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APACHES NEAR AGREEMENT ON N-WASTE SITE

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Mescalero Apache leaders and utility company executives could have a final agreement as early as next week on a deal that would bring tons of nuclear waste to the tribe's reservation.

Utah's Goshute Indians also have been pursuing locating a nuclear-waste site on their lands.Mescalero Tribal President Wendell Chino was in Florida Wednesday to begin the final phase of negotiations on a proposal to build a high-level nuclear waste storage facility on Mescalero land in south-central New Mexico.

The Mescaleros entered into negotiations with the utilities in June with the intent of creating a storage site capable of holding spent fuel rods from nuclear power plants nationwide for up to four decades.

Thirty-two utilities from across the country are still involved in the project, which could come one step closer to fruition if the contract is completed by next week as expected.

Once completed, the pact would be brought before the Mescalero Tribal Council for approval. Details of the contract then would be released to tribal members, who must also approve the facility's construction in a referendum.

Some opponents say they aren't certain the spent fuel storage project would not become a permanent waste depository.

Tribal leaders have said, however, that the rods will eventually be transferred to a permanent disposal site, which the federal government is obligated to build.