SALT LAKE CITY — EnergySolutions is seeking assurances from Utah lawmakers that if it meets disposal requirements and the approval of regulators, it can bury depleted uranium at its Tooele County facility.
That is how Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, explained the genesis of HB220, which received a 23-6 vote on its second reading Wednesday in the Utah Senate.
Sandall said the bill, in its fourth version, does not guarantee acceptance of the waste or site suitability but rather ensures that if the company continues to spend money on a site-specific analysis that its investment will not be in vain.
Critics say not only will the measure, if passed into law, give a potential green light on millions of tons of depleted uranium coming to Utah, it opens the door for acceptance of even "hotter' waste.
"This does not deal with (class) B or C waste," he said.
The bill was modified to include a provision that if the waste does come to Utah, the U.S. Department of Energy will first have to agree to "perpetual management" of its disposal.
The bill offers greater financial incentive for the state of Utah to accept depleted uranium because it would be taxed at a higher rate, 12 percent compared to 10 percent for most other wastes.
Sandall said the tax could possibly generate $24 million in revenue for the state over a seven-year period.
Senate Minority Assistant Whip Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay, said she's long had concerns over the transportation of the radioactive waste, adequate disposal safeguards and the protection of employees of EnergySolutions.
But Senate Majority Whip Dan Hemmert, R-Orem, said low-level radioactive waste is "all over the country. It's out there and we, to my knowledge, our not dropping like flies."6 comments on this story
Later, in a Senate availability with reporters, leadership rejected the notion the bill was granting any favors to EnergySolutions.
"The bill doesn’t authorize anything. It authorizes studies," Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, told reporters. "I don't think there's probably a more regulated industry than that industry, and if the studies come out and allow the waste to be stored there, it probably is OK."
The bill needs another vote in the Senate, House approval and the governor's signature before it becomes law.
Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche