DOE Erred on Nevada Willingness to Accept Waste: Memos

National Journal

The U.S. Energy Department wrongly assumed it had resolved all of Nevada's concerns about a pending shipment of highly radioactive atomic waste, the Las Vegas Sun reported on Sunday, citing a review of government documents.

A Dec. 4, 2012, DOE memo reveals that department officials were at the time preparing to ship more than 400 containers, filled with uranium waste, to the Nevada National Security Site from the nuclear weapons site at Oak Ridge, Tenn. Energy officials apparently believed they had adequately assuaged all of Nevada's concerns about how the material would be stored during federal meetings with state personnel in late November.

Nevada commonly receives low-level excess nuclear material, but the uranium-waste shipment is judged to pose a higher security risk because of its suitability as fuel for a radiological "dirty bomb."

Leo Drozdoff, who heads the Nevada Conservation and Natural Resources Department, told the Sun that DOE officials had only addressed Nevada's issues with how the uranium containers would be stored at the Nevada National Security Site, but not how they would be transported to the state. Also left unresolved, according to Drozdoff, is whether Nevada's allowance of the waste within its borders would constitute a precedent for receiving potential similar shipments of extremely radioactive used nuclear material.

Nevada's current position is that it has not agreed to accept the radioactive waste.

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