US confirms shipment of radioactive waste from Idaho to Nevada | Idaho News
By KEN RITTER, Associated Press
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The federal government acknowledged that it shipped mixed radioactive waste from a nuclear remediation site in Idaho to Nevada and New Mexico for disposal.
In a statement Tuesday, following a letter of protest from US Representative Dina Titus of Nevada, the US Department of Energy said 13,625 cubic yards of material was safely shipped to the Nevada National Security Site from a former landfill at the Idaho National Laboratory.
The material was labeled “low-level radioactive waste/mixed low-level radioactive waste,” the department said. The crowd would fill more than five Olympic-size swimming pools.
Deliveries began in 2009 and are ongoing, the department said, while noting that most of the waste from Idaho was sent to the New Mexico waste isolation pilot plant.
Nevada and the federal government have clashed several times in the past over shipments of radioactive materials to the state’s vast former nuclear test site.
In a Monday letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Titus said: “The fact that hazardous materials could share the streets with my constituents and visitors raises a number of questions for me about this shipment of nuclear material.”
Titus, a Las Vegas Democrat, is a retired professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and an expert on nuclear testing and American politics. She has fought for years to prevent the federal government from building a permanent repository for the nation’s most radioactive waste on Yucca Mountain, about 90 miles north of Las Vegas.
In her letter, Titus asked the Department of Energy to disclose the amount of waste being shipped to Nevada and how it was classified.
“Nevada is not America’s dumping ground,” she said.
Nevada-based Department of Energy spokesman Jesse Sleezer said in a statement Wednesday that the department has shipped more than 32,000 shipments of waste to the Nevada National Security Site since 1999 “with no contamination released by those shipments.”
The department said the Nevada State Environmental Protection Department is participating with other experts in pre-disposal documentation and review of a “comprehensive waste profile” of materials shipped to the site.
“All offsite waste transported to and disposed of at the NNSS is safely managed and must meet all applicable federal and state regulations as well as strict NNSS waste acceptance criteria,” the department said in its statement Tuesday.
David Fogerson, chief of environmental protection for the state of Nevada, forwarded an inquiry about the supplies to the office of Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak. The governor’s assistant, Meghin Delaney, did not immediately respond to questions.
The Department of Energy said last month it was completing the removal of targeted waste buried decades ago in storage drums and boxes in unlined pits at a sprawling site that includes the Idaho National Laboratory, 50 miles (80 kilometers) west of the City of Idaho Falls.
The buried debris included plutonium-contaminated filters, graphite molds, solvent-laden sludge, and oxidized uranium produced during nuclear weapons production operations at Colorado’s Rocky Flats Plant.
The Nevada National Security Site is a vast federal reserve almost the size of the state of Rhode Island, where the government conducted more than 1,000 surface and underground nuclear explosions from 1951 to 1992. It now serves as a research and training facility and for US studies of nuclear, chemical, biological and other weapons.
The Department of Energy last year agreed to pay Nevada $65,000 to settle a dispute over five years of mislabeled shipments of waste from the Department of Energy’s Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to the Nevada site. The state called the deliveries “an unfortunate misstep”.
A previous dispute involved the clandestine shipment of half a ton (1,100 pounds) of weapons-grade plutonium from a Department of Energy facility in South Carolina. As part of that settlement, the government agreed to begin cleaning up the Nevada site’s waste last year.
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