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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Skull Valley

Those who saw the film Skull Valley last fall (presented by Open Eye Documentary and Independent Film Society know what a tangled web is the PFS (Private Fuel Storage) plan for above ground, private nuclear waste storage on the lands of the Goshute Indians.

The plan has been pushed for years, suffering setbacks and victories. In February, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a license to PFS to build its storage facility. But in January the Cedar Mountain Wilderness Area was added to the National Wilderness Preservation System (as part of the Defense Authorization Bill.) The new wilderness area includes land PFS wants to use to build a rail spur to the Goshute site.

This is a new opportunity to stop PFS.

Here's what Kevin Kamps of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service says:

Now we have another strategic opportunity to stop PFS in its tracks, and we hope your group will join us by signing onto the letter pasted in below. We’re thankful to the 45 groups that have already signed on, and hope that the rest of you will also do so as soon as possible by copying and pasting the letter below, signing it and emailing it to me and Jason Groenewold at HEAL Utah. Our deadline for submitting this group letter is May 8th, so please sign on as soon as possible.

A significant hurdle to the project was placed in the way recently when Congress designated wilderness in the area where PFS was planning to construct a rail-line for the purposes of transporting nuclear waste to Skull Valley. Not to be deterred, PFS is still pursuing a right-of-way to construct a transfer facility that would allow them to move the waste from rail to truck in order to get the waste to Skull Valley.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is considering whether to grant a right-of-way for the rail-line or to issue a permit to construct the transfer facility since both would impact public land managed by the BLM.

Jason at Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah drafted the coalition letter below that addresses the criteria against which the BLM will make its decision, and we would be honored if your organization would sign on to it.

Thanks,

Kevin Kamps
Nuclear Waste Specialist
Nuclear Information and Resource Service
Washington, D.C.
(301) 270-6477 ext. 14
kevin@nirs.org
www.nirs.org


May 8, 2006

Ms. Pam Schuller
U.S. Bureau of Land Management
Salt Lake Field Office
2370 South 2300 West
Salt lake City, UT 84119

RE: PFS Proposed Right-of-Way Application

Dear Ms. Schuller,

We respectfully request the BLM to deny a right-of-way for Private Fuel Storage (PFS) to transfer or haul high-level nuclear waste to the Skull Valley Goshute Reservation. The proposed PFS project is inconsistent with BLM’s management plan for these public lands; the project is not in the public’s interest; PFS is not qualified for receiving a permit for the project; the project conflicts with Federal Land Policy and Management Act, other laws and regulations; and PFS lacks the technical and financial capabilities to carry out the project.

Private Fuel Storage had proposed constructing a rail-line across federal lands in order to haul high-level nuclear waste to the Goshute Reservation, and it had requested a right-of-way from the BLM for these purposes. However, with the passage of the Cedar Mountain Wilderness Area, granting such a right-of-way would violate the Wilderness Act as well as BLM’s management plan for this area. Therefore, a right-of-way for the rail line should be denied by the BLM. BLM must also deny the construction of a transfer facility because BLM’s Resource Management Plan prohibits the use of public lands for storing hazardous materials or hazardous waste.

A right-of-way or permit to operate a transfer facility should also be denied because it is not in the public interest. The overwhelming majority of Utahns are opposed to the storage or disposal of nuclear waste in Utah. Furthermore, a private, above-ground nuclear waste storage site protected by a chain-link fence contravenes the intentions of Congress for how our country should handle these dangerous wastes. Our public lands should not be used in a way that undermines national policy.

PFS is a shell company comprised of various utility companies. It has not demonstrated it is qualified to manage the project in a way that would protect public health, especially as it relates to security. The transfer facility would be built in close proximity to Interstate-80. If an accident or intentional act of sabotage were to occur at the transfer facility, it could have tremendous health and economic impacts on the region. PFS is not in a position to adequately protect the site, and therefore, a permit should be denied.

Both right-of-ways should be denied because granting a permit to transfer and store high-level nuclear waste would violate the Pony Express Resource Management Plan which governs how the BLM is to manage this parcel of land. The management plan states, “no further authorizations will be made for the treatment, storage or disposal of hazardous waste on public lands” and “public lands will not be made available for inappropriate uses such as storage or use of hazardous materials.” High-level nuclear waste would be handled and stored at the site while it is being transferred from rail to truck, which violates the BLM management plan.

Finally, Private Fuel Storage lacks the technical and financial capabilities necessary to obtain a permit. Half of the original partners in the consortium have either pulled out of the project or frozen their financial support for the project. Therefore, the BLM and the public would be in a vulnerable position if nuclear waste were to contaminate the site and PFS walked away. This is especially worrisome since the Department of Energy has stated it is prohibited by statute from providing funding or financial assistance to the PFS project because it falls outside the scope of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. Related to its inability to demonstrate technical capabilities to properly manage the site, PFS has admitted that it has no way to repair leaking shipments of nuclear waste other than to ship them back across the country to the place of origin.

For all of the reasons listed above, we respectfully request that the BLM reject the right-of-way request made by Private Fuel Storage for a rail line and the construction of a transfer facility on public lands managed by the BLM.

Sincerely,

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