Utah Asks Federal Appeals Court To Reject Nuclear Dump
SALT LAKE CITY Utah asked a federal appeals court on Wednesday to overturn the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's approval of a nuclear waste storage site in the state's western desert.
The petition, filed by lawyers in Washington, D.C., challenges a license authorized but not yet issued by the commission. It allows a group of nuclear-power utilities to stockpile 44,000 tons of spent fuel rods at the Skull Valley Goshute Indian Reservation, about 45 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.
Gov. Jon Huntsman directed lawyers to file the petition, which was filed at the District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
"We're just going to keep fighting as hard as we can until it's dead," the governor's general counsel, Mike Lee, said Wednesday.
The commission authorized the license in September for Private Fuel Storage, a consortium of utilities, rejecting Utah's arguments that the site was too dangerous.
Lee said the petition asserts the commission underestimated the risk of a fighter jet crashing into the site and releasing radiation. Hill Air Force Base uses Skull Valley as a flight path to a training range in Utah's western desert.
Utah's petition also argues that Private Fuel Storage plans to keep spent nuclear fuel rods in welded steel casks that won't be accepted for storage at Nevada's Yucca Mountain, where the Energy Department is working to open a federal repository for nuclear waste. Private Fuel Storage plans to use Skull Valley as a temporary way station for nuclear waste pending work at Yucca Mountain.
"All along we have encouraged the state of Utah to do what they need to do in protesting this project because we have always said, 'If it's not deemed to be safe, then it won't be built,'" said Bruce Whitehead, a spokesman for the utility consortium.
"But we have passed every criteria, every test, put up by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. We have proven all of our points along the way. Our opposition really has yet to prove their points."
Huntsman has vowed to "stop at nothing" to keep the nuclear waste out of Utah.
"We are urging Congress, the Bush administration, and the courts not to let PFS force us to accept nuclear waste that we didn't produce, we don't want and shouldn't have to take," Huntsman said.
Lee said Utah wasn't asking for a court injunction because even if the NRC issues the license, Private Fuel Storage won't immediately be able to deliver any waste to Skull Valley.
The Bureau of Land Management is refusing to grant a right of way for a rail spur that would carry the waste across government land to the reservation.
Source: Associated Press