Utahns organizing opposition to Italian nuclear waste plan

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Monday began taking public comments and fielding requests for a public hearing on plans by Salt Lake City-based EnergySolutions to import 20,000 tons of waste from Italian nuclear plant cleanups.

Most of the waste would be processed and recycled into shielding for hospitals and nuclear reactors at an EnergySolutions plant in Tennessee. But 1,600 tons would be buried at the company's low-level radioactive waste disposal site in Tooele County. The limited capacity for this type of waste nationally has prompted a strong reaction from some Utahns, as well as lawmakers in South Carolina and Tennessee.

The Utah Radiation Control Board is drafting a letter urging the NRC to deal with the national nuclear waste disposal crunch before
allowing Utah to become a disposal site for foreign waste. And the South Carolina General Assembly is considering a resolution that asks the NRC to turn down EnergySolutions' request for an import license.

"[I]mportation of foreign waste is an issue that not only South Carolina must strongly resist, but also that the United States must stand firmly against. As a nation we have our own challenges in disposing of nuclear waste generated in this country," says the resolution, "and it is incumbent upon us to insist that other countries take responsibility for the disposal of their own nuclear waste and not attempt to utilize the United States as a dumping ground."

South Carolina is home to another low-level waste site operated by EnergySolutions. That site is set to close to waste from all but three states in July, making the Utah site the only disposal available for low-level waste from 36 states.

Tom Clements, with Friends of the Earth in South Carolina, said that although lawmakers in that state are generally pro-nuclear, they do not want to reopen the contentious debate about nuclear waste in their state.

"Nobody here is in favor of this," he said.

The NRC's Brooke Smith said requests for a hearing must include a name, address, phone number, a description of the issues to be raised, an explanation of how the hearing would be in the public interest and how the hearing would assist the commission in deciding on the license.

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