House Bill 220, Rep. Carl Albrecht’s bill to short-circuit Utah’s responsible process to determine if Utah can handle nuclear waste, is going to the governor.

It does add language that requires the federal government to accept EnergySolutions’ Clive nuclear waste dump property and maintain it permanently. Hopefully, the federal government will never accept that, as it may take hundreds of millions of dollars in the near future to safely and completely store the nuclear waste that ES wants to bring into Utah. The bill also “allows the director of the Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control to authorize alternate requirements for waste classification and characteristics that would allow an entity to accept certain waste at a specific site.”

It is irresponsible to give one person the full responsibility to control the license to accept nuclear waste in Utah. EnergySolutions, used to be called Envirocare, and was part of one of Utah’s biggest government corruption scandals. In the 1990s, the owner of Envirocare, Khosrow Semnani testified that he paid Larry F. Anderson hundreds of thousands of dollars during the time that Anderson was the state official responsible for the license to dispose of DOE waste at Envirocare. Utah should not make government corruption easy. Allowing one person to control whether ES can accept nuclear waste increases the chance for under the table payments or a cushy job at ES after government service.

The present system works. Proof that the system works is the slow and reasoned process that Utah state employees have engaged in to ensure that accepting nuclear waste is a trusted and safe process. The recent efforts to speed up the process to accept depleted uranium munitions resulted in a finding by Utah that the speed-up was inappropriate and that it required a full performance analysis.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory recommended storage in a drier and more secure area, such as the Nevada Test Site. The 5,000 barrels of what EnergySolutions has called depleted uranium (actually, and more properly called waste in process or nuclear weapons waste), is undergoing a thorough performance analysis that obviously is frustrating to EnergySolutions but should result in the citizens trusting state government employees and trusting the potential of nuclear power.

EnergySolutions recently changed the name of the materials in the barrels from DU to DU oxides but still claimed that they had not been through a reactor. The manifest of the barrels proves otherwise. The mislabeling of the barrel material may have added to the confusion of the former CEO who claimed that you can safely grow vegetables in the material.

The confusion caused by mislabeling nuclear waste may have led to several legislators saying “depleted uranium is used in everyday life” (Sen. Daniel Hemmert). Depleted uranium that has not gone through a reactor and has had most of its high-level radioactive uranium isotopes removed (for bombs and reactors) is used as counterweights in aircraft and boats. The pure metal munitions, heavier than lead, create other issues, as it is pyrophoric and can start a fire and create fumes that can cause serious injury to lungs. The barrels contain irradiated material and should not be confused with depleted uranium that has had most active, high-level, radioactive material removed.

I love nuclear power but the future of nuclear power is threatened by misunderstanding nuclear waste. Development of nuclear power requires a trust in companies that are in the industry. Misunderstanding nuclear waste, to the point of thinking that vegetables can be grown in it, results in the loss of trust in nuclear power.

Gov. Gary Herbert should veto HB220 and help increase the trust required to develop nuclear power. Utah’s energy policy of encouraging safe advanced nuclear power systems requires that the companies involved in doing nuclear work understand the very complicated materials involved. HB220 threatens that trust. Anyone who thinks that it makes sense to grow vegetables in nuclear weapons waste should not be working in the nuclear industry.

George Chapman

George Chapman, Salt Lake City, has worked for General Atomic, worked with depleted uranium munitions and supports safe and responsible nuclear power.