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« 25 years ago today, the "Screw Nevada Bill" was passed | Main | Leona Morgan of ENDAUM speaks on Democracy Now! »
Saturday
Dec222012

PFS pulls the plug on parking lot dump targeted at Skull Valley Goshutes in Utah

Skull Valley Goshute Margene Bullcreek has led the fight against the dump targeted at her community. Photo by Gabriela Bulisova.As reported by the Salt Lake Tribune, the Private Fuel Storage (PFS) Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) has given up on its plans to turn the tiny Skull Valley Goshutes Inidan Reservation in Utah into a parking lot dump (or "centralized interim storage facility") for commercial high-level radioactive waste. At one time, PFS was comprised of more than a dozen nuclear utilities, led by Xcel Energy of Minnesota, with Dairyland Power Co-Op as a front group.

In 2005-2006, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) granted PFS a construction and operating license, despite objections by traditionals with the Skull Valley band, nearly 500 environmental and environmental justice organizations, as well as the State of Utah. The plan was for 40,000 metric tons of irradiated nuclear fuel to be "temporarily stored" (for 20 to 40 years) in 4,000 dry casks on the reservation. However, as the ultimate plan was to transfer the wastes to the Yucca Mountain dump, when that proposal was cancelled in 2009, this would have meant the wastes would have been stuck indefinitely at Skull Valley.

In 2006 a very unlikely coalition, involving the likes of Mormon political leaders and wilderness advocates, succeeded in creating the first federal wilderness area in Utah in a generation. This created a "moat" around the Skull Valley reservation, blocking the railway needed to directly deliver the waste. And, after lobbying efforts at the top echelons of Republican Party decision making circles by U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) as well as Utah Governor Huntsman, the George W. Bush administration's Department of the Interior refused to approve the lease agreement between PFS and the Skull Valley band, as well as the intermodal transfer facility on Bureau of Land Management property which could have allowed heavy haul trucks to ship the waste containers the final leg of the journey to the reservation.

The Skull Valley Goshutes were first targeted by the nuclear power establishment more than 20 years ago. Altogether, 60-some tribes have been actively targeted for high-level radioactive waste parking lot dumps. All the proposals have been stopped, as through the work of Native American grassroots environmental activists like Grace Thorpe, working in alliance with environmental and environmental justice organizations.