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Deseret Morning News graphic

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Thursday reaffirmed its opposition to storage of high-level nuclear waste in Utah, asking the federal government to search for creative ways to dispose of it.

The church's comment Thursday came in response to a proposal by Private Fuel Storage to build a "temporary" storage site for 40,000 tons of highly radioactive nuclear-fuel rods.

The plant would be built on Goshute Indian land in Skull Valley, Tooele County, 50 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. With time running out on a 90-day public comment period concerning the proposed PFS site, the church said it is asking the federal government to find a better way.

"The transportation and storage of high-level nuclear waste create substantial and legitimate public-health, safety and environmental concerns," the church's First Presidency said in a news release Thursday. "It is not reasonable to suggest that any one area bear a disproportionate burden of the transportation and concentration of nuclear waste. We ask the federal government to harness the technological and creative power of the country to develop options for the disposal of nuclear waste."

No further comments were available, according to Dale Bills, spokesman for the church.

PFS has received authorization from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but the federal Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Affairs still must give their approval before a storage site can be built. The BLM will gather public comments until Monday on a plan to build a transfer facility to service the plant.

The agency has been accepting comments on the transfer facility and a proposed rail line since Feb. 7. The rail line apparently is not feasible as it would, according to a BLM public notice, "conflict with the Cedar Mountains Wilderness Area" that was recently established by Congress.

However, the Intermodal Transfer Facility is seen as the alternative to the 32-mile rail line. There, casks of nuclear waste would be taken from railroad cars and loaded onto trucks for the trip to the Skull Valley storage plant.

In September 2005, the church announced its opposition to PFS, saying it regretted the decision by the NRC to approve the facility.

Glenn A. Carpenter, field manager of the BLM's Salt Lake District, said Thursday that more than 4,000 comments had come in so far concerning the Intermodal Transfer Facility.

"We're really looking for substantive comments," he said.

The agency has not yet undertaken an analysis of the comments it has received and expects to go through them after the comment period closes, he added. Many of the comments were sent in by e-mail. The address for commenting — [email protected] — may have been passed around on the Internet by bloggers, Carpenter said.

Carpenter emphasized that anyone wishing to make a statement should confine comments to actual information. A final environmental impact statement on PFS was published in December 2001.

"This is not a referendum, so we're not going to be counting votes," Carpenter said. "But we still have to examine each comment for its content."


E-mail: [email protected]