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Nuclear Licensing Board Wise to Block Nuclear Waste Storage Plan in Utah

March 11, 2003

Nuclear Licensing Board Wise to Block Nuclear Waste Storage Plan in Utah

Statement of Joan Claybrook, Public Citizen President

Public Citizen applauds the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) Atomic Safety Licensing Board for refusing to approve an application by a private consortium to build a high-level nuclear waste storage facility in Utah. We hope that when the consortium appeals, as it most certainly will, the NRC carefully reads the board’s opinion and heeds its concerns.

Private Fuel Storage, LLC, a consortium of nuclear utilities led by Xcel Energy, is seeking a license to build and operate an aboveground nuclear waste storage facility on the Skull Valley Goshute Indian Reservation near Salt Lake City. The facility would store up to 44,000 tons of waste from commercial nuclear reactors across the country in as many as 4,000 dry storage “casks.” The company wants to build the facility directly under the airway used by the military to fly single-engine military jets (F-16s) from Hill Air Force Base to the Utah Test and Training Range. NRC staff had argued that the probability of a plane crashing into the facility was negligible, but the licensing board decided the risk of a military aircraft crashing into the facility was too great to let the companies proceed.

The state of Utah and the licensing board are to be commended for their excellent work in defense of public health and safety, which prevailed in Monday’s almost unprecedented ruling against a nuclear industry applicant.

The licensing board has requested additional information about the consequences of a potential airplane crash on the proposed facility. In the meantime, NRC commissioners will review – and could overturn – the board’s ruling. We urge them not to. An accident at the Utah site or as waste is shipped there could have deadly consequences. This project should not be allowed to proceed.