A dispute between Illinois and an Oklahoma company over tons of radioactive waste could mean the waste may eventually come to Utah.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved Illinois' petition to take control of the mess left from an old factory in West Chicago."Now . . . the state properly can assess the situation and approve any plan for permanent disposal so as to ensure the health and safety of all citizens living and working near the facility," Illinois Gov. James R. Thompson said.

Kerr-McGee Chemical Corp., which owns the site, now must deal with state regulators. Illinois officials, however, have made their position clear: They don't want the waste buried in West Chicago.

Because of opposition, the waste may ultimately be shipped to Utah, where a disposal company has an interest, but that could cost Kerr-McGee $140 million, or nearly six times the expense of burying it in West Chicago.

Critics say drinking water will be threatened, property values will drop and many residents will leave West Chicago if the waste is buried there, said Douglas Rathe, an Illinois assistant attorney general.

Kerr-McGee spokesman Myron Cunningham said the company was not surprised, especially since the NRC staff had recommended the transfer earlier this year.

The old factory was home to gaslight and chemical manufacturing for 41 years before Kerr-McGee ended all production in 1973. The waste includes about 13 million cubic feet of radioactive mill tailings, as well as contaminated soil and old buildings.