Monday, January 25, 1999

Owl Creek nuke dump size argued

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Environmentalists and proponents of a proposed temporary radioactive-waste storage facility at Shoshoni disagree about how many spent nuclear fuel rods the site could store.

Riverton-based NEW Corp., proposes to store up to 40,000 metric tons of waste from commercial nuclear reactors for up to 40 years at its Owl Creek Energy Project at Bonneville, just east of Shoshoni, until a permanent site in Nevada is opened.

The Wyoming Outdoor Council contends that Owl Creek should be limited to a 15,000-metric-ton limit.

A 1995 Wyoming law says any facility in the state must comply with "conditions substantially equivalent to the licensing conditions imposed on monitored retrieval storage (MRS) facilities" by the federal 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act. The federal law set the 10,000-metric-ton limit on federally operated temporary nuclear waste storage facilities, increasing to 15,000 once the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada opens, probably in 2010.

However, NEW Corp. President Robert Anderson maintains that the Owl Creek project does not come under the 1982 federal act's definition because it is a private facility, rather than a so-called "MRS," operated by the U.S. Department of Energy.

That means the operative control on the size of a nuclear-waste storage site in Wyoming is the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's 40,000-metric-ton limit for licensing, he said.

"That's where we disagree - that's as simple and straightforward as it is," Anderson said.

The issue is not immediately before the Legislature in any case. The project cannot be submitted to the Legislature until the Yucca Mountain site has applied for a license for construction, which is not expected to happen until 2002.

In addition, Gov. Jim Geringer has repeatedly stressed his opposition to considering nuclear waste storage as economic development, a position he repeated when NEW Corp.'s consultant said such a site would create 2,800 jobs and generate $200 million in benefits.

The Legislature and governor have veto power over the project, a fact that is not in dispute by either side.