of Environmental Safety, Health and Analytical Programs
New Jersey 08625-0415
October 30, 2002
Mr. Norm Cohen
Coalition for Peace and Justice
321 Barr Avenue
Linwood, NJ 08221
Dear Mr. Cohen:
I am writing in response to your email from September 11, 2002 regarding PSEG’s interest in utilizing a private fuel storage facility in Utah.
The Skull Valley Band of the Goshutes, a sovereign nation, has partnered with a group of eight electric utility companies to build and operate a temporary facility to store commercial high-level radioactive waste on the Tribe’s reservation in Utah. The Goshutes have agreed to lease 820 acres of their 18,000 acre reservation to Private Fuel Storage, LLC (PFS). The lease agreement was approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and is conditioned on the environmental review process and the granting of a license by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
The Skull Valley Band of the Goshutes studied nuclear waste storage before PFS was formed. In 1990, they received a grant from the federal government to investigate the feasibility of hosting a federal facility for temporary nuclear waste storage. The federal grant allowed them to travel to Japan, France, Sweden, Great Britain, and many parts of the United States to see nuclear plants and storage facilities in operation.
The NRC is authorized to license spent fuel storage facilities, such as the one proposed by PFS. The licensing process takes about four years. The application is reviewed by the NRC staff, which prepares a safety and environmental report. Members of the public may intervene and raise their own issues, which are resolved by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB), an independent three-judge panel appointed by the NRC.
The ASLB's final decision is based on the scientific and expert evaluation of PFS's ability to comply with federal regulations designed to protect the public and the environment.
If you want to know more specifics about the NRC’s regulatory process, you should contact Mark Dellighetto, the NRC project manager for the PFS facility application. He can be reached at 301-415-8518.
The PFS facility maintains a website, and it lists information regarding licensing and the regulatory process. (www.privatefuelstorage.com)
The partners in the PFS venture are:
· Xcel Energy
· Genoa Fuel Tech
· American Electric Power
· Southern California Edison
· Southern Nuclear Company
· First Energy
· Florida Power and Light
As you can see, PSEG is not one of the partners in the PFS venture and PSEG is exploring options for storing its spent fuel on the Artificial Island site.
While the Skull Valley Band of Goshutes is a sovereign nation, the reservation is within the state of Utah’s boundaries. Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality Executive Director Dianne R. Nielson is spearheading Governor Leavitt's opposition to high level nuclear waste in Utah. The governor has vowed to: "Actively oppose the license application and will seek complete and exhaustive reviews, and reconsideration and appeals if necessary." The website that outlines Utah’s opposition efforts is:
http://www.deq.state.ut.us/no_high_level_waste/index.htm. The website contains a flow chart of the NRC’s licensing process and Utah’s actions to oppose the license.
The situation in Utah was complicated because there is an existing low-level radioactive waste disposal facility operating under a license granted by the Utah Division of Radiation Control. Envirocare of Utah, Inc. is a commercial radioactive waste disposal facility located 80 miles west of Salt Lake City in western Tooele County. The facility began operation in 1988. Envirocare is licensed by the Division of Radiation Control to dispose of Naturally Occuring Radioactive Materials (NORM) and Low Level Radioactive Waste (LLRW) less than Class A. Envirocare is not currently allowed to accept Class B and C low level waste. On November 1, 1999, Envirocare submitted a license modification request to the Division of Radiation Control to receive and dispose of containerized Class A. B, and C low-level radioactive waste. The license application process includes a siting review and approval, a license review and approval, and county, legislative, and gubernatorial approval following the technical reviews. The Utah program maintains a website at www.radiationcontrol.utah.gov and provides updates on its licensing actions.
Envirocare maintains a website at www.envirocareutah.com. Envirocare announced that it although it received a positive siting review and approval, it will not seek legislative or gubernatorial approval for its Class B & C low-level radioactive waste proposal. In the statement issued to the press, Envirocare stated that, “Over the last several months, it has become increasingly obvious to Envirocare that the major differences between our proposal to dispose of Class B & C low-level radioactive waste and the proposal by the Goshute Tribe and Private Fuel Storage (PFS) to accept high-level spent fuel rods from nuclear power plants has created a public perception problem that makes pursuit of our proposal an extremely difficult task.”
I hope that this summary of the issues involved in the PFS proposal provides adequate background for your research. If you have further questions, please contact me.
Jill Lipoti, Ph.D.,Assistant Director