Bill to tighten hot-waste oversight
Audit • Lawmaker urges changes to EnergySolutions’ regulator.
Published: February 9, 2013 05:45PM
Updated: May 21, 2013 11:32PM

Maximum fines for companies that dump too-hot radioactive waste in the EnergySolutions Inc. landfill would double, under HB124 sponsored by House Majority Leader Brad Dee, R-Ogden.

Dee’s bill, made public Friday, responds to several issues raised in a Legislative Auditor General report last fall that criticized the Utah Division of Radiation Control for relying too much on self-policing at the low-level radioactive waste site in Tooele County.

Under current law, companies that use the Utah site face a maximum penalty of $5,000 per violation. The measure would increase that penalty to $10,000.

In addition, the bill would require the radiation division to allow waste only if the company that wants to use the EnergySolutions disposal site agrees to allow state regulators to see and test the Utah-bound shipments. It also would require radioactive waste fees to be used for radioactive waste oversight.

The bill grew out of a pair of audits highly critical of the state’s management over the waste and the taxes associated with EnergySolutions’ operations. Former Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, angrily raised the possibility of disbanding the Department of Environmental Quality and firing Utah’s top radiation-control official over the audit findings.

Of particular concern: 37 containers of too-hot radioactive waste had come to Utah for disposal. Fourteen were returned, but 23 were buried at EnergySolutions in violation of state law, and the biggest fine paid by an offending shipper was $4,875.

Christopher Thomas, executive director of the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah, called the Legislature’s response to the audit “underwhelming.”

“While Dee’s bill appears to take a few steps in the right direction, we will certainly watch closely to make sure EnergySolutions doesn’t use it as an opportunity to slip in provisions that degrade Utah’s nuclear-waste protections,” he said. “That’s certainly been the company’s MO before.”

fahys@sltrib.com