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Radioactive Secrets: Part 1

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Updated: 7/09/2013 12:19 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- A shipment of radioactive uranium could be delivered to the Nevada National Security Site — about 65 miles outside of Las Vegas — any day now.

The Governor doesn’t want it in Nevada; neither does the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, but the U.S. Department of Energy will likely ignore both their wishes.

The Nevada National Security Site, more commonly known as the Nevada Test Site, looks like any stretch of Nevada desert. But this place is one of the most closely guarded places in the country. The Nevada Test Site is the keeper of nuclear weapons — and so-called “radioactive secrets” other states leave to Nevada for safekeeping.

“We get dealt cards that we don’t really want to play with,” Nye County Commission Chair Butch Borasky said.

Borasky has major concerns with a shipment of uranium the Department of Energy could be sending his way soon.

“[The DOE] has the science to prove whether it’s safe or not, and they’ve got it swept under a rug,” he said.

The DOE allowed News 3’s cameras into the very place on the Nevada Test Site, Area 5, where the uranium would supposedly be stored, but once we got past the entrance, we weren’t allowed to ask a single question about the controversial delivery.

Darrell Lacy heads the Nye County Nuclear Waste Repository Office and says the DOE has put him and the rest of Pahrump’s elected officials in a communication black hole.

“Here we have been excluded and told just to ‘trust them’,” says Lacy. “It’s difficult for me to express to the public [in Pahrump] that it’s safe if I don’t know how it’s being done.”

The uranium is coming from a national nuclear lab in Tennessee. The DOE won’t reveal how the uranium will be stored at Area 5, but this much we do know: 403 canisters of uranium type 235 and 233 are expected.

The canisters will be placed in what’s called a cell. The uranium will be stacked in the cell and eventually covered with dirt—buried a little more than 40-feet underground.

Nye County Commissioner Dan Schinhofen says that’s a shallow grave considering what it is—active nuclear waste with a long, potent life.

“The argument that we don’t Nevada to be the waste dump of the country is out the window, because we’ve been having waste dumped there for years, says Schinhofen. “It’s this level of waste we’re concerned with.”

“This is dangerous material. And they’re storing it like it’s a bag of trash out of your home—and that’s not proper,” says Gary Michalsky, a 20-year resident of Pahrump. “This is bomb-making material.”

Nye county commissioner Dan Schinhoefen believes it’s the kind of thing a terrorist would love to get their hands on.

The DOE considers this uranium “low-level waste” even though it’s hotter than some high-level material. It’s hazardous and poisonous—spend more than 20-minutes to an hour near this radioactive stuff and your health could be in jeopardy.

When the DOE is ready to make the shipment one of the first calls they’ll make will be to Nye Couty Hazmat and Fire. The DOE will want emergency crews on standby just in case.

Schinhofen just wants a guarantee from the Department of Energy that it’s safe.

He says it wasn’t until Clark County started asking questions did Pahrump get any sort of attention.

“They always say it’s in our backyard. Well, it’s in our front yard—so we really are the people they need to talk to. [The DOE] seems to continue to bypass us and talk to Clark County and the state. And we’re the host community.”
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