Indians Press Clinton to Halt Waste Storage Native Americans Say Nuclear-Waste Program Targets Reservations

Article excerpt

ENVIRONMENTAL and native American activists are calling on President-elect Clinton to stop government efforts to store nuclear waste on Indian reservations.

President Bush signed a bill in October extending the Office of the Nuclear Waste Negotiator, which has been trying to locate sites to store this waste for some 40 years. Critics say the office targeted Indian reservations, after states and counties were reluctant to store the waste.

Don Hancock, of the environmental group Southwest Research and Information Center in Albuquerque, N.M., says the program should be stopped. If Mr. Clinton fires the negotiator and fails to appoint a new one, "the whole program will end."

In 1987, as plans for building a site were delayed, Congress passed a bill for temporary storage. One or more Multiple Retrievable Storage (MRS) sites could hold waste until a permanent site opens. The government hopes to permanently store nuclear-power-plant waste at Yucca Mountain, Nev., and military nuclear waste near Carlsbad, N.M.

Unable to find states or counties willing to host an MRS, the waste negotiator looked to tribes. Under federal law, reservations are sovereign and outside the jurisdiction of state governors.

The Mescalero Apaches in southern New Mexico have gone closest to hosting an MRS. The tribal council has accepted $300,000 from the waste negotiator to consider providing a site. Miller Hudson, a non-Indian consultant hired by the Mescaleros as MRS information officer, says the tribe and nearby communities could get $10 million to $50 million per year from the federal government and nuclear-power industry if an MRS is set here.

That money could improve local schools and infrastructure, and help provide jobs, Mr. Hudson says. He says an MRS would be safe. The 450-acre facility would be a "high-tech parking lot," and could attract tourists.

A GROWING number of Mescaleros oppose the project. …


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