A Salt Lake engineer says legal setbacks won't deter him from his bid to put a nuclear waste storage facility in a remote corner of Box Elder County.
William C. Peterson II argued in a federal court lawsuit filed last year that Gov. Mike Leavitt didn't have the authority to stand in the way of his project.However, in a ruling issued earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell dismissed most of the "somewhat unfocused" complaint, ruling the governor had immunity and that Peterson had failed to plead a case or make a claim on which relief could be granted.
Peterson, who filed the suit without the help of an attorney, said he will attempt to amend the legal action to pursue the question of who has the authority to approve or reject nuclear storage facilities. According to Peterson, that power rests with the federal government, not the state.
His suit seeks to remove the state regulatory obstacles that stand in the way of a proposal to store and reprocess spent nuclear fuel at Pigeon Spur and Newfoundland Mountain near the Utah-Nevada border.
With no political or industry support and no money, Peterson's project is most often characterized as quixotic at best, but he insists it's genuine. He also argues that the money to finance the project and billions of dollars more will flow into the state like water once the site is approved.
To that end, Peterson spends much of his time lobbying and litigating. During the recent legislative session, he made his pitch to every lawmaker. He told them Utah has an opportunity to tap into the $27 billion being paid by utilities for the storage of spent nuclear fuel while at the same time doing the world a big favor by safely reprocessing weapons grade plutonium to make nuclear fuel.
"It is the ultimate fuel, the ultimate opportunity," Peterson said, adding that the process has proven completely safe and profitable in many other industrial nations.
But it won't happen until the state begins listening to scientists instead of "political hysteria," he said.