Las Vegas Sun

June 29, 2015

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Titus demands answers on nuclear waste routes through Las Vegas Valley

Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., wants answers about a federal study that examined routing nuclear waste through downtown Las Vegas.

She sent a frustrated letter Tuesday to the head of the federal Department of Energy demanding a meeting to discuss a planned shipment of 403 cannisters of bomb-grade nuclear waste from Oak Ridge, Tenn. to Area 5 at the Nevada National Security Site near Las Vegas.

She said she’s been asking for months to have a briefing with department officials so that she could better understand the transportation plans related to these shipments and gain some assurance that “critical transportation routes” like the Spaghetti Bowl and beltway would be avoided.

“Your department has yet to schedule or conduct this briefing, and has provided no explanation for the delay or any rationale for denying a member of Congress the ability to effectively conduct oversight activities,” she wrote in her July 9 letter to Energy secretary Ernest Moniz. “If you are unwilling to provide the briefing or information, I respectfully request that you provide the legal basis for continuing to withhold this information from Congress.”

An Energy Department spokesperson said Tuesday that the department cannot confirm if it received Titus’s letter and therefore cannot comment.

The letter is the second open note sent from a Nevada official to the Energy Department about this matter. Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval cited a similar dearth of information when he wrote a letter in June opposing the shipment.

In addition to the proposed shipment of highly radioactive canisters from Oak Ridge, the Energy Department conducted a study in February that mentioned routing low-level nuclear waste through downtown Las Vegas. A current agreement between state and federal officials prohibits trucks carrying nuclear waste from traveling along the beltway, Spaghetti Bowl and Hoover Dam bypass bridge.

Trucks transporting nuclear waste to the Nevada National Security Site for disposal now use routes that avoid the Strip and instead go through Pahrump.

State and local officials said they are concerned that the Energy Department won’t adhere to the transportation restrictions when they publish new transportation guidelines this year.

Citing a July 9 story in the Sun, Titus said in her letter that the transportation of this waste “has raised significant concerns from a number of my constituents who deserve information and the peace of mind that nuclear material will not be traveling next to them on the highway during their daily commute.”

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