WASHINGTON — The Department of Energy thought it had an agreement that would have cleared the way for highly radioactive uranium waste to be shipped to Nevada and buried at its national security landfill, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told Congress on Tuesday. Moniz said Energy Department leaders held months of discussions with Nevada officials and promised special arrangements for the material, including maximum security for trucks that would be carrying canisters of solidified nuclear waste. Thinking a deal was in hand, Moniz said the Energy Department began to prepare the material presently stored at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee for shipment West. That plan was thrown a curve when Gov. Brian Sandoval declared on June 20 he opposed allowing the waste, which contains bomb-usable elements, into Nevada.

WASHINGTON — The Department of Energy thought it had an agreement that would have cleared the way for highly radioactive uranium waste to be shipped to Nevada and buried at its national security landfill, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told Congress on Tuesday. 

Moniz said Energy Department leaders held months of discussions with Nevada officials and promised special arrangements for the material, including maximum security for trucks that would be carrying canisters of solidified nuclear waste. Thinking a deal was in hand, Moniz said the Energy Department began to prepare the material presently stored at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee for shipment West. That plan was thrown a curve when Gov. Brian Sandoval declared on June 20 he opposed allowing the waste, which contains bomb-usable elements, into Nevada.

“There were long discussions held, many memos signed on specifically this particular low level waste movement.” Moniz said at a U.S. Senate hearing. “That exchange of memos to us was saying this works, with our special precautions. The delay now is costing us quite a bit of money,” Moniz said. He declined afterwards to say how much.

The Energy Department’s top official gave his side of the story that has put the government and Nevada at a new impasse over nuclear waste. While not as deadly as high level nuclear waste, the Oak Ridge canisters contain uranium-233 commingled with uranium-235, atom-splitting materials with by-products that experts say could be used to make a dirty bomb. Moniz appeared at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing focused on nuclear waste legislation. But Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., asked about the material in light of an initial, unsuccessful effort by Moniz and Sandoval to sort it out over the phone two weeks ago.

Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal