States seek removal of nuclear waste

June 21, 1994|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON -- Outraged by a plan to let dangerous radioactive wastes pile up indefinitely at dozens of nuclear power plants across America, Michigan is leading Maryland and 18 other states into battle with Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary.

In a lawsuit filed yesterday in Washington, Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley asked a federal judge to order the U.S. Department of Energy to keep its promise to remove wastes from nuclear plant sites by Jan. 31, 1998.

"If the federal government does not act quickly to provide one central repository for spent nuclear fuel, we will have nuclear dumps next to each of the 111 nuclear reactors in this country," Mr. Kelley said in a statement. "This makes no sense and citizens will not tolerate such an outrageous situation."

The 111 reactors are at 73 sites, according to Mr. Kelley.

Energy Department spokesman Phil Keif called the suit "unfortunate, since we are in the middle of a formal public process to address these concerns."

The suit stems from Ms. O'Leary's announcement last year that the Energy Department considers itself under no legal obligation to begin accepting nuclear power plant wastes -- primarily spent nuclear fuel rods -- by 1998, a deadline set by Congress.

In 1982, Congress essentially told states not to worry about building their own dumps for the fuel rods. Instead, Washington told states to tax electricity generated by nuclear power plants and send the money to the Energy Department, which would use it to build a single national repository for the high-level radioactive wastes.

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