Alarms Raised Over Nuclear Waste Shipments
Organizations urge Governor Herbert to join western governors in opposing flawed waste storage policies
July 29, 2019, Salt Lake City, UT – Organizations throughout Utah and the southwest are calling on Utah Governor Gary Herbert to stand with the governors of Nevada and New Mexico in opposing the recent actions by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the national nuclear waste policies that could lead to new storage facilities for radioactive waste.
The letter sent to Governor Herbert by these organizations was prompted by the recent news that the DOE both shipped mischaracterized radioactive waste to the Nevada National Security Site and, in a separate action, shipped weapons-grade plutonium to the same site despite Nevada’s protest.
“Unsuspecting communities along Utah’s highways and railroads were almost certainly at risk with all of these illegal shipments,” Ashley Soltysiak, Director of the Utah Sierra Club said. “It is unconscionable that first responders and the public were not alerted or prepared to handle these imminent threats to their safety. We demand greater transparency from the Department of Energy and Governor Herbert, as all Utahns continue to grapple with our state’s nuclear legacy.”
At the same time, the U.S. House of Representatives is considering legislation (HR 2699) to restart the process for disposal of spent nuclear fuel rods at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is considering licensing a consolidated interim storage facility for these rods in southeastern New Mexico.
“For scientific, geologic, and technical reasons over the suitability of the site, we have long advocated for termination of the Yucca Mountain Project,” long-time activist Steve Erickson said. “Utah has already fought against temporary parking lots of high-level radioactive waste, so we shouldn’t be staying silent on them now,” he added, referring to the abandoned Private Fuel Storage facility in Tooele County.
“Utah has a complicated history with nuclear weapons testing, which exposed our citizens to dangerous radioactivity without their knowledge,” said Dr. Scott Williams, Executive Director of the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL Utah). “The last thing Utahns need is another risk to our safety due to a lack of transparency from the federal government. Our state leaders should recognize this and ensure that no Utahn is unnecessarily exposed to nuclear waste of any kind.”
Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak responded to the DOE’s actions with outrage and reiterated his enduring opposition to Yucca Mountain, while New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham continues to strongly oppose consolidated interim storage.
In the letter submitted to Governor Herbert, groups urged him to stand publicly with the Governors of Nevada and New Mexico by (1) objecting to the use of Utah roads and rails to ship mischaracterized radioactive wastes that are not legal to store or dispose of at facilities in Nevada or elsewhere, and (2) opposing consolidated interim storage of spent nuclear fuel in Utah and in any State that objects to such a facility. Additionally, they requested the Governor to inform the public whether Utah was aware of or notified by the DOE of the shipments and to explain what procedures and protocols are in place for notification of radioactive and hazardous waste shipments to first responders and local governments.
The letter was signed by the Citizens Education Project, the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL Utah), Utah Sierra Club, Uranium Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, Southwest Research and Information Center, Great Salt Lake Audubon, Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, and Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force.
About Citizens Education Project
Citizens Education Project is an all-volunteer effort dedicated to achieving social, economic and environmental justice.
About the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah Utah
The Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL Utah) has been an environmental advocacy organization, watchdog, and strategic influencer in Utah since 1999. By empowering grassroots advocates, using science-based solutions, and developing common-sense policy, HEAL has a track record of tackling some of the biggest threats to Utah’s environment and public health — and succeeding. The organization focuses on clean air, energy and climate, and radioactive waste. HEAL uses well-researched legislative, regulatory, and individual responsibility approaches to create tangible change, and then utilizes grassroots action to make it happen.
About the Utah Sierra Club
The Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club works to protect Utah’s wild places, wildlife, and waters, as well as the people and communities who depend on them. Our activism and advocacy are based on our strong grassroots networks, citizen-based leadership, and the guidance and skill sets of professional staff support. With nearly 6,000 members and over 40,000 supporters across Utah, we work to protect public lands, promote renewable energy, defend against nuclear threats, and support initiatives that promote clean air and water strategies.
About Uranium Watch
Uranium Watch works to educate and advocate for protection of public health and the environment from past, current, and future impacts of uranium mining, uranium milling, nuclear waste disposal at uranium mill sites, and other impacts of the nuclear fuel cycle. Uranium Watch is encouraging and facilitating public participation in state and federal regulatory decision-making processes related to the uranium industry.
About the Center for Biological Diversity
At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.
About Southwest Research and Information Center
Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC) is a multi-cultural organization working to promote the health of people and communities, protect natural resources, ensure citizen participation, and secure environmental and social justice now and for future generations. Founded in 1971, SRIC has been involved with nuclear waste issues in New Mexico and nationally for more than 40 years, including providing technical assistance to citizen groups, Native American tribes, states, and testifying at many public and congressional hearings.
About Great Salt Lake Audubon
Great Salt Lake Audubon is dedicated to protecting and enhancing habitat for wild birds, animals and plants, and to maintaining healthy and diverse environments for wildlife and people throughout the state.
About Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment
Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment is dedicated to protecting the health and well-being of the residents of Utah by promoting science-based health education and interventions that result in progressive, measurable improvements to the environment and our health.
About Southwest Research and Information Center
Southwest Research and Information Center is a multi-cultural organization working to promote the health of people and communities, protect natural resources, ensure citizen participation, and secure environmental and social justice now and for future generations
About the Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force
The Nevada Nuclear Waste Task Force was formed 30 years ago and works solely on national nuclear waste policy and Yucca Mountain. We are the only organization working full-time on this issue. We work in conjunction with local, national, and international organizations to make sure that people everywhere are informed and have the opportunity to be involved.