Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. today jumped into the national fight against disposing foreign nuclear waste in Utah.
"As I have always emphatically declared, Utah should not be the world's dumping ground," Huntsman said in a news release.
"Our country has limited space to store even domestic waste and it would be most appropriate to have a federal policy against the importation of foreign nuclear waste," he added. "However, as the federal government is slow to adopt such a policy, Utah will lead the way."
Huntsman says he'll direct Utah's representative to the Northwest Interstate Compact on Low-level Radioactive Waste to use that vote to help block importation of foreign waste from the disposal sites in the eight member states. While the governor has indicated in the past that federal regulators needed to deal with foreign waste imports nationally, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has indicated it can only screen import requests for safety and legal qualifications.
Salt Lake City-based EnergySolutions applied to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in September to import 20,000 tons of low-level waste from the cleanup of Italy's commercial reactor program. The company wants to process that material at a specialized EnergySolutions plant in Tennessee, then dispose of the remaining 1,600 tons at the company's low-level radioactive waste landfill in Tooele County.
EnergySolutions has pointed out that similar imports have been going on for years and that this shipment would have a tiny impact on overall U.S. capacity for radioactive waste disposal.
The Northwest Compact has authority over all of the low-level radioactive waste that comes in and out of an 11-state area that includes Utah.
In effect, the compact made today's EnergySolutions disposal site possible two decades ago, by granting the company (originally called Envirocare of Utah) an exemption to operate within the compact boundaries.
The exemption gives the state of Utah general authority to oversee EnergySolutions' operations.
The company is scheduled make its case to the compact members to allow the Italy waste at its May 8 meeting.