Associated Press, September 7, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: The U.S. Department of the Interior has refused to endorse a nuclear-industry plan to store high-level radioactive waste on land owned by the Skull Valley Goshute tribe in Utah. This will delay, if not kill, the controversial project that the nuclear power industry has been counting on.]

By Paul Foy

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The U.S. Interior Department on Thursday rejected a bitterly contested plan to create a nuclear waste stockpile at an American Indian reservation in Utah's west desert.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said the decision kills a proposal to store 44,000 tons of spent fuel rods on the Goshute Indians' Skull Valley reservation, about 50 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.

Private Fuel Storage, a group of nuclear-power utilities known as PFS, won a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in February. Lawsuits, regulatory opposition and other hurdles have delayed the plan for years.

"PFS is dead," Hatch said. "To me, it's a great day for Utah."

The Interior Department used its power to veto a lease tribal leaders approved for the stockpile. The agency also refused to yield federal land for a transfer station where fuel rods would be moved from rail cars to tractor-trailers.

A spokeswoman for the utility consortium that won a license for the storage site suggested it was premature to call it dead.

"We have not seen the decisions or figured out what our options may be," PFS spokeswoman Sue Martin said.

A public-health group also was cautious.

"We're a little hesitant to declare full victory on this because PFS has a license. It's like having a license but no car, and they've been told to stay off the road," said Vanessa Pierce, executive director of Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah.

Private Fuel Storage billed the Goshute stockpile as temporary until the federal government can open a national repository at Nevada's Yucca Mountain. But some worried Utah could have become a "de facto" home for nuclear waste if the Yucca facility, which is behind schedule, doesn't open.

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