Nevada Won't Accept Ohio Nuke Waste

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Nevada won't budge from plans to sue the Energy Department if the agency signals plans to ship radioactive waste to the state from a former uranium processing plant in Ohio.

"Under no circumstances will we negotiate," Nevada Attorney General Brian Sandoval said Wednesday, after an Energy Department lawyer proposed talks about disposal of powdery waste now stored in concrete silos in Fernald, Ohio.

"We are prepared to immediately file a lawsuit in federal court in Las Vegas if they give us 45 day notice," Sandoval said. He was referring to a departmental promise to give the state such notice before beginning shipments from Fernald, 18 miles northwest of Cincinnati, to the federal Nevada Test Site, 80 miles north of Las Vegas.

An Energy Department official did not immediately respond Thursday to requests for comment on a July 28 letter from department lawyer Lee Lieberman Otis to Sandoval.

The six-page letter downplays Nevada's argument that the Fernald wastes must be disposed of at a facility administered by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and offers to "set our legal differences aside" on the plan to move the waste to Nevada.

The Nevada Test Site, home to most of the nation's nuclear testing, is managed by the National Nuclear Security Administration, a branch of the Energy Department.

In a brief response sent Monday, Sandoval complained that state lawyers were not present when Energy Department officials met recently with Nevada Department of Environmental Protection officials about the Fernald waste disposal plan.

He said he intends to send a longer reply to Otis and might suggest the Energy Department apply to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a license to store the Fernald waste at the Nevada Test Site.

Such a licensing process could delay by months or years plans by a government contractor to complete the $4 billion-plus Fernald cleanup by the end of 2006. The contractor, Fluor Fernald, had planned to begin shipments in June.

Ohio's attorney general has also threatened to sue the Energy Department if the waste is moved out of three concrete silos to temporary storage at the 1,050-acre Fernald site.


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