Ruling Is Victory for Nuclear Waste Dump

From a Times Staff Writer

A state court of appeals has reinstated the operating license for the proposed Ward Valley nuclear waste dump, rejecting claims by Native Americans in the Mojave Desert.

In an opinion released Friday, the 2nd District Court of Appeal turned down arguments by the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe that the state Department of Health Services failed to consider evidence that long-lasting radioactive waste could leak into the ground and make its way from the dump to the Colorado River, about 20 miles away.

The river is a source of drinking water for millions of people.

The tribe had successfully challenged the license in a lower court, contending that the state had failed to consider arguments by three federal geologists that fractured rock formations could allow leakage into the river over many thousands of years. But the appeals court ruled that the issues had been dealt with in the license application.

The fate of the dump is now in the hands of the federal government, which owns the 1,000-acre site. The Clinton Administration has agreed to transfer the land but only if the state conducts additional tests to ensure that the site is safe.

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