Utah Site Gets License for Nuclear Waste Repository
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NPR's David Kestenbaum reports.
DAVID KESTENBAUM: John Parkin is CEO of the Consortium of Electrical Utilities that applied for the license, Private Fuel Storage, PFS. He's surprised the license for something he sees as pretty straightforward, took so long to get.
JOHN PARKIN: It is a parking lot for up to 4,000 canisters on 500 slabs of concrete with senses.
KESTENBAUM: Parkin says there are already a dozen or so hazardous sites in the area including a nerve gas incinerator. The license would allow nuclear waste to be parked at the site for 20 years, though that could be extended.
PARKIN: Is feels great. It's been a long challenge you know and it's such a major national issue.
KESTENBAUM: The immediate reason why the license took so long to get is Denise Chancellor, the Assistant Attorney General for the State of Utah. Her team raised so many objections, A, B, C, D, they ran out the end of the alphabet.
DENISE CHANCELLOR: I think we got up to U-U in the alphabet so that's probably close to 50 odd.
KESTENBAUM: All of the objections, she says, were legitimate.
CHANCELLOR: If you're going to park spent nuclear fuel, over earthquake faults, being over flown by fighter planes, and next to a bombing range, it doesn't take a rocket science to figure out that this is not the ideal site.
KESTENBAUM: The NRC concluded the odds of a plane crash were less than one in a million per year. Even with the license, the project still faces a number of potential obstacles. It needs approval from three other agencies. And Private Fuel Storage still has to raise money to actually build the facility. And here the long licensing process may have hurt the project. Electrical Utilities may not be interested.
BENTINA TERRY: It's just not in our game plan anymore.
KESTENBAUM: Bentina Terry is a vice president with Southern Nuclear which owns two nuclear plants in Georgia and one in Alabama.
TERRY: Originally we had a need for the facility. Since it has taken such a long time for the facility to be licensed, our need has changed significantly.
KESTENBAUM: Pete Downing with the environmental group, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, says the land wasn't their top priority but they'll take it.
PETE DOWNING: People have joked about, well, nuclear waste may have been one of the best things for Utah Wilderness for a while so.
KESTENBAUM: The license for the nuclear storage facility is being delivered today. David Kestenbaum, NPR News.
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