WASHINGTON, D.C. — National public interest and consumer advocacy organizations today released a Public Citizen report criticizing the "Private Fuel Storage" (PFS) consortium, which is seeking to build a privately owned dump for high level nuclear waste. The report was also released by local advocacy organizations in Utah, Nevada and ten other states where the eight nuclear energy companies in the PFS consortium operate. Entitled "Another Nuclear Rip-off: Unmasking Private Fuel Storage," the report raises concerns about the record of the utilities proposing the dump, and addresses public safety, environmental justice, and national energy policy issues related to the project.
Private Fuel Storage (PFS) intends to establish a facility, licensed for 20 years, to store high-level nuclear waste on the Skull Valley Goshute Reservation in Utah. The PFS facility would store 44,000 tons of high-level waste above ground in 4,000 "dry cask" canisters. Eight hundred and twenty acres of the Goshute's 18,000 acres would be used for the PFS facility, including a 99-acre restricted-access area where the casks would be located. The Reservation is located approximately 45 miles west of Salt Lake City and 27 miles away from Tooele, Utah. The casks would be located just two miles from the closest resident on the Skull Valley Reservation.
"The nuclear utilities are attempting to use this as a "half-way house" for nuclear waste in order to circumvent the course of action, which includes more public participation, for establishing a permanent repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. They don't want to wait for a national public process, Executive Branch action and a vote by Congress, they just want a place to dump their deadly waste without being slowed down by democracy," said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program.
The utilities promoting this scheme have established reputations for excessively and unlawfully polluting the air, land, and water; targeting poor communities and people of color for environmentally damaging projects; and lying to residents, workers, and the federal government about the safety of energy projects.
"Trusting this corporate conglomeration—a collection of corporations that has more often than not betrayed the public trust by both contaminating the environment and ripping off consumers—with responsibility for a project of this magnitude is bad public policy." said Ralph Nader. "Masquerading this as a solution for the nuclear waste problem just helps them promote the idea that more nuclear plants should be built and relicensed, rather than transitioning into a sustainable energy future," Nader went on to add.
The licensing process for the dump is moving quickly and could have implications for communities around the country. If the PFS license application is approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission next spring, cross-country radioactive waste shipments to Skull Valley could begin as early as 2003. Up to 200 radioactive train casks per year would travel to the PFS facility. This unprecedented transportation scheme would put hundreds of communities in up to 43 states at risk of an accident and exposure to radiation.
Moreover, the project has been criticized from the perspective of environmental justice, since the Skull Valley Band of Goshutes would be disproportionately exposed to these risks. Unfortunately, some members of the small Skull Valley Band of Goshutes support the dump, including its Chairman, Leon Bear. He signed a lease with PFS without a vote by the General Council, which is comprised of the 70 adult members of the Skull Valley Goshutes. There are 130 Band members with approximately 30 living on the reservation.
The opponents of the dump say that if a vote were taken today at the General Council, the lease would not be signed. The Chairman's legitimacy has been challenged in a lawsuit by members of the Band against the Bureau of Indian Affairs, who were instrumental in helping get the lease signed without a vote by the Council. Ohngo Guadedah Devia Awareness, a Skull Valley community group, has also intervened in the NRC licensing proceedings with an environmental justice complaint.
"PFS is a large corporation targeting our small, traditional Native American Reservation for this dangerous project and taking advantage of our sovereignty," said Margene Bullcreek, a resident of the Skull Valley Goshute Reservation and member of Ohngo Guadedah Devia Awareness. "It's not our responsibility, as traditionalists, to sacrifice our land for the problem of nuclear waste that U.S. companies have created."
Members of the Goshute Band are not the only critics of the dump in Utah. The Utah Congressional delegation is also opposed to the dump, but with the exception of Representative James Matheson, support opening a permanent repository in Nevada. Governor Leavitt signed an executive order opposing the PFS project in April 1997, creating the Task Force Opposing High Level Nuclear Waste. At the end of last year, Leavitt appropriated $50,000 to a new office of High-Level Nuclear Waste Opposition and pledged to ask the legislature for $1 million annually to hire attorneys in this effort. The Nevada legislature went on to pass a law that taxes business transactions that bring radioactive waste into the state, but exempts shipments of waste going to Yucca Mountain, Nevada. The state is also intervening in the PFS licensing process at the NRC.
Michael Mariotte, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service concludes, "To allow this damaging corporate agenda to drive national energy policy is democratically unacceptable. PFS amounts to yet another instance of the nuclear industry gambling with public health and safety. It's time to turn away from nuclear power and invest in energy efficiency and sustainable, renewable energy options."
The report is available online at http://www.citizen.org/cmep/RAGE/radwaste/reportpfs.pdf.