Robert Halstead, Executive Director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects
BY JOAN WHITELY -- The federal government wants to bury old nuclear material from the Manhattan Project in Nevada, 40 feet below ground at the Nevada National Security Site. But Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval considers the material high-level radioactive waste that ought to be buried in New Mexico, 600 feet down, instead.
Terrorists could snag the material in transit and turn it into a "dirty bomb," according to Nevada officials. Low-level waste requires less transportation security than high-level waste.
The feds are "attempting to exploit a gap in current regulations" to classify the material as low-level waste, even though it contains long-lived Uranium 233 and Uranium 235, the governor wrote in a letter of opposition sent Thursday June 20 to U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.. The material in question is neither spent nuclear fuel, nor tailings from a uranium mill, which are designated as high-level waste.
The feds want to use the loophole to save money -- both on the shipping and the disposal via shallow burial at Nevada's landfill, according Robert Halstead, who heads the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects.
"There's no environmental or safety crisis" to justify moving the material from Oak Ridge, Tenn., where it is currently stored, Halstead says. Even if all the Manhattan Project canisters go to Nevada, the Oak Ridge site still houses plenty of other high-risk materials and would keep its current security rating, he said.