Nevada to get 45-day warning on Fernald waste

Ohio shipments going to site 65 miles from Vegas

By Ken Ritter

Associated Press

LAS VEGAS | The Energy Department promised Friday to give Nevada officials a 45-day notice before shipping radioactive waste from a former uranium processing plant in Ohio.

Nevada officials declared a victory in their effort to halt shipments from the former Fernald plant to the Nevada Test Site, about 65 miles north of Las Vegas.

But an Energy Department official said the government still plans to send Nevada the most dangerous of remaining wastes at Fernald, about 18 miles northwest of Cincinnati.

"We have a schedule," DOE spokesman Joe Davis said. "The exchange of letters does not, in our opinion, upset the schedule."

Davis declined to say when shipments might begin. He characterized Friday's promise as "trying to be responsive to the state of Nevada."

Nevada threatened April 13 to sue in federal court to stop the shipments if the Energy Department did not respond by April 30.

"They blinked," said Marta Adams, a senior deputy Nevada attorney general. "We're delighted that DOE decided to rethink this ill-conceived plan."

In a letter to Nevada Attorney General Brian Sandoval, DOE lawyer Marc Johnston said the agency was evaluating the state's objections.

"The department will not ship any of the material stored in the Fernald silos to the Nevada Test Site without first providing you 45-days advance notice," Johnston said in the letter.

The state also has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for an emergency order to stop the shipments. NRC officials in Rockville, Md., did not immediately respond Friday to messages seeking comment.

Nevada cites a 2003 law that requiring radioactive waste to be stored at a Nuclear Regulatory Commission-regulated facility. The test site is administered by the National Nuclear Security Administration, a branch of the Energy Department.

The Energy Department has been moving low-level radioactive wastes from Fernald to the Nevada site for years. But Nevada officials say more radioactive silo waste, including uranium ore sludge and powdery metallic production wastes, will need a more se cure disposal site with lined pits.

Fernald processed uranium metal from 1951 until 1989 for use in the production of nuclear weapons. A lawsuit could delay a cleanup that has cost about $4 billion and been under way for more than a decade.

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