Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Senator against waste import

Senator against waste import

Alexander moves to bar incoming nuclear leftovers

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., announced Tuesday he will co-sponsor legislation in the Senate to bar the importation of foreign nuclear waste.

The legislation, which apparently will be introduced after the Senate returns from recess, is designed to prevent the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from allowing EnergySolutions to import up to 20,000 tons of low-level radioactive waste from Italy. The company wants to transport the waste to its Oak Ridge plant for processing and then dispose of the remnants at its nuclear landfill at Clive, Utah.

Alexander's bill is similar to one introduced in the House of Representatives earlier this year by U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., and others.

In a statement distributed to the news media, Alexander said, "There is no reason to take in the world's low-level nuclear waste when we have not figured out what to do with our own. I agree with Congressman Gordon that the United States shouldn't become the world's nuclear garbage dump."

The Senate bill is being introduced by Alexander and U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland. Both are members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Jill Sigal, EnergySolutions' senior vice president for government relations, said the legislation is misguided.

"We believe the legislation, just like the House legislation, is unnecessary," Sigal said Tuesday in a telephone interview from Wyoming. "We don't believe that Congress should strip the NRC of its jurisdiction. The NRC bases its decisions on safety and health issues, and we have full confidence in the NRC to do its job."

The NRC is reviewing the company's application for an import license. The public comment period closed in mid-June, but the NRC is considering holding a public hearing on the proposed project.

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