More EPA Enviro-Newsbrief
Y2K & Environmental News
March 2, 1999
The following is a daily update summarizing news of interest to EPA staff. It includes information from current news sources: newspapers, newsletters, and other publications. For more information, contact the EPA Headquarters Information Resources Center at (202) 260-5922, or e-mail LIBRARY-HQ.
**Viewpoints expressed in the following summaries do not necessarily reflect EPA policy**
A searchable archive of past Enviro-Newsbriefs can be found on the EPA web site at the following URL: http://www.epa.gov/natlibra/hqirc/enb.htm
** HAZARDOUS WASTE **
Utah Resisting Tribe's Nuclear Dump. The Washington Post, March 2, 1999, pA3. Full text available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPlate/1999-03/02/120l-03029 9-idx.html .
In an effort to attract money and jobs to their reservation, the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians in Utah agreed to build a temporary facility to store spent nuclear fuel rods from eight utility companies. They hoped the deal would bring economic development to their 119 member community and stem the exodus of their young people away from the reservation.
The deal is now facing considerable opposition from Utah Governor Mike Leavitt (R), who has threatened to stop the plans. Leavitt described the fight as "one state slugging it out with major utility companies eager to spend billions of dollars of rate-payer money to move high-level nuclear waste out of their yards into ours, where it would remain lethally hot from now until the year 11999." Leavitt plans to create a "moat" of state- owned lands around the reservation, through which he will not allow nuclear waste to pass.
Leon D. Bear, the tribal chairman of the Goshutes, calls Leavitt's proposal "blatantly racist" as well as an affront to Native American sovereignty under the constitution.
"Our land is our only resource, and if this land is useful for nothing but storing hazardous waste, then that's what we will do," said Bear.
Bear says that the temporary facility would be dismantled once the waste can be moved to its permanent repository being built by the federal government at Yucca Mountain, NV.
Diane Nielson, head of Utah's Department of Environmental Quality, however, said that uncertainties surrounding the Yucca Mountain site mean that the Goshutes' proposed site cannot simply be viewed as temporary. And the Utah site is subject to earthquakes and potential accidents from the air traffic associated with the surrounding military bases.
But the sites in the area where the waste is currently being stored are subject to those threats, too, says Scott Northard of Private Fuel Storage, LLC, the firm that is brokering the deal. "Only when the tribe wants to do it they suddenly have endless objections," he said.
The storage facility would bring 500 temporary construction jobs and 40 permanent jobs to the reservation. It would also bring funds for a health clinic, fire and police stations, and better water and electricity systems.
Bear bridles at the suggestion that his tribe is going against traditional Native American values respecting nature. "Just because we are Indians, why are they stereotyping us with the environmental thing?" he asks. "We don't have any wildlife here that is anywhere near being endangered, much less becoming extinct... I told them, there is nothing out there to save."
US Proposes Uranium Waste Plants. The New York Times, March 2, 1999, pA17.
The US Department of Energy wants to build two plants devoted to converting uranium waste into marketable products and different types of waste that will be safer to store. The plants are expected to cost nearly $200 million each.
Among the 1.5 billion pounds of depleted uranium under consideration is some that dates from the Manhattan Project of the early 1940's.
The US Government has $373 million set aside for the project, and private companies are being invited to bid on ways to build the factories. "We're very interested to see what industry does propose," said a DOE official. "We're looking for industry to give us ideas and input."
It is not clear where the operating funds for the facilities would come from, but DOE is hoping that creating marketable products from the waste will help the project pay for itself. One possibility is to use a form of the uranium, which is only slightly radioactive, to coat more highly radioactive waste as a type of shield. Flourine, which is mixed with the uranium, could be separated and sold to industry for things such as glass etching and steel processing.
Still, many experts say that these potential revenues would only partially cover the operating costs of the plants.
** GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE **
March May Soon Be Coming In Like a Lamb. The New York Times, March 2, 1999, D3.
Evidence is accumulating that longer growing seasons in the Northern Hemisphere have arrived, as has been predicted would occur with global warming. A recent study documents the dates each spring when plants in Europe begin to bud, and when leaves begin to turn each fall.
The observation occurred on genetically-identical clone plants at 77 sites across Europe known collectively as the International Phenological Gardens. Observations of spring bud times and fall foliage times were recorded every year between 1959 and 1993. Over this time period, the University of Munich researchers discovered, the date of budding advanced by 6 days, and the date when leaves turn color in the fall was delayed by about 5 days. The report, authored by Dr. Annette Menzel and Dr. Peter Fabian, appears in the current issue of the journal _Nature_.
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