 

One, Mr. Parkyn said, is that the decision said
development on the reservation would require a tribal
police force. But in fact, he said, the plant would
have only about 20 employees, and most of those would
be guards. If tribal police were somehow required, he
said, the project would pay for them.

The decision also cites the environmental impact of
two extra-large trucks per week going to the site, but
the Interior Department has already approved a garbage
dump on the site that requires about 1,000 truckloads
a week, Mr. Parkyn said. 

He said that the Interior Department had told him a
decision had been made but that he had not given him a
copy. He received one from a reporter, he said, and
had not finished analyzing it.

The tribe is divided over the project. A proponent,
Garth Jerry Bear, said Friday at his home on the
reservation that the plant would provide hope for the
desperately poor members, good-paying jobs and money
for schools. “This is a third-world country, right
here in the United States,” Mr. Bear said. 

He added that the county, state and federal government
were usurping tribal sovereignty because of resentment
over not getting their share of the lucrative

“It’s like the broken treaties,” Mr. Bear said. 

Sammy Blackbear, an opponent of the storage plan, said
he was elated by the decision. 

“It should have come a long time ago,’’ Mr. Blackbear
said, “but this is better late than never.”

Denise Chancellor, an assistant attorney general in
Utah, said that the law gave the Interior Department
wide discretion in deciding about leases, and that
“it’s got to be fairly blatant before a court will
step in and overturn it.” 

The Interior Department’s decision is “the final nail”
in killing the project, Ms. Chancellor said.

At the Energy Department, a spokesman, Craig Stevens,
said the Yucca Mountain repository would be finished
by 2017.

But nuclear waste may yet go elsewhere. Mr. Stevens
said the department had received dozens of proposals
for sites for interim storage and then reprocessing,
in which uranium and plutonium are recovered for
future use. 

Nuclear experts said, however, that given the
experience of the Skull Valley project, it would take
years for any of the sites to get a license.

The department is under pressure to find some way to
accept nuclear waste, because it signed contracts with
utilities in the early 80’s, promising to do so
beginning in 1998, in exchange for payments by the
utilities of one-tenth of a cent per kilowatt-hour
generated at their reactors. 

The Skull Valley partners offered that site to the
Energy Department, but Mr. Parkyn said the Energy
Department had not responded. 

Martin Stolz reported from Skull Valley, and Matthew
L. Wald from Washington.

May we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion. 
Dwight D. Eisenhower  

-- John
John Jacobus, MS
Certified Health Physicist
e-mail:  crispy_bird at yahoo.com

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