10,000 Tons Of Nuclear Waste Removed From Sequoyah County
SEQUOYAH COUNTY, Oklahoma - The Cherokee Nation says 10,000 tons of nuclear waste has been moved off the Sequoyah Fuels site near Gore.
The Cherokee Nation announced Friday that the waste was removed after the tribe and the state of Oklahoma sued Sequoyah Fuels.
The tribe filed the suit in February of 2017, after learning the company planned to bury and store the nuclear waste at its decommissioned plant in Gore. The plant handled one step of the process to convert natural uranium into fuel for nuclear reactors.
With the final shipments of hazardous material out of Sequoyah County, it brings to close a long legal dispute about what to do with the site and eliminates the environmental concerns about the most hazardous material that was held there.
"Everything that was of a danger to people and the environment is gone. We're satisfied the last load is gone, so we feel like it's a new chapter," said Chuck Hoskin, Cherokee Nation Secretary of State.
The cleanup amounted to 511 semi loads of low-level nuclear waste trucked out, bound for a nuclear recycling mill in Utah. At one point - the plant's owner had considering burying all that on-site - and leaving it.
That led to the court fight and eventually to the plan to finally remove the hazard.
"It definitely would have had health implications. Uranium is a kidney poison, in addition to being radioactive. And the other materials, radium and so forth, are radioactive for a long time," said Mike Broderick with Oklahoma DEQ.
The decommissioned plant and property is fenced off and secure and eventually will be under the watch of the federal government.
Sequoyah Fuels is building a disposal cell where less hazardous material will remain there, and the DEQ is satisfied it's safe.
The state says the fuel was taken to a uranium mill where it will be processed and reused. The state wouldn't say where the mill is located.
The Sequoyah Fuels plant opened in 1969 and closed in 1993, after a series of accidents, including at least one that was fatal.
The Cherokee Nation objected and a Sequoyah County judge ruled on April 27, 2017 that Sequoyah Fuels could not do that. The judge ordered the Cherokee Nation, Sequoyah Fuels and the state of Oklahoma to meet weekly to find a solution.
Even though the milestone has been reached, the site won't be closing anytime soon. The material that is left on the site will be monitored indefinitely.