Approval of Private Fuel Storage Means Dangerous and Unnecessary Storage of Highly Radioactive Waste in Utah

Sept. 9, 2005

Approval of Private Fuel Storage Means Dangerous and Unnecessary Storage of Highly Radioactive Waste in Utah 

Statement of Wenonah Hauter, Director, Public Citizen’s Energy Program

Today’s decision by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to approve a “temporary” high-level radioactive waste storage site, Private Fuel Storage (PFS), on Native American land in Utah, is a significant mistake, made for all the wrong reasons. PFS is an unnecessary, irresponsible and unethical proposal that will do nothing to address the nuclear waste problem this country faces.

The primary motivation for PFS is the nuclear industry’s need for a publicly presentable waste solution that it can use in its push for a “nuclear renaissance.” Despite what has been claimed, PFS will not consolidate waste in one “safe and secure” place. As long as we continue to operate nuclear reactors, waste will always remain near cities and communities around the country, because irradiated fuel must be stored on-site for at least five years to allow it to cool before it can be transported.

In addition, PFS will mean the transportation of waste through densely populated urban and suburban areas across the country. The project will rush transportation forward and increase the number of times waste is moved. Even if all possible precautions are taken, and they have not been, the shipping of nuclear waste is a dangerous undertaking and should be absolutely minimized. Accidents of some nature are unavoidable.

PFS will also bring risks to Utah. The dump is not planned for permanent storage and will simply place the waste storage containers on concrete pads above ground. There will be no waste repacking facility on-site, as there are presently at reactors, to deal with accidents or problems. The “temporary” nature of PFS is also questionable, as it is dependent on the opening of Yucca Mountain, which continues to have significant problems and may never open.

Today’s irresponsible and misguided approval of this proposal should illustrate how far the NRC has strayed from its mission of protecting public health and safety.

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