DOE Erred on Nevada Willingness to Accept Waste: Memos

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Global Security Newswire Staff
Aug. 19, 2013, 9:02 a.m.

The U.S. En­ergy De­part­ment wrongly as­sumed it had re­solved all of Nevada’s con­cerns about a pending ship­ment of highly ra­dio­act­ive atom­ic waste, the Las Ve­gas Sun re­por­ted on Sunday, cit­ing a re­view of gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments.

A Dec. 4, 2012, DOE memo re­veals that de­part­ment of­fi­cials were at the time pre­par­ing to ship more than 400 con­tain­ers, filled with urani­um waste, to the Nevada Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Site from the nuc­le­ar weapons site at Oak Ridge, Tenn. En­ergy of­fi­cials ap­par­ently be­lieved they had ad­equately as­suaged all of Nevada’s con­cerns about how the ma­ter­i­al would be stored dur­ing fed­er­al meet­ings with state per­son­nel in late Novem­ber.

Nevada com­monly re­ceives low-level ex­cess nuc­le­ar ma­ter­i­al, but the urani­um-waste ship­ment is judged to pose a high­er se­cur­ity risk be­cause of its suit­ab­il­ity as fuel for a ra­di­olo­gic­al “dirty bomb.”

Leo Droz­doff, who heads the Nevada Con­ser­va­tion and Nat­ur­al Re­sources De­part­ment, told the Sun that DOE of­fi­cials had only ad­dressed Nevada’s is­sues with how the urani­um con­tain­ers would be stored at the Nevada Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Site, but not how they would be trans­por­ted to the state. Also left un­re­solved, ac­cord­ing to Droz­doff, is wheth­er Nevada’s al­low­ance of the waste with­in its bor­ders would con­sti­tute a pre­ced­ent for re­ceiv­ing po­ten­tial sim­il­ar ship­ments of ex­tremely ra­dio­act­ive used nuc­le­ar ma­ter­i­al.

Nevada’s cur­rent po­s­i­tion is that it has not agreed to ac­cept the ra­dio­act­ive waste.