CHARLESTON, S.C. — A company that handles radioactive waste wants to bring 20,000 tons through U.S. ports for eventual disposal in Utah.

EnergySolutions Inc. said the waste from Italy would be processed in Tennessee before being sent to its facility in Clive, Utah, 70 miles west of Salt Lake City.

"That's a lot of waste," said Arjun Makhijani, executive director of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, a nuclear-watchdog group. "As far as I know, it's unprecedented for such a large amount to come to this country for disposal."

EnergySolutions, based in Utah, said licenses had been previously granted to companies that imported radioactive items from France and the Czech Republic.

The waste would come through ports in Charleston and New Orleans.

Two congressmen have raised questions about the plan, noting that EnergySolutions has not been specific about the origin of the waste, other than "reactors, fuel cycle facilities, research facilities, and material licenses or facilities equivalent to U.S. Superfund sites."

Reps. Joe Barton, R-Texas, and Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., said the waste could exceed federal radiation limits, meaning it would not be allowed to enter the country.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman David McIntyre said the agency will take public comment on the EnergySolutions application. The review typically takes six months.

EnergySolutions, which handles radioactive waste from hospitals, universities, government agencies and other sources, has operated a landfill in South Carolina since 1971. The landfill will close next year to all but three states: South Carolina, New Jersey and Connecticut.

If EnergySolutions gets approval from the NRC, it's not clear where the materials would be unloaded here in Charleston.

"We don't handle any radioactive materials," said Byron Miller, spokesman for the State Ports Authority.

Shipments would likely be moved through federal facilities, such as the Naval Weapons Station, or private terminals, he said.


On the Net: www.energysolutions.com