Utah House OKs bill that could pave way for EnergySolutions to bring in depleted uranium

(Photo courtesy of EnergySolutions) In this 2015 courtesy photo, EnergySolutions is temporarily storing barrels of depleted uranium in a controlled warehouse at their Clive facility in Utah's west desert.

Against bipartisan opposition, the House advanced a bill Tuesday that could ease the pathway for depleted uranium— and other radioactive waste that grows more dangerous over time — to reach Utah for permanent disposal.

Current law prohibits Class B and C radioactive waste from burial in Utah, a ban that is complicating EnergySolutions’ hopes for accepting up to 700,000 tons of depleted uranium, a byproduct of the uranium-enrichment process, at its Clive landfill in Tooele County.

Depleted uranium is less hazardous than most Class A waste, but over thousands of years, it morphs into something far more dangerous.

HB220, sponsored by Rep. Carl Albrecht, R-Richfield, would require such waste to be classified at the time of acceptance, a provision that critics fear amounts to an end run around the state’s ban on these more hazardous categories of waste.

In a 51-20 vote, the House approved the measure, advancing it to the Senate.

The bill would allow the director of the Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control to authorize “alternate requirements” for waste classifications that would enable waste processors such as EnergySolutions to accept certain wastes at a specific site.

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality is nearing completion of an evaluation of the ability of EnergySolutions’ landfill to safely contain depleted uranium currently stockpiled at federal sites. The agency recently turned down the company’s request to accept 30 million rounds of penetrating projectiles made from depleted uranium, which is heavier than lead.

If HB220 becomes law, thorough “science-based” assessments would still be required for proposals to import nuclear waste, EnergySolutions says.

The company ranked among the top 10 donors to Utah legislators last year, with contributions totaling more than $44,000, according to campaign finance data.