NRC to issue licence for Skull Valley facility in Utah

14 September 2005

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has denied final appeals by Utah in the adjudication on an application by Private Fuel Storage (PFS) to construct and operate an independent spent nuclear fuel storage facility in Skull Valley, Utah.

By a 3-1 vote the NRC has authorised a licence for the project once staff have made the requisite findings under NRC regulations.

Utah petitioned for NRC review of a February decision by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, which rejected the state’s assertions that there is too high a probability of a radiation release resulting from an accidental crash of one of 7000 flights over Skull Valley each year by F-16 single-engine jets from Hill Air Force Base.

“Our decision today concludes this protracted adjudication, which has generated more than 40 published board decisions and more than 30 published commission decisions,” the NRC said in its memorandum and order which found that the proposed storage facility can be constructed and operated safely.

The PFS facility would be located on the reservation of the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians, about 80 km southwest of Salt Lake City. The proposed above-ground facility would use up to 4000 NRC-approved Holtec International HI-STORM 100 storage casks.

However, despite the NRC ruling, a Utah congressional delegation is pressing interior secretary Gale Norton to prevent the development. In a letter to Norton the group said: “Among the many hurdles PFS must clear before construction could begin at Skull Valley is your final approval of the lease agreement between PFS and the Skull Valley Band of the Goshutes.”

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