Saturday, April 17, 2004

Suit threatened over Fernald waste



By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

CROSBY TWP. - Nevada has upped the ante in its attempt to keep radioactive waste from three Fernald silos out of a landfill near Las Vegas.

The Nevada attorney general, who wrote a letter Tuesday to the U.S. Department of Energy threatening to file a federal lawsuit to stop shipments of Fernald silos waste to the Nevada Test Site, filed a petition Thursday seeking emergency action from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The petition asks the regulatory agency tell the energy department it can't dispose of the waste in Nevada.

The nuclear regulatory group regulates, or enters into agreements with states to regulate, low-level nuclear repositories. The first shipments of silos waste from the $4 billion Fernald cleanup is to begin next month.

Bob Loux, director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects for the governor's office, said the idea of shipping Fernald silos waste to the Nevada Test Site "is illegal for a half-dozen reasons."

Nevada's main argument is the waste is radioactive uranium combined with a soup of other hazardous materials such as lead, arsenic and selenium. That mixture requires a disposal site with lined trenches to keep the materials from leaching into ground water and a monitoring program to make sure drinking water isn't contaminated.

The Nevada Test Site has neither of those features, Loux said.

Joe Davis, a DOE spokesman, did not return repeated phone calls Friday. He said earlier in the week that the agency will move forward with its plan to ship the waste to Nevada, but would not say if that means the radioactive material will be removed from the silos on schedule even if there is no place to send it.

NRC spokesman Dave McIntyre said Friday it is unclear how quickly his agency can respond to Nevada's request.

"This is very unusual," he said.

Loux said the state will seek a court injunction to stop the shipments if the nuclear regulatory commission can't or won't act on the matter. Nevada has given the DOE until April 30 to respond.

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E-mail dklepal@enquirer.com




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