Atlantic Legal Urges Bureau of Land Management to Act on Nuclear Waste Storage

Atlantic Legal Foundation filed comments in support of a proposal to transport nuclear waste overland from a rail terminal to a secure nuclear waste storage site on land within the Goshute Indian Reservation in the State of Utah.

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The Comments were filed on behalf of Scientists for Secure Waste Storage, an ad hoc group whose current membership includes three Nobel Prize winners in physics or chemistry, whose expertise is in nuclear radiation, and other members of SSWS who have substantial expertise in physics, chemistry, radiation medicine and radiation safety, and include nuclear and environmental scientists who live in Utah. (Three other Nobel laureates who had been among the founding members of SSWS are now deceased.) The Comments were submitted to the Department of the Interiors Bureau of Land Management which is considering the application of Private Fuel Storage for an intermodal transfer facility (ITF) across federal lands to the proposed storage site on the Goshute Indian Reservation in Utah.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has already approved a license for the storage facility, but Congress, at the behest of the Utah Congressional delegation, added a provision to the Defense Authorization bill for Fiscal Year 2006 that designated as a wilderness area the federal land through which the rail spur was to run, so as to preclude the grant of a right-of-way for the proposed rail line and shift the focus to the ITF alternative.

The Comments of SSWS made several points:

First, the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians has been recognized as a sovereign entity by treaty and federal legislation and regulations and thus the tribe should be permitted to use its land as it sees fit and should be allowed to engage in commerce with the rest of the United States whenever it is appropriate.

Second, the proposed facility is in the national interest because of the nations need for nuclear plants for electric power to reduce dependence on imported petroleum-based sources and because of concerns about the possibility of global climate change, caused by fossil fuel burning.

Third, the proposed Yucca Mountain underground storage facility (needed to fulfill obligations that the United States Government undertook to dispose of high level nuclear waste from nuclear power plants) has been seriously delayed and is substantially behind schedule, so the PFS site is needed, even if only as an interim solution to the current need for nuclear waste storage

Fourth, the objections raised before BLM by the State of Utah and others have already been considered at length and in detail by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which has determined that the PFS facility and the transportation of nuclear waste to it would be safe, and that the BLM itself has participated in the lengthy NRC proceeding and the Environmental Impact Study prepared by the NRC.

Fifth, there is an almost complete lack of any technical comment by Utah-based experts to support the Utah politicians objections and this lack of scientific support for the objections was already apparent in 1998, early in the NRC licensing process.