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November 30, 2015

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Just how radioactive is that nuke fuel the feds want to bury in Nevada? Sandoval wants to know


Steve Marcus

A worker walks by containers of mixed waste in the Area 5 Radioactive Waste Management Site of the Nevada National Security Site (N2S2), previously the Nevada Test Site, about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas on Feb. 1, 2011.

Click to enlarge photo

Gov. Brian Sandoval

Gov. Brian Sandoval says he wants to talk to state environmental and nuclear waste officials about the proposed federal shipment of radioactive uranium for burial in Nevada.

Sandoval said he has not been briefed by U.S. Energy Department officials about the planned uranium shipment from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee to the Nevada National Security Site for burial in the desert.

He said Tuesday he wants to "reach out" to Leo Drozdoff, director of the state Conservation and Natural Resources Department, and Robert Halstead, administrator of the Nuclear Waste Project office.

The governor said he questions the level of radiation in the equipment stored for decades at the national laboratory.

And there is a question of whether the shipments would be routed through Las Vegas or other routes. The state could require licensing.

The Energy Department said it expects federal approval for the shipments soon.

A newspaper report says there would be 403 canisters each containing 2.6 kilograms of uranium. Each would have a high level of radiation but there would be a shield on the containers to reduce the radiation in half.

The materials would be buried at 40 feet or more at the location formerly called the Nevada Test Site about 65 miles from Las Vegas.

In September the nonprofit Institute for Policy Studies said the Department of Energy plans to waive safety requirements to dispose of uranium 233 by putting it in a landfill.

It said the federal agency has failed so far to account for all uranium and that the material "is stored in safe facilities or safely dispose of." The study said that if as little as 19 pounds of uranium 233 fell into the wrong hands, it could make an explosion that could destroy all of downtown Washington, D.C., or a similar-size city.

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