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Last of nuclear waste removed from Sequoyah Fuels site near Gore.

Byline: Journal Record Staff

GORE After decades of legal wrangling, the last of more than 500 truckloads of nuclear waste has been removed from the site of an old uranium processing plant near Gore in Sequoyah County.

More than 10,000 tons of radioactive material at the former Sequoyah Fuels Corp. site is gone. Over the course of 18 months, the waste was transported to a disposal site in Utah, where the uranium will be recycled and reused, according to the Oklahoma attorney general's office. The waste uranium-contaminated sludge had been left for decades in basins, lagoons and ditches at the Sequoyah plant, which closed in 1993 after two accidents injuring dozens of workers and several environmental violations.

The state and the Cherokee Nation have long been working together to clean up the site.

"Our lands are safe again, now that we have removed a risk that would have threatened our communities forever," said Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. "This would not have been possible if the tribe and state had not worked tirelessly together in court to ensure removal of this material."

The waste was the byproduct of the production of fuel for nuclear reactors. It was kept at the former plant site near the confluence of the Arkansas and Illinois rivers.

An agreement in 2004 called for the removal of the highest-risk waste from the site. But Sequoyah Fuels Corp. announced in 2016 plans to bury the waste on site. However, a judge forced the company to comply with the original agreement, according to the attorney general's office.

"The Cherokee Nation hasbeen in and out of court with Sequoyah Fuelssince 2004,andnowthismaterialisno longer a ticking time bombon the banks of the Arkansas River, one of our most precious natural resources," Cherokee Nation Secretary of Natural Resources Sara Hill said. "Decommissioningthis plantwas never enough to satisfy our goals for a clean and safe environment.Removal ofthis highly contaminatedwaste wasourgoal, and we're pleased that goal has finally been achieved."

Sequoyah County is home to 41,000 residents. Many of those residents are Cherokee and were once employed at the plant, where dozens of workers were injured over the years.

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Publication:Journal Record (Oklahoma City, OK)
Date:Nov 30, 2018
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