A British lord told Parliament this month that a representative from EnergySolutions Inc. had offered to accept radioactive waste from the United Kingdom at the company's disposal facility in Utah.

The comments by Lord Charles Patrick Fleeming Jenkin, of Roding, as well as information in a British trade-publication report, have reinforced U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson's fear that more European countries will join Italy in wanting to send their nuclear waste to 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?"

According to a transcript of Parliament's proceedings on May 21, Jenkin said he had talked to EnergySolutions about dealing with British nuclear waste.

"EnergySolutions has told me that, while spent fuel and waste from fuel reprocessing must go into a deep repository in this country, much of the so-called intermediate waste does not need to be managed in that way but can be either recycled for use in new nuclear build or transported to EnergySolutions' own disposal facility, called Clive, in the Utah desert," he said.

"I have no means of ascertaining this, but it claims that this could lead to substantially lower costs with a significantly smaller repository for new-build waste and so save us a great deal of money."

Earlier this month, the May 12 issue of the biweekly U.K. Nuclear Facilities Monitor included a story titled, "U.K. '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 U.K. reactors move into the decommissioning phase."

The U.K. 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 U.K. waste to Clive? Why not near-surface disposal in the U.K.? 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."

EnergySolutions' spokesman John Ward said Morant was simply challenging the British nuclear industry to "broaden their horizons" as it considers a "nuclear renaissance" in that country.

Ward said there have been no negotiations between EnergySolutions or anyone in Great Britain to export waste for disposal in Utah. But EnergySolutions is active in operating and decommissioning nuclear reactors at 10 U.K. power-plant sites.

The day before Jenkin made his comments in Parliament, EnergySolutions Chief Executive Officer Steve Creamer told a U.S. House subcommittee that he would self-impose a limit of only importing foreign waste for disposal equal to 5 percent of the remaining capacity at the company's storage site in Tooele County, leaving plenty of room for domestic waste. But he also said that leaves room for foreign waste.

Ward said that Matheson seems to be "conveniently" ignoring Creamer's proposal to limit imported waste intended for storage at the facility.

EnergySolutions has a current proposal before 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 Italy proposal.


E-mail: sspeckman@desnews.com