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Confronting the Nuclear Waste Problem

The editorial "Energy and Nuclear Waste," Oct. 23, states that "the nuclear waste problem must be confronted for the sake of present and future generations."

For two years, as the president's appointed official in charge of creating a voluntary siting process for nuclear spent fuel facilities, I have worked with more than three dozen states and tribes that have some interest in hosting a temporary storage facility for nuclear waste.

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However, you printed a one-sided critical news article "Indians Press Clinton To Halt Waste Storage," Nov. 25, alleging that our process "targets" Indian reservations and should be eliminated. This is wrong and misleading. This office targets no jurisdiction and treats states and tribes equally as independent sovereigns and potential negotiating partners.

In October 1991, as required by federal law, we mailed to 50 states and 565 tribes an identical call for participation that encouraged interested volunteers to apply for federal grants and study nuclear facility hosting in any way the jurisdiction deemed to be feasible. Significantly, states responded at twice as high a percentile rate as did Indian tribes.

To treat tribes any differently from the way we treat states by denying Indians the freedom of opportunity to participate or to decline would have been an unacceptable form of paternalism and discrimination. Through the negotiator process, the United States government encourages and defends the freedom of political and economic choice long ago promised, but all too often denied to native Americans. David H. Leroy, Boise, Idaho US Nuclear Waste Negotiator

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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