The Nevada Appeal

Vegas officials argue plans to resume nuke waste shipment

Wednesday, April 21, 1999

Associated Press

LAS VEGAS - Plans to resume shipment of low-level nuclear waste through the Las Vegas area on its way to the Nevada Test Site have met with opposition from local officials concerned about leaks.

Federal authorities are considering three routes for hauling the waste from the Fernald Environmental Management Project in Ohio, and all involve going through some populated areas of Clark County.

The three routes were suggested by five companies that bid with the Department of Energy for a contract to transport the waste to the test site, 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Each route brings the low-level waste into Nevada by way of Needles, Calif.

Shipments of the waste were stopped 16 months ago because of leaks, but are scheduled to resume in the next two weeks.

Local officials say they are powerless to stop the Department of Energy from trucking the waste on whatever route it chooses. But Clark County commissioners and Henderson city officials are joining forces to try and convince the companies to come up with an alternative.

"We're frustrated because federal law allows them to supersede us," Clark County Commissioner Myrna Williams said.

"The shippers have the authority to choose the routes," Department of Energy spokesman Michael Jacob said.

Local officials favor bringing the waste by train into the town of Caliente, where it would be transferred to trucks and moved along rural highways to the test site.

It would take five months to build the transfer site, however, and the first shipment of waste is scheduled to come through Las Vegas in about two weeks.

"I don't see why they can't just wait," Williams said.

"We are the only backyard, but other counties are realizing this isn't just Nevada's (problem)."

The local officials are concerned about possible environmental contamination, effects on land values and effects on the general health and well-being of residents. One consolation, though, is that the waste is not scheduled to be transported over Hoover Dam, where the highway narrows to two congested lanes across the dam.