Ward Valley court case victory; U.S. Ecology surrenders

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(April 9, 1999) The Colorado River Native Nations Alliance and Ward Valley Coalition celebrate the decision by the US District Court refusing to force a transfer of land to the state of California for a nuclear waste dump and US Ecology's announcement that it would not appeal the decision and, in fact, deem the project over.

(508.4993) WISE Amsterdam - Proponents of the controversial Ward Valley radioactive waste dump lost their lawsuit attempting to force the dump's opening. The lawsuit, brought by then California Gov. Pete Wilson and US Ecology, the company that wanted to operate the nuclear dump 25 km from the Colorado River, had asked that the federal government be ordered to transfer federal land for use as a radioactive waste disposal facility. In the wake of these announcements on April 2, the Colorado River Native Nations Alliance (CRNNA) and Ward Valley Coalition are calling upon Gov. Davis to act immediately to put a final end to this ill-fated project by withdrawing the state's application for the land at Ward Valley. "This is a big victory for the Tribes and for all of the people who have worked so hard and for so many years to stop this project," said Nora Helton, chairwoman of the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe. Joe Nagel, president of American Ecology Corp., which has been seeking to develop the site through the subsidiary US Ecology, said he would not appeal the decision. "And we are not going to press Gov. Davis to appeal," Nagel said. "I think Ward Valley is over, Ward Valley is dead." Although the court decision and US Ecology's announcement are potentially fatal blows to the project, until the land application is withdrawn Ward Valley will not be safe from a nuclear waste site.

Ward Valley was proposed to take low-level radioactive waste, almost all from nuclear reactors, and dump it in unlined trenches. Very long-lived wastes like plutonium, strontium, and cesium would have been dumped there. The proposed operator had a troubled track record, with many of its past dumps having leaked and been closed; one is a Superfund site. Concern that the nearby Colorado River, source of water for much of the southwestern United States, could be contaminated contributed to the widespread public opposition to the project.

The Colorado River Native Nations Alliance, consisting of the Fort Mojave, Chemehuevi, Cocopah, Quechan, and Colorado River Indian Tribes, have long opposed the siting of any type of radioactive waste facility on land they hold sacred. Together with environmentalists and activists from all over the world they have maintained a constant presence on the land at Ward Valley for three years and last year occupied the land for 113 days, successfully halting further desecration of the sacred valley.

"Hand in hand, Native and non-Native people from all over the world have worked to win this important battle. This victory proves to us all that truth and justice do have a chance in this world today when the people work together," said Molly Johnson, office coordinator of the Save Ward Valley office in Needles. "We ask Gov. Davis to heed the word of the people, withdraw the land application and finally lay this project to rest."


  • Press release, Save Ward Valley, 2 April
  • Press release, Bridge the Gap, 2 April
  • Associated Press, 3 April 1999

Save Ward Valley
107 F Street
CA 92363
Tel: +1-760-326-6267
Fax: +1-760-326-6268
WWW: www.shundahai.org/SWVAction.html