Saturday, May 10, 2008

Western states rebuff plan for Italian nuclear waste in Utah

Western states rebuff plan for Italian nuclear waste in Utah

By JOHN MILLER – 1 day ago

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Eight Western states on Thursday rejected a company's plan to ship tons of radioactive waste from Italy for disposal in Utah, saying importing foreign loads would violate the group's rules.

EnergySolutions Inc. is applying for a federal license to import 20,000 tons of waste from four Italian nuclear reactors, with a portion of it to be buried at its private disposal site in Clive, Utah.

But members of the Northwest Interstate Compact on Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management said their rules would need to be changed to allow roughly five or six rail cars of waste a year to be buried there.

The group's decision, however, doesn't mean the waste can't enter the country. A spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is reviewing the import license, doubts that the unanimous vote will kill the application.

The federal public comment period on the license application ends June 10.

"They could say we'd still like to bring the material for processing in Tennessee and dispose of it in some other way, presumably exporting the rest of it back to Italy," NRC spokesman Dave McIntyre said in a phone interview.

Environmentalist oppose the shipments and Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has pledged to keep his state from becoming a dumping ground for global nuclear waste.

"EnergySolutions is a bully that's used to getting its way," said John Urgo of the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah, which opposes the shipment. "The Northwest Interstate Compact and Gov. Huntsman refused to be bullied."

Congress created the compact in 1985 as a regional system for managing low-level radioactive waste. The compact's designated facility is in Richland, Wash., which accepts waste from Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

EnergySolutions takes waste from other states. Earlier this week, the company filed a lawsuit to challenge the compact's ability to regulate shipments to Utah.

The company concedes it has "coordinated some of its activities with the Northwest Compact" in the past, but insists the panel has no authority over what it handles because the Utah site is privately owned.

After the vote Thursday, EnergySolutions executives said they're hoping a federal judge rules in their favor.

"We don't believe they have the authority to make decisions like they did that govern our operations," Val Christensen, vice president and general counsel, told The Associated Press.

EnergySolutions wants to bring the Italian waste through New Orleans or Charleston, S.C., for processing and incineration in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The company then wants to bury 1,600 tons in Utah, home of the country's largest and only privately owned low-level radioactive waste dump.

In a related move, compact members approved a resolution that seeks to stop other foreign waste from being shipped to Utah after it has been reclassified as domestic waste in Tennessee, a practice since 2006 with incinerated waste from countries such as Canada, France and Germany.

The reclassification, authorized by Tennessee regulators, resolved EnergySolutions' issues with separating waste from different sources — an inaccurate, costly and potentially dangerous process, company officials said.

But the changes also mean that some foreign waste incinerated in Tennessee likely has been buried at the EnergySolutions site in Utah

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