Envirocare of Utah has agreed to pay an $80,000 fine to settle a state enforcement action that accused the company of storing too much uranium at its radioactive-waste-disposal facility in Tooele County.

The Utah Division of Radiation Control cited Envirocare in May 1997 for possessing 494 grams of uranium-235, which in sufficient quantity can cause a nuclear reaction, or fission.Federal and state rules for fissionable materials prohibit the storage of more than 350 grams of U-235.

The state said that Envirocare acted with "careless disregard" for the law and proposed a $100,000 fine.

In a settlement reached May 13, the state reduced the fine to $80,000, holding the remaining $20,000 in abeyance for a year if the company does not violate the weapons-grade rule in the meantime. The state says in the settlement that Envirocare's violation was not intentional and did not create a threat to health, safety, the environment or national security.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees Envirocare's licensing, also has determined that Envirocare violated the law, saying the company stored about 2,000 grams of U-235. To date, the agency has taken no enforcement action.

Envirocare argues that any weapons-grade materials stored at Envirocare would be so dispersed in other waste that they could not come together to fission.

The day after the settlement, the state issued Envirocare a new, unrelated notice of violation, citing the company for seven relatively minor violations, whose fines total more than $15,000.

This latest notice, which was the result of a state inspection the first week of May, cites the company for improperly handling, storing and managing some radioactive wastes and wastewater.

Despite these violations, the state, the Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Agency and the Environmental Protection Agency have determined during the past year that Envirocare generally is operating safely.