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Global Security Newswire

Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues

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U.S., Nevada Leaders in Talks on Disposing Tennessee Nuke Waste

U.S. federal and state officials sought to ease tensions over the fate of some sensitive nuclear waste, with talks between Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval (R) that were scheduled for Tuesday, Fox News reported.

Federal officials have said the state agreed in a series of memos to accept 403 containers, each holding around six pounds of uranium isotopes 233 and 235, for disposal. However, Sandoval maintains that Nevada never made such a commitment. The materials were to have been transported from Oak Ridge National Laboratory to Nevada earlier this year, but with the state rejecting the idea, the canisters never left the Tennessee lab, according to Fox.

"The state of Nevada is not aware of any signed memos between the state and DOE regarding the approval of the material in question," the governor's communication director, Mac Bybee, told the television network.

Moniz on Tuesday told reporters that "we agreed to do a different emplacement, a deeper emplacement. And we did that at the request of the state and we're happy to do so," Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

The original DOE plan for the uranium waste -- which is considered low-level risk for making a nuclear weapon but holds the potential for fashioning into a dirty bomb -- was to bury it in a shallow landfill at the Nevada National Security Site, located 65 miles outside of Las Vegas, according to the Review-Journal.

In addition, Moniz said "we have agreed and did the analysis to look at a 10,000-year time horizon vs. our standard rule of looking at a 1,000-year time horizon."

Meantime, the long embattled Yucca Mountain site is one step closer to receiving nuclear detritus, after an appeals court voted 2-1 that Obama administration efforts to abandon the location "violate the law" that designates Yucca Mountain as the national atomic waste repository.

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