Sandoval, DOE fail to reach agreement on waste shipments

WASHINGTON — A telephone call Thursday between Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and the nation’s energy secretary failed to yield a breakthrough on proposed shipments of potent uranium waste the government wants to send into the state for burial.

Sandoval has told Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz he opposes the Energy Department’s plan to dispose of bomb-usable uranium material into a landfill at the Nevada National Security Site.

The two spoke after Sandoval made two requests for a meeting. At the end of the 15-minute call, they “agreed to disagree” on specific points, but committed to keep talking, Sandoval said in a statement.

Sandoval described the conversation as “frank and blunt,” which usually is diplomat-speak for a talk that turned testy.

A DOE spokeswoman called it “a good conversation.”

“The Secretary looks forward to meeting with Governor Sandoval and forging a strong collaborative relationship,” Lindsey Geisler said. Although no further meeting was announced, both officials are scheduled to be in Las Vegas on Aug. 13 for an energy conference.

Nevada officials have lodged protests against DOE plans to relocate 403 canisters of a hotly radioactive mix of uranium-233, uranium-235 and uranium-232 that have been stored in an aging building at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

The Department of Energy has said the disposal plan would address safety and security, but Nevada officials maintained they have not received clear answers as to how the material would be shipped.

The canisters would be buried below 40 feet at the Nevada reservation’s Area 5 landfill, where contaminated material from government environmental cleanup projects regularly are brought for disposal.

But nuclear experts and environmental activists have warned Sandoval the uranium waste would be dangerous for thousands of years.

Nevada officials further have protested the Department of Energy changing landfill regulations to allow the disposal of materials that are more radioactive.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.

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