Attempts by the state and Envirocare of Utah to keep low-level radioactive waste from going to a processing plant in Blanding have failed.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel turned down the Aug. 7 request for a temporary stay of the NRC's decision to allow the White Mesa Mill to receive, process and dispose of uranium bearing material from a nuclear weapons plant in Tonawanda, N.Y.Judge Peter B. Bloch ruled that the state's request came too late to be considered, citing the request for a stay should have been filed no later than July 23 according to federal code. The NRC granted the license amendment on June 23, allowing International Uranium Corp., owner of the White Mesa Mill, to haul the tailings across the county to Utah.
While the state's request was being considered by the NRC, shipments of 25,000 cubic yards of waste continued to go to the mill.
"The judge basically threw the case out on a technicality," said Bill Sinclair, director of the Utah Division of Radiation Control.
Representatives for the state and IUC held a prehearing tel-econference on the same day the licensing board received the state's request, but after negotiations lasted through Tuesday, the parties reported "that further negotiations would not be fruitful."
Bloch's ruling only keeps the state from preventing the uranium shipment from happening. The state and the mill will go before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel for a hearing on the case, assuming the panel decides that the state has the right to challenge the NRC decision.
Sinclair said the Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for the cleanup of the Tonawanda site, will give the state detailed information on the contents of the waste that's on its way.
"We'll just have to wait and see what happens," Sinclair said. "The Army Corps of Engineers is committed to supplying us the information we needed to know how hazardous the waste is." Sinclair expects the "information blitz" to come in by Monday.
The state still has to make additional filings next week before a hearing date can be scheduled, but both the mill and the state expect it soon.
IUC President Earl Hoellen said he was gratified by the ruling.
Hoellen also confirmed Friday that possibly 150 tons of the uranium material have already been received at the White Mesa Mill. Hoellen said shipments are being received almost daily at the mill. Reprocessing is not expected to begin until sometime in September.