Jim Hansen and Merrill Cook are to be commended for taking action that will at least delay attempts to send nuclear waste to the Goshute Indian Reservation in Skull Valley.
The two Utah Republican representatives persuaded a House panel to strip language from a bill that could have put the proposed nuclear waste storage site on the reservation on a fast-track for approval. The language ordered the secretary of energy to encourage and give priority to such private, temporary storage sites to help solve national storage problems.Unfortunately the Senate has already passed a version of the bill that includes the "fast-tracking" language. If the bill passes the House, negotiators from the House and Senate would have to determine whether it should be included in a final bill. Utah lawmakers need to lobby against that inclusion.
The language in the bill is a minor part of the overall nuclear storage problem, a problem Utah should not be involved with. Utah is basically being asked to store garbage it's not responsible for by states unwilling to take care of their own mess.
A private consortium of out-of-state utility companies wants to take 10.4 million highly radioactive spent fuel rods from states such as New York, New Jersey and Ohio and store them on Goshute Tribal land 40 miles west of the Salt Lake metro area.
The picture painted by the consortium is one of safety and bliss - bliss in the terms of monetary gains by the Goshutes. The consortium argues Utahns have no reason to fear leaking radiation because of the safety of the methods used to transport the spent fuel rods and the safety of the storage site. Whether it's safe or not, the spent fuel rods should be stored where they are.
The argument that the storage site on Goshute Tribal land is only temporary until a permanent site can be found is as flawed as the spent fuel rods.
The proposed permanent site is near Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Guess who doesn't want the permanent site to be there? Like Utah lawmakers, Nevada lawmakers don't want their state to be somebody else's dumping ground.
If Utah becomes the site of the nation's first high-level nuclear storage facility, pressure to finish a permanent facility likely would disappear, turning instead into pressure to expand the Utah site and make it more permanent.
Utah lawmakers and officials need to continue to stress, as Hansen and Cook did this week, that this "is not the place" for nuclear waste.