Las Vegas Sun

December 1, 2015

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State accuses feds of reneging on nuke promises


Steve Marcus

People view the Hoover Dam at the new Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge during the Bridging America event Saturday, October 16, 2010. About 15,000 people were expected to attend.

Yucca Mountain

The U.S. Energy Department plans to store spent nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain, an extinct volcano about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

CARSON CITY — The state is accusing the federal Department of Energy of reneging on its pledge not to ship low-level and dangerous nuclear waste through the Las Vegas Valley.

The state Attorney General’s Office said the late Gov. Kenny Guinn secured a promise from the federal agency not to truck that waste over Hoover Dam and through the Las Vegas Valley using Interstate 15 and I-15/US Highway 95.

The comments came Friday on the draft environmental impact statement drawn up by the energy department on the use the Nevada Test Site, now called the Nevada National Security Site, for storage of the waste.

The state’s response to the draft environmental statement was compiled by a number of agencies. And it questions whether the federal government did enough research on the potential harm to the underground water system when the waste is buried.

The state also says the final environmental statement should consider handing over Yucca Mountain to the state. Yucca Mountain was to be the dump for high-level waste but President Obama scrapped the project.

The state’s comments say Yucca Mountain has not been contaminated and it could be put to some other public use.

Routing tens of thousands of waste shipments through the densely populated metropolitan area and along the state’s major tourism corridor will potentially create greater problems than trucking the waste through rural areas.

And the draft statement complains the waste would be hauled over the newly constructed Hoover Dam.

The federal draft environmental statement ignores the potential impact of an accident or terrorism/sabotage incidents in the Las Vegas Valley. And this routing could lower the property values along the way.

“The draft environmental statement ignores the potential impacts associated with the stigmatizing effects of nuclear-related activities on areas and economic/industrial sectors,” said the state.

On the issue of water, the state says the test site, where nuclear tests were conducted, already has groundwater contamination of 130 million curies of radiation. The issue should be studied whether these additional shipments of nuclear waste add to the problem.

The federal impact statement suggests there would be 15.9 million cubic feet of waste disposed at the site. But there could be a projected three phase increase of up to 52 million cubic feet.

The Department of Energy should also consider in its impact statement that it would have perpetual control over the contaminated waters and soil. And it might consider asking Congress to establish a perpetual withdrawal of land and consider the costs.

This is the draft environmental statement and now the Energy Department will draw up a final impact report.

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