The nuclear power industry has suffered another setback in the search for a place to store the waste from the nation's nuclear power plants. Two federal decisions yesterday all but kill a plan to store thousands of tons of that waste on an Indian reservation in Utah.

From Salt Lake City, NPR's Howard Berkes reports.

HOWARD BERKES: Given delays at a permanent waste site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, some nuclear power companies look to a dusty, desert flat in Utah, the Skull Valley Goshute reservation. Only four families live there. A consortium of power plants offered a new neighbor - 44,000 tons of spent fuel rods, just temporarily, it promised. The tribe signed a lease, and federal regulators issued a license. But two new decisions seem to kill the plan. Vanessa Pierce directs an environmental group called Heal Utah.

Ms. VANESSA PIERCE (Heal Utah): There is now no way for private fuel storage to transport the high level waste to the Goshute reservation or any location for them to store the waste on the reservation.

BERKES: That's because the Interior Department invalidated the lease between the tribe and Private Fuel Storage, the consortium of nuclear power companies. It also banned transportation of waste across the federal land that surrounds the site. The agency said the tribe was essentially unprepared to handle the project and the safety and security risks involved. Utah Governor Jon Huntsman says he's jubilant.

Governor JON HUNTSMAN (Republican, Utah): We no longer have the Damocles hanging over us as a state, the idiotic thought of bringing in fuel rods and dumping them downwind from a major metro population.

BERKES: But the project isn't quite dead yet. The decisions are faulty, says Sue Martin, spokeswoman for Private Fuel Storage.

Ms. SUE MARTIN (Private Fuel Storage): There's a lot in there that is inaccurate and we will take issue with it.

BERKES: Tribal Chairman Leon Bear wouldn't speak on tape, but he did say this doesn't close the door to the nuclear waste project. But neither he nor Martin could describe any options for proceeding. Some tribal members are disappointed because the project promised desperately needed cash and jobs.

Others are celebrating, saying they don't want nuclear poison in Skull Valley. Sitting on the sidelines with little emotion either way is the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry group whose spokesman is Steve Kerekes.

Mr. STEVE KEREKES (Nuclear Energy Institute): Really that's a venture of a limited number of some of our member companies, and it's not the national solution that's being pursued.

BERKES: Which is the permanent nuclear-waste burial ground at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, and that faces even stiffer opposition there.

Howard Berkes, NPR News.

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