Plan to keep high-level nuclear waste in Utah abandoned

SALT LAKE CITY Ė Top elected officials in Utah are hailing the official death of a plan to store the nationís high-level nuclear waste in Tooele County.

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, a leading opponent of the plan, told The Salt Lake Tribune heís grateful that a consortium of utility companies has abandoned the effort once and for all.

Private Fuel Storage has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Agency to cancel its license for a 100-acre area for radioactive waste containers on the Skull Valley Goshute Reservation.

ďStoring this waste on the Goshute land so close to Utahns and the Utah Test and Training Range just didnít make sense,Ē Hatch told the Tribune.

The Republican has voted to have the U.S. Energy Department proceed with the Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste repository in southern Nevada so the waste wouldnít need temporary storage.

But with the help of President Barack Obamaís opposition, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has declared plans for a permanent storage site at Yucca Mountain dead. Reid and other top Nevada elected officials are united in their opposition to the site.

The longstanding plan to store the nuclear waste in Tooele County pitted the consortium of utility companies and the Skull Valley Band of Goshutes against top Utah elected officials from both major political parties and most Utahns.

Attorneys for the tribe and its utility company partners didnít immediately respond to phone calls seeking comment.

Supporters viewed the proposal as a solution for about 44,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste piled up at more than 100 U.S. reactor sites as the federal government failed to deliver on its promise to provide a permanent disposal site.

The Goshutes embraced the $3 billion project as a way to solve their economic problems.

Attorneys for the consortium notified the NRC on Dec. 13 that they would seek to have the license canceled, and they emailed the request Thursday, said NRC spokesman David McIntyre.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, called the news ďan early Christmas present for the residents of Utah and the U.S. military.

ďIt was an ill-conceived location from the very start and (a) fatally flawed project from its inception,Ē he said in a statement. ďThis wasnít a done deal until the termination of the license, and I am pleased that we have been able to bring final resolution to a long-fought battle.Ē