US acknowledges shipping Idaho radioactive waste to Nevada

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The federal government acknowledged it has been shipping mixed radioactive waste from a nuclear cleanup site in Idaho to Nevada and New Mexico for disposal.

The U.S. Department of Energy stated Tuesday that 13,625 cubic metres of material was sent from an Idaho National Laboratory dump to the Nevada National Security Site. This statement came after a protest letter by Dina Titus, U.S. Rep. from Nevada.

The material was described as “low level waste/mixed low level waste,”According to the department, The amount would fill more that five Olympic-sized swimming pool.

The department stated that the first shipment was made in 2009 and is ongoing. However, it noted that most of the Idaho waste was being sent in New Mexico to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

In the past, Nevada and the federal government have clashed over shipments radioactive material to the huge former government nuclear test facility in the state.

Titus wrote Monday’s letter to Jennifer Granholm, Energy Secretary. “the fact that dangerous materials could be sharing the roads with my constituents and visitors raise a number of questions for me about this shipment of nuclear materials.”

Titus is a Las Vegas Democrat and a retired professor at the University of Nevada. She is an expert on American politics and atomic testing. She has fought for years to prevent the federal government from building a permanent storage facility for the nation’s most radioactive waste at Yucca Mountain, some 90 miles (145 kilometers) north of Las Vegas.

Titus asked for the Energy Department’s disclosure of the amount and classification of waste that will be shipped to Nevada in her letter.

“Nevada is not America’s dumping ground,”She said.

The department said the Nevada state Division of Environmental Protection participates with other experts in pre-disposal documentation and review of an “extensive waste profile” of the material shipped to the Nevada National Security Site.

“All offsite wastes shipped to and disposed at the NNSS are handled safely and securely and must meet all applicable federal and state regulations as well as the rigorous NNSS Waste Acceptance Criteria,”The department stated this in a statement issued Tuesday.

David Fogerson, the chief of Nevada’s Division of Environmental Protection, sent an inquiry to Gov. Nevada. Steve Sisolak’s office. Meghin Delaney (the governor’s aide) did not immediately respond.

Last month, the Energy Department announced that it was completing the removal and storage of targeted waste buried decades back in storage drums and boxes in unlined pits at a vast site that includes the Idaho National Laboratory, 50-miles (80 km) west of Idaho Falls.

The buried waste included plutonium-contaminated filters, graphite molds, sludges containing solvents and oxidized uranium generated during nuclear weapons production work at the Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado.

The Nevada National Security Site, a federal reserve nearly as large as Rhode Island’s state, is where the government conducted over 1,000 nuclear detonations above- and below ground from 1951 to 1992. It is used today as a research and training facility, and for U.S. investigations of nuclear, chemical and other weapons.

The Energy Department agreed last year to pay Nevada $65,000 to settle a dispute about five years of shipments of mischaracterized waste from the Energy Department’s Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to the Nevada site. The state called the shipment “an unfortunate misstep.”

An earlier dispute involved the clandestine shipment of one half metric tons (1,100 lbs) of weapons-grade plitonium from a Department of Energy facility located in South Carolina. The government reached a settlement and agreed to remove the waste from the Nevada site in the last year.

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