SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Environmental Quality agreed Thursday to extend the public comment period on a proposal to bury depleted uranium metal penetrators in Tooele County without a lengthy assessment.
The comment period on the EnergySolutions proposal was slated to end Oct. 9, but now people can weigh in until Oct. 22.
Dr. Scott Williams, executive director of the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah, made the request for additional time to the agency.
"After reviewing the 13 documents currently posted on the (state) website related to EnergySolutions' request, we have determined that we need additional time to analyze the technical, public health and legal issues they raise, consult with independent experts, and prepare accurate and comprehensive written comments," he wrote.
The metal penetrators on 30 mm rounds are already in Utah, being dismantled at Tooele Army Depot. Some of them are also in Indiana.
The Department of Defense issued a request for bids for their radioactive material's disposal, and EnergySolutions wants in on the contract.
EnergySolutions is proposing to take 2,500 tons of the 30 mm munition tips over a four-year period. The waste represents less than 1 percent of the facility's annual volume and makes up 5,000 cubic yards.
It would add to the 49,000 tons of depleted uranium already buried on site, according to EnergySolutions' Tim Orton.
EnergySolutions contends it has been through seven different risk assessments that demonstrate its Clive, Tooele County, facility can safely dispose of depleted uranium in quantities at issue here.
This proposal for the weapons' tips is different than one before the state regulatory agency that proposes the Clive site be the recipient of an estimated 700,000 metric tons of depleted uranium oxide.
Both the company and the state agency have been involved in a yearslong review process that involves a performance risk assessment to determine the suitability of the Utah site.
That assessment includes a deep probe on how the facility would perform over a deep "geologic" time period of 10,000 years.
Depleted uranium is a controversial waste stream. A byproduct of enriched uranium used in nuclear fuel reactors, it gets "hotter" over time as its properties decay.Comment on this story
According to guidance from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the waste does not constitute class B or class C hotter waste, but the federal regulatory agency said the radioactive material's unique properties requires site-specific analysis.
In 2011, in the midst of the review process for depleted uranium oxides, Utah enacted a moratorium that prevents any more than a ton of the material disposed of in the state.
EnergySolutions is seeking an exemption to that moratorium because it argues that the metal munitions are more stable than the powder oxide and can safely be stored at Clive.
For more information on the depleted uranium munitions proposal and to comment, go to the state's website at deq.utah.gov.