Nuclear site plan deemed safe
Facebook Twitter Email
OCTOBER 9, 2000

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on Friday deemed safe a controversial plan to store nuclear waste at a facility on the Skull Valley Goshute Reservation in Utah.

Under the plan, proposed by a consortium of eight companies known as Private Fuel Storage (PFS), spent nuclear fuel from various commercial electric utilities would be stored on the tribe's reservation. Spent fuel is fuel used during the nuclear reactive process and is hot and highly radioactive.

PFS considers the Skull Valley site a temporary solution and applied for a 20-year permit in 1997. The site is located about 45 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.

But the plan is opposed by many in Utah, including Governor Mike Leavitt. Some tribal members also oppose the deal. All are concerned about the environmental safety of the facility.

The NRC's safety evaluation report (SER) is unlikely to assuage those fears. The report evaluates the company's application under federal regulations and finds both the facility and the storage containers would meet safety requirements.

The site would take up approximately 820 acres of the tribe's 18,000-acre reservation. Of this, 100 acres would be used to store the actual fuel.

The spent fuel would be stored in NRC-approved storage casks. When full, these containers can weigh 180 tons. The site is designed to store up to 40,000 tons of fuel.

As part of determining the safety of the site and containers, the report looks at environmental factors that may affect the site's operation, such as flooding, earthquakes, and other natural occurrences. It also considers how the facility would impact the environment, including effects on the water and air.

The area itself is sparsely population. About 30 people live at the Goshute Indian Village, about 3.5 miles southeast of the facility and the report agrees the public would not be exposed to doses of radiation which exceed NRC limits.

At a public hearing held by the NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board in June, the overwhelming majority of participants objected to the proposal. Only tribal chairman Leon Bear and another supported the plan.

But before a license is issued, the board will hold more hearings, which are scheduled for next summer. Additionally, the Surface Transportation Board, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs have to approve the plan.

A final environmental impact statement is due early next year.

Since the 1950s, the United States has accepted more than 2,500 shipments of spent fuel from overseas nuclear sites. The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 requires the Department of Energy to accept spent fuel from utilities.

Get the Safety Report:
Safety Evaluation Report Concerning The Private Fuel Storage Facility (US NRC Docket No. 72-22. October 2000)

Get the draft environmental impact statement:
Draft Environmental Impact Statement for theConstruction and Operation of an Independent Spent Fuel StorageInstallation on the Reservation of the Skull Valley Band of GoshuteIndians and the Related Transportation Facility in Tooele County,Utah (US NRC Docket No. 72- 22. June 2000)

Related Stories:
More nuclear waste site comment wanted (Enviro 09/19)
Tribal nuclear waste targeted (Enviro 09/05)
Goshute plan comes under fire (Enviro 07/28)
Goshute nuclear plan raises ire (Enviro 07/11)

Relevant Links:
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission -
Other documents, NRC -
Private Fuel Storage -
The Skull Valley Goshutes -