A recent published report on the possibility of exporting radioactive waste from the UK to Utah is reinforcing Rep. Jim Matheson's fear that more and more European countries, which already includes Italy, will want to pawn their nuclear waste off on the United States.
"My fear that the current proposal to import Italy's waste was just the tip of the iceberg seems valid, based on this news out of Great Britain," Matheson, D-Utah, said Tuesday in a statement. "We know the U.S. has limited storage space for domestically produced waste. If we don't set limits on foreign waste now, where will this all end?"
EnergySolutions' John Ward said Tuesday that Matheson attended a congressional hearing this month where company CEO Steve Creamer talked about a self-imposed limit of only importing foreign waste for disposal equal to 5 percent of the remaining capacity at its storage site in Tooele County, leaving plenty of room for domestic waste, Ward said. He added that Matheson seems to be "conveniently" ignoring Creamer's proposal to limit imported waste intended for storage.
Ward said there have been no negotiations between EnergySolutions or anyone in Great Britain to export waste for disposal in Utah. Besides, exporting low-level radioactive waste for storage would currently be against UK law, he added. EnergySolutions is active in operating and decommissioning nuclear reactors at 10 UK power plant sites.
The May 12 issue of the biweekly UK Nuclear Facilities Monitor ran a story titled, "UK 'too timid' in addressing RAD waste, EnergySolutions exec says."
The publication reported that EnergySolutions' Mark Morant suggested that his company's low-level radioactive waste storage site in Clive, Tooele County, "could serve to provide much-needed capacity as several UK reactors move into the decommissioning phase."
The UK Monitor said Morant spoke in early May during the Nuclear New-Build Conference in London, quoting him as saying, "We are too timid with our waste solutions. Why not export UK waste to Clive? Why not near surface disposal in the UK? We must find our courage."
Matheson is worried those words will translate into Utah becoming "the repository for the nuclear waste of foreign countries ... at Utah's and the U.S.'s expense." Ward said Morant was simply challenging UK's nuke industry to "broaden their horizons" as it considers a "nuclear renaissance" in that country.
EnergySolutions has a current proposal in front of the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to import up to 20,000 tons of Class A radioactive waste from decommissioned nuclear facilities in Italy. After processing and recycling the materials at an EnergySolutions site in Tennessee, the plan is for up to 1,600 tons of leftover waste to be shipped to the company's storage site in Clive.
Elected leaders in Tennessee and Utah, including Matheson and Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., have opposed the idea. Earlier this month the eight-state Northwest Interstate Compact on Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management passed a "clarifying" resolution that said EnergySolutions does not have the necessary arrangement with the compact to import the waste.EnergySolutions has also filed a federal lawsuit that asks for a declaratory judgment on whether the compact has the authority to keep the Italian waste out of Utah. The ability to store the waste in Utah is considered an integral part of the entire Italy proposal.