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The Salt Lake Tribune

NRC Contemplates the Next Step on Imported Nuclear Waste

Judy Fahys

(flickr photo by StefrogZ)

Federal regulators want to know if the time is right to think about allowing a Utah company to import radioactive waste from Italy.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission officially opened up its comment line last week to "potential parties" in EnergySolutions Inc.'s controversial import application.

The door opened for the Salt Lake City nuclear waste company to dispose of low-level waste from 39 states and foreign nations following a May 15 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Ted Stewart. The ruling basically said a regional radioactive waste organization has no authority to limit the waste the company buries at its Tooele County landfill as Northwest Interstate Compact on Low-level Radioactive Waste and the Rocky Mountain Compact had tried to do.

"We are pleased that the licensing process is moving forward," said company spokesman Mark Walker.

The NRC put its review of the import license request on hold Oct. 6, while the lawsuit was pending. On Wednesday, the commission asked for input on how to proceed.

It is still unclear whether the Northwest Compact, the Rocky Mountain Compact and the state of Utah will appeal Stewart's ruling. The state of Utah and the Utah-based advocacy group, the Healthy Environment Alliance [HEAL] of Utah, are among nearly one dozen parties that have requested a hearing on the import issue.

HEAL panned the NRC's latest request.

"What part of 'no' does the NRC not understand?" said HEAL's Christopher Thomas. "After hearing the overwhelming opposition of the governor, the Radiation Control Board, and thousands of Utahns, there shouldn't be anything left to discuss."

The NRC received more than 2,500 public comments, far more than for any other import request the agency has considered.

EnergySolutions wants to import 20,000 tons of waste from Italy's nuclear-reactor program, process it at a company-owned plant in Tennessee and dispose of 1,600 tons in Utah.


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