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Sandoval pushes Department of Energy for meeting on nuclear waste

Updated Monday, July 15, 2013 | 8:31 p.m.

Brian Sandoval

Brian Sandoval

Gov. Brian Sandoval gave the U.S. Department of Energy a rhetorical nudge today, reminding Secretary Ernest Moniz that he’d sent him a letter June 20 requesting a meeting and hasn’t yet received a reply.

“As of writing this letter, I have received no official communications from your office regarding this request and now write again to request this important meeting as soon as possible,” Sandoval wrote in a letter to Moniz and the Nevada Congressional delegation dated July 12.

“I believe it is essential that we develop a more effective and collaborative approach for addressing all DOE activities in the State,” he said.

Sandoval repeated his concerns that the Department of Energy has not adequately consulted local governments and Native American tribes whose communities live near the Nevada National Security Site in Southern Nevada.

Nevada officials are unhappy with the DOE’s plan to move more than 400 canisters of radioactive waste from Oak Ridge, Tenn., to the National Security Site.

The complaints transcend short-term transportation, security and safety of the waste issues and include worries that the Department of Energy shift could open the door for Nevada to later receive high-level nuclear waste.

The Sun reported Sunday that the department has been slow in responding to concerns from Sandoval and Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., who says her requests for information from the DOE have gone unheeded since April.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has also sent a letter to Moniz and had not received an official reply at the close of the last work week.

Sandoval raised a new concern in his July 12 letter, citing a “recent DOE proposal to reduce funding which supports State oversight of Nevada National Security Site waste management activities.”

The Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources faces an approximately $300,000 federal budget cut that would reduce oversight personnel in Las Vegas.

“This is the budget that we use for the oversight for waste and waste acceptance decisions (at the Nevada National Security Site),” said Leo Drozdoff, director of the state Natural Resources department, noting that the $300,000 would amount to about a 30 percent cut to the department’s Bureau of Federal Facilities. “It’s that group that does the oversight and review of waste acceptance. It’s the group that goes through the DOE complex to make sure things are as they should be. It’s basically our oversight bureau.”

Drozdoff said he’s heard that cuts are part of federal sequestration, which is a program of mandatory rollbacks resulting from congressional inaction.

Seeing as the federal Energy Department recently revised a document allowing higher level nuclear waste to come into Nevada, Drozdoff said he’s worried about the concurrent proposal to cut funding to the oversight division.

“This is the group that has to review all those waste streams, so reducing their budget seems troubling,” he said.

Sandoval closed his letter on a positive note, writing to Moniz that he will “look forward to welcoming you to Nevada at your earliest convenience.”

Moniz plans to be in Las Vegas on Aug. 13 to deliver a speech at the National Clean Energy Summit 6.0: Energizing Tomorrow conference at Mandalay Bay. Reid is also on the list of speakers.

It’s unclear whether Moniz will meet with Sandoval at that time.

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