Radiation audit gets lawmakers' attention
Lawmakers plan to fix glitches in Utah's radiation control oversight.
House Majority Leader Brad Dee has opened a bill file to address at least some problems raised in a performance review by the Legislative Auditor General's Office in September. Following a report on that audit Wednesday, and a response by state regulators, the Ogden Republican said he's not sure what exactly will be in the legislation.
First, he said, he wants to talk to the anonymous source whose tip led to the audit, which assailed the Division of Radiation Control for letting EnergySolutions Inc. police itself at its mile-square radioactive waste disposal site in Tooele County.
"I'd like to know the genesis, because you've got to start somewhere,"he said. "I want a genesis of what started it so I can evaluate what we need to do. I'm wide open."
Neither Dee nor other members of the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee echoed the outrage Senate President Michael Waddoups expressed when he heard the audit findings two months ago nor did anyone mention Waddoups' suggestion that radiation division Director Rusty Lundberg should be fired and the parent agency, the Department of Environmental Quality, eliminated.
Lundberg and Amanda Smith, director of DEQ, told the panel they were looking for ways to beef up safety and meaningful oversight with the auditors' suggestions in mind. But Smith noted that current regulations for the six branches of her agency are based on the same premise. "All of our programs," she said, "are based on self-regulation by the companies."
Sen. Gene Davis complained about "pretty lax" regulation of low-level radioactive waste that was described in the audit.
"The state is supposed to have the oversight," the Salt Lake City Democrat said.
The audit said current practices make it impossible to know if privately owned and operated EnergySolutions Inc. is burying outlawed wastes such as foreign-generated material and the higher-hazard class B and C wastes banned in the state since 2005.
It also recommended beefing up the radiation division's ability to verify that waste coming to Utah is what shippers say it is, including shipments from U.S. Department of Energy cleanups. Regulators need to fundamentally shift their approach, adopting Utah-specific practices to address unique laws, such as the B and C waste ban, the auditors said.
Committee House Chairman Roger Barrus, R-Centerville, said the bill file was opened with an eye on addressing the shortcomings identified by auditors.
"It's not landing on deaf ears from a legislative standpoint," he said.