Nuclear Waste Site

In Utah Is Put on Hold

Federal regulators blocked a proposal by private utility companies to store high-level nuclear waste on an Indian reservation in Utah's west desert, citing the dangers posed by a nearby Air Force training range.

Private Fuel Storage, a consortium of eight electric utilities, had sought to store uranium rods from nuclear reactors in casks on the Skull Valley Goshute reservation, 45 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, until a permanent storage facility could be built at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

Utah officials objected to the proposal, raising a series of safety concerns, including the threat posed by military aircraft and the potential for earthquakes and other problems.

The Air Force flies thousands of training missions each year over the sprawling Utah Test and Training Range near the reservation.

"There is enough likelihood of an F-16 crash into the proposed facility that such an accident must be deemed credible," the Atomic Safety Licensing Board -- an arm of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission -- said in a 222-page opinion yesterday. As a result, the board said, it was holding off approval for the project.

Saudi Arabia Spared Censure on Freedom

The United States came close last week to placing Saudi Arabia on a list of countries censured because of religious intolerance, the State Department said.

Instead, the department decided to try to work with Saudi officials to seek opportunities to improve the state of religious freedom in that Middle Eastern country, spokesman Richard Boucher said.

Boucher spoke after Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan said that, as the birthplace of Islam, Saudi Arabia will not allow churches to be built on its land regardless of the outcry from "fanatics."

The department's annual list of "countries of concern," released last Wednesday, consisted of Burma, China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Sudan.

For the Record

* Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) introduced legislation to grant Russia permanent normal trade relations and end an annual human rights review. The bill would amend a 1974 law linking trade with communist countries to unrestricted emigration rights.

* Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat should not keep control of security and peace policy, a senior State Department official said, adding that any Palestinian prime minister must shape both to be effective. Palestinian officials have said that Arafat aimed to keep control of the policies as the Palestinian legislature voted to create the position of prime minister.

* The Department of Homeland Security freed up $1.3 billion for firefighters and other "first responders" to better equip them to respond to terrorism, Secretary Tom Ridge said. He said fire departments may apply for grants to get $750 million; an additional $600 million will help local law enforcement and public safety officials respond to terrorism.

* Rep. Timothy V. Johnson (R-Ill.) was hospitalized with a fractured rib and punctured lung after an automobile accident in his congressional district, his spokesman said. Johnson's physician said he expected a full recovery. The congressman was ticketed for improper backing, police said.

* Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) lost a tooth and got a small cut on his lip when he butted heads with a 250-pound heifer while putting an identification tag on the animal at his ranch, his spokesman said. Lucas underwent an emergency root canal.

* Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta left the hospital after a long recuperation from back surgery. Mineta had surgery in August to relieve his back pain, which reappeared after a plane trip to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in November. Doctors found the pain was caused by a staph infection and made worse by curvature of the spine. He was hospitalized on Nov. 29 to cure the infection and underwent another back operation on Jan. 24.

* Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the commander who would run any U.S. war against Iraq, has agreed to "redouble" his efforts to protect sensitive information after a Pentagon investigation found that highly classified information was discussed in his wife's presence. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has decided to take no official action against Franks after reviewing the investigation's findings, the Pentagon said.

Compiled from reports by the Associated Press and Reuters