Spent nuclear fuel rods from overseas reactors will reach California sometime this month for shipment, through Utah, to the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, the San Francisco Examiner reports.

The newspaper, quoting Energy Department officials, said the last barrier to the shipments fell this week when Republican California Attorney General Dan Lungren declined to file a court challenge to the safety of the shipment through his state.The shipments will pass through Nevada and Utah before arriving at INEEL.

Before shipping, Department of Energy technicians will inspect the nuclear fuel rods at the reactor site. They will then load and seal the rods in transportation casks that meet international standards for nuclear waste.

Once on shore in California, the rods will be loaded onto flat bed trains. The trains, travelling 10 mph below the posted limited, will be tracked by satellite and accompanied by armed security.

This is the first shipment of nuclear fuel rods from foreign reactors to pass through Utah. Eventually, 5 metric tons will be shipped through the state.

Peter Douglas, executive director of the California Coastal Commission, warned of the severe impact an accident could have on the state's valuable fishing industry.

And Democratic Lt. Gov. Gray Davis, who is running against Lungren for governor this fall, accused his opponent of putting personal ideology before his duties as attorney general.

"He is the commission's lawyer and they have instructed him to sue," Davis said, "and he's refusing to do so."

Lungren's office declined to comment, citing attorney-client privilege.

The shipment is the first of five during the next 11 years as the United States retrieves spent nuclear fuel it provided foreign nations a generation ago under the Atoms for Peace program. Retrieval of the waste is intended to keep nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists.

The temporary storage of that waste at INEEL is authorized under Idaho's unprecedented 1995 deal with the federal government. The agreement allows limited increases in temporary storage in Idaho but imposes court-enforced deadlines for waste cleanup at the federal installation.

Energy Department spokesman John Belluardo declined to identify the name of the ship delivering the waste to California or its course to the Concord Naval Weapons Station. Belluardo said only that the shipment involved 360 fuel rods from South Korea.