A judge in Oklahoma has issued a temporary restraining order halts Sequoyah Fuels plans to bury radioactive waste at its plant in Gore, Oklahoma. The ruling is a victory for the Cherokee Nation and the State of Oklahoma who have argued that the waste should be removed off-site.
The Sequoyah Fuels processing facility was one of two privately-owned factories that converted yellowcake into nuclear fuel rods which were used in commercial nuclear power plants but shut down operations in 1993. The facility was constructed by Kerr-McGee in 1968 and started operations in 1970. The facility was repeatedly cited for violations by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission while it was operating, including an accident that killed a worker and contaminated the Arkansas River and groundwater in 1986.
In 2004 Sequoyah Fuels agreed to spend up to $3.5 million dollars to remove the wastes and dispose of them elsewhere, but Sequoyah Fuels notified the Cherokee Nation in January that instead it was planning to bury the uranium-contaminated waste that had collected in various basins, lagoons and ditches on-site instead of transporting them off-site as had previously been agreed upon. According to Sara Hill, the Cherokee Nation Secretary for Natural Resources, the 11,000 tons of material that Sequoyah Fuels wanted to bury on-site was “the most heavily contaminated material on the site.”