Comments sought on nuclear waste shipments

Pahrump residents were invited to comment at a public meeting to discuss the transportation and storage of nuclear waste through Nevada at the Bob Ruud Community Center Wednesday evening.

Only one individual at the meeting chose to do so.

The agency tasked with providing independent advice, information and recommendations on issues related to nuclear waste is the Nevada Site Specific Advisory Board.

Pahrump Town Board member Bob Adams told the NSSAB that he rejects the possiblility of high-level nuclear waste being stored at the Nevada National Security Site, formerly the Nevada Test Site in southern Nye County.

His brief remarks focused mainly on how the federal government has classified radioactive waste that has a half-life of thousands of years.

Adams suggested the Department of Energy reclassified what originally was high-level radioactive waste to low-level waste in order to have it stored at the NNSS.

High-level nuclear waste transported through Nevada was reserved exclusively for the Yucca Mountain facility and NNSS is not rated for high-level containment.

The future of Yucca Mountain being used as a permanent storage facility is still uncertain.

“I have two objections on this,” Adams said. “The first is that U-233 and U-235 is not low-level waste and should not be going to a low-level waste facility. My other objection is the fact that they are circumventing nuclear waste protocol by using secure travel routes.

“The state of Nevada, the applicable counties and communities should be advised first of the intent to travel through those areas and they should have a say in establishing safe travel protocols.”

Adams’ colleague on the board, Dr. Tom Waters, said he, too, was troubled by the government’s decision to reclassify the highly radioactive material in order to allow it to be housed at NNSS.

He also noted the transportation of the materials through Pahrump didn’t seem to be a major concern for him after learning how containers carrying the waste were sealed prior to transit.

“I think we are going to keep on fighting that. Again, some people are under the impression that it is unsafe passing through town and that is simply not true. On the trucks it is very safe and there should be no problems with it passing through Pahrump.

“It’s the storage that we are concerned about. They are talking about high-level nuclear waste in a low-level storage area. What we really need to do is open up Yucca Mountain. Don’t close Yucca Mountain and say that this other place at the test site is safe because it is not and that is the big fight right now,” Waters said.

Waters and others who are in favor of Yucca Mountain still have a fight on their hands with Nevada lawmakers.

Gov. Brian Sandoval and Senator Harry Reid have repeatedly maintained their staunch opposition to Yucca Mountain.

Last week Sandoval issued a statement in response to an Aug. 13 ruling by the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The ruling directed the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to restart the licensing process for the dormant Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository project.

“I am very disappointed that court saw fit to order the NRC to resume the Yucca Mountain licensing proceedings. Forcing the NRC to revive the effort is an exercise in futility, a waste of money, and an unproductive distraction from promising new efforts to find real, workable solutions. I remain opposed to the Yucca Mountain project and will aggressively pursue actions to prevent its construction,” Sandoval stated.

Reid, meanwhile, worked with the Obama Administration to gut funding for Yucca Mountain in 2011.

“I have been fighting this project because it threatened our health and safety and would have negatively impacted Nevada’s economy. Nevadans are overwhelmingly opposed to dumping nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain and they can rest safely now that the Obama administration has put this project to rest,” he has previously stated.

Pahrump resident John Pawlak is the chairman of the Pahrump Nuclear Waste and Environmental Advisory Board.

He said on Thursday the issue is not over by a long shot as all parties are trying to reach an agreement on where high-level nuclear waste will be stored if Yucca Mountain was to remain inactive.

“Everyone concerned about this issue should make their comments directly to the Department of Energy,” he said. “They should go to meetings where their voices will be heard directly by the DOE before a final decision is made. Whether Yucca Mountain will reopen remains to be seen. That depends entirely on how the political winds blow. Right now we just have to wait and see.”

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