SALT LAKE CITY — Critics of a bill proposing to amend how radioactive waste is classified and disposed of in Utah blasted the measure Tuesday, asserting it derails a 2005 state ban on waste as much as 70 times "hotter" than what Utah can accept now.
HB220, sponsored by Rep. Carl Albrecht, R-Richfield, would also give discretion to a state division director, instead of a board, to decide if it is appropriate for certain waste streams to be buried at EnergySolutions' Clive facility. The bill was considered Tuesday by the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Committee.
Albrecht said the provision that waste is classified at the time of disposal, rather than later, is consistent with industry standards across the country and the measure adopts the federal definition of site-specific performance standards accepted by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Despite claims by critics, supporters said the bill does not address approval of any specific waste stream but clarifies a question by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality at which point the state should consider waste classification as final.
Utah has been grappling with the possible disposal of more than a half-million tons of depleted uranium, a byproduct of the uranium enrichment process and a waste stream that becomes more radioactive over time.
At its time of disposal, however, the radioactive waste falls under a federal classification system adopted by the NRC that permits burial in Utah.
Utah regulators are in the final stages of crafting a site-specific performance evaluation to determine if the Clive facility can suitably handle the large volumes of waste and still remain protective of both public and environmental health.
Casey Hill, representing EnergySolutions, said the bill does not give approval to the state to dispose of any specific waste but gives guidance to the state on the classification process.
Scott Baird, deputy director with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, said that if passed, the bill would provide a policy shift on disposal based on the specifics of a site, not the specifics of the waste itself.8 comments on this story
Jessica Reimer with HEAL Utah urged defeat of the measure, citing the wide latitude it would provide the director of the Utah Division of Solid Waste and Radiation Control.
"The issue is worth a larger, more transparent policy discussion," she said.
The measure passed out with a favorable vote from the committee.
"This is an industry we can be proud of in Utah," said Rep. Phil Lyman, R-Blanding, noting the company's safety record and its role in providing an answer to national problem with radioactive waste storage.
Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, voted against the bill.