Utah official on compact not budging on Italian waste

Published: Tuesday, May 6 2008 12:00 a.m. MDT

A federal lawsuit filed Monday by EnergySolutions isn't changing the mind of Utah's representative on the eight-state Northwest Interstate Compact on Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management, which may be able to decide Thursday the fate of the company's proposal to import radioactive waste from Italy.
For the compact to assert its authority over whether EnergySolutions should be allowed to accept into Utah the leftovers from 20,000 tons of waste from old nuclear reactors in Italy, the eight member states would need a two-thirds majority vote in favor of amending an existing "arrangement."
"In that situation I would vote no, because I can veto any arrangement, being the host state of the facility," said Utah compact representative Bill Sinclair, who is also deputy director for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. has already directed Sinclair to do just that.
But in its lawsuit that seeks a declaratory judgment in U.S. District Court, EnergySolutions claims the compact does not have authority to block the company from accepting 1,600 tons of Class A waste at its Clive facility in Tooele County after the original 20,000 tons of waste is processed and recycled in Tennessee.
Sinclair said EnergySolutions has operated under an arrangement with the compact for two decades. "And now suddenly they believe the compact doesn't have the authority?" Sinclair asked Tuesday during a phone interview. "Obviously at some point they believed the compact had authority, otherwise they wouldn't have entered into an agreement."
The lawsuit also points out that the compact's director, Michael Garner, intends to put a resolution up to a vote that would, in effect, restrict EnergySolutions from importing radioactive materials from Italy.
"Potentially, that could happen," Sinclair said about the resolution.
Even if the compact only listened to EnergySolutions' proposal Thursday and took no action at all, Sinclair said the inaction would mean, in the compact's view, that the company's plan would die. He said Tuesday he isn't sure what steps the compact will take in its meeting Thursday.
As for the company's argument that it has taken foreign waste in the past, Sinclair said it's a "flaky" defense to characterize the materials as "foreign." He said the materials consisted of waste that other companies sent out of country for treatment before it was shipped to the Clive facility.
"That's a little different situation than what they're proposing from Italy," Sinclair said. "It's just basically bringing waste in (from outside the U.S.)."
Now that the compact is in the legal cross hairs of EnergySolutions, Sinclair said it will be a combined effort among the eight states to defend the group's authority over the privately held company.

E-mail: sspeckman@desnews.com

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