Waste? Not. Want? Not.
The Utah Legislature made it clear: It doesn't want spent nuclear fuel rods stored on the Goshute Indian reservation or anywhere else in the state.For that matter, lawmakers don't much care for all the other kinds of hazardous and radioactive waste already coming here.
While lawmakers were busy passing two bills aimed at deterring - or at the very least imposing prohibitively expensive regulations - on the storage of high-level nuclear waste on Utah soil, lawmakers waded into another waste quagmire that kept them bogged down until the final hours of the 1998 session.
That turned out to be low-level radioactive dirt, something that is already being accepted at Envirocare of Utah's waste facility in Tooele County. It was that material that provoked a lobbying tug of war between Envirocare and a would-be competitor seeking legislative approval for a second site, also in Tooele County.
When lawmakers decided one low-level radioactive dump in Utah was enough, the issue quickly evolved into a debate over whether Utah was collecting enough in regulatory fees from any of the waste products being stored here. Lawmakers will study that issue over the next year.
As for the more dangerous nuclear waste, there was less controversy or debate. Senate Majority Leader Craig Peterson's bill will require any company wanting to dump that kind of waste in Utah to pay a $5 million application fee and then post a $2 billion bond.
That bill may or may not be constitutional, but lawmakers and Gov. Mike Leavitt agreed it was better to have a nuclear-waste regulatory law in place and have it challenged than to not have one at all.
Private Fuel Storage, the consortium of utility companies that wants to bring spent nuclear fuel rods to Utah, has just begun the two- to four-year Nuclear Regulatory Commission permitting process.
Leavitt has made it a top priority to block the project, even though it is on sovereign Indian lands that are not subject to state law. The Legislature backs the governor, even approving his confiscation of a county road leading to the dump site.