- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 8, 2016

RUGBY, N.D. (AP) - University of North Dakota researchers have formally abandoned an effort to drill holes on state-owned land in Pierce County to test whether deep rock is suitable for nuclear waste disposal.

County commissioners last week voted to oppose the proposed $80 million federal effort and work on a permanent ban on drilling holes for such projects.

John Harju, vice president for strategic partnerships for UND’s Energy and Environmental Research Center, sent a letter to the commission this week saying the EERC is disappointed but understands the county’s position, KXMC-TV reported (http://bit.ly/1OYrtbc ).

“Please consider this letter as official notification that the Energy and Environmental Research Center will cease consideration of conducting this project at any location within Pierce County,” Harju wrote.

Researchers and federal officials said repeatedly that no actual nuclear waste would be buried, but many residents and officials were skeptical about the future of the proposed site near Rugby.

Federal Energy Department spokesman Bartlett Jackson has said options for alternative locations would be explored if the Pierce County site isn’t available. Harju told The Associated Press last week that the EERC would be consulting with its partners on other options but declined to specify what they might be.

Any such test project on state land in North Dakota would need permission from the state Board of University and School Lands and a permit from the state Department of Mineral Resources.

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Information from: KXMC-TV, http://www.kxnet.com

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