Radiation board overhaul, appointment draws heat
A revamped Radiation Control Board could be seated as soon as next month.
And for the first time since a bribery scandal rocked the panel more than a decade ago, a representative of the nation's largest radioactive waste company could be sitting on the nine-member board.
EnergySolutions Inc.'s Dan Shrum, who oversees regulatory compliance for the Salt Lake City company, is on the list of appointees Gov. Gary Herbert has sent to the state Senate for confirmation next week.
The board is the first of five to be overhauled since SB21, legislation written by the Utah Manufacturers Association and sponsored earlier this year by Rep. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem, to limit board membership of the five Department of Environmental Quality Boards and strip them of their quasi-judicial roles.
In one of its last acts, the old, 13-member radiation board sent a letter last spring to the governor complaining about the designated make-up of the new board, which has one assigned slot apiece for the radioactive waste industry and uranium mill-tailings companies. Meanwhile, there are 47 medical licensees and 8,500 radiation-generating machines used in the state, about 90 percent of them used by doctors and dentists. While the disbanded board had three members representing medical practitioners, the new board is not required to have any.
Peter Jenkins, who was chairman at the time the board was disbanded, signed the letter, and he has been nominated to be on the newly configured board.
Sarah Fields of Moab-based Uranium Watch also has been invited to join the panel. Her group has been a watchdog keeping tabs on operations at the White Mesa uranium mill and the Atlas uranium-tailings cleanup in Moab.
Shrum, meanwhile, would become the board's first representative from the radioactive waste disposal company based in Salt Lake City since Khosrow Semnani. In late 1996, the founder and owner of the mile-square disposal site in Tooele County now operated by EnergySolutions, became embroiled in a bribery extortion scandal involving the former head of the state radiation office, Larry Anderson. He later pleaded guilty to tax charges, and Anderson was sentenced to more than a year in federal prison.
Then in 1999, the board learned that Semnani had loaned one of his fellow board members $15,000 loan while both served. The Utah Attorney General's Office declined to prosecute because of unclear conflict-of-interest guidelines.
Matt Pacenza of the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah criticized Herbert's decision to put an EnergySolutions executive on the board as a fox-guarding-the-henhouse move.
"EnergySolutions is a company in deep financial difficulties scrambling to ram hotter nuclear waste past Utah officials, and now Governor Herbert thinks it wise to appoint someone from EnergySolutions to regulate EnergySolutions."
The Governor's Office pointed out that the new law requires one board member representing the radioactive waste industry and EnergySolutions is the only company in Utah that fits the bill.
"By design, every [state environmental] board ... has industry representatives from the industry regulated by that board. Why would EnergySolutions be treated differently?" said Ally Isom, Herbert's chief of staff.
Isom and EnergySolutions spokesman Mark Walker said HEAL Utah had little room to complain as it was invited to apply for a board seat and declined.
Walker praised Shrum as a thorough professional who will serve Utahns not just the company well on the board.
"He's always fair," said Walker and "has always made sure we follow rules to a T. There's no compromise in Dan. â¦ He really is concerned about safety and the protection of the environment."
Who would be the new board members?
Amanda Smith, director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, has a seat on all five advisory boards associated with her agency. The other eight are filled with the governor's office nominees and confirmed by the state Senate. A confirmation vote is expected later this month.
• Peter Jenkins, University of Utah health physicist*
• Jerry Lynn Hurst, Tooele County commissioner
• Brady Bradford, Southeast Utah Health Department
• Dan Shrum, EnergySolutions
• Scott Bird, Kennecott Utah Copper*
• Richard Blake Codell, consultant and former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff*
• Sarah Fields, Uranium Watch
• Ulrich Rassner, University of Utah diagnostic radiologist*
*returning board member