Sequoyah Fuels at Gore, the Cherokee Nation and the State of Oklahoma have been ordered to meet weekly and work on an agreement on how to dispose of 11,000 tons of nuclear waste at the facility.
District Judge Jeff Payton ordered the weekly meetings after a hearing Thursday in Sequoyah County District Court, Sallisaw. Payton left a restraining order in place that forbids Sequoyah Fuels from disposing of the waste in an on-site cell.
The Cherokee Nation and the State of Oklahoma filed for a restraining order in February against the on-site disposal plan, which Payton granted. The Cherokee Nation argues the buried waste may migrate and contaminate nearby waters which include the Arkansas and Illinois River and surrounding areas.
In November 2004, the Cherokee Nation and Sequoyah Fuels entered into a settlement agreement in which Sequoyah Fuels agreed to spend $3.5 million to dispose of the waste off-site.
But, John Ellis, Sequoyah Fuels president, said, “We have not been able to find a licensed or other area willing to take the contaminated material. The on-site cell is really the safest.”
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) also approved the on-site disposal after years of study and discussion.
Ellis said the company was working with the Cherokee Nation and state but were unable to reach an agreement on disposal, so the company began the disposal plan approved by the NRC
Sequoyah Fuels attorneys argued Thursday that moving the waste off site would add $1 million to the estimated $3.5 million to the cleanup.
After Judge Payton’s ruling, the Cherokee Nation issued the following statement:
“The Cherokee Nation is pleased with Sequoyah County District Court Judge Jeff Payton’s ruling today to continue the order preventing Sequoyah Fuels from placing waste in their on-site disposal cell,” according to Sara Hill, Cherokee Nation Secretary of Natural Resources. “The Cherokee Nation looks forward to meeting with the state and Sequoyah Fuels weekly to come up with solutions and a compromise for the best way to dispose of this waste, as the judge has ordered in the case.”
Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director
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