NOTE : The 300,000 tons of waste referred to as coming from Niagara Falls, NY, actually came from the Tonawanda, NY FUSRAP Site (Ashland 1 and 2, and Linde properties). No waste has yet been shipped off-site from the Niagara Falls Storage Site (NFSS).
THURSDAY March 25, 2004
Mill says it won't take 'hotter' waste
By Judy Fahys
The Salt Lake Tribune
The White Mesa uranium mill in southeastern Utah will continue accepting mildly contaminated dirt from the government's Niagara Falls, N.Y., radioactive-waste cleanup.
But, in keeping with its license and its past practice, the reprocessing plant near Blanding won't solicit any of the highly contaminated "K-65" waste from Niagara Falls and a cleanup in Fernald, Ohio, that had Utahns so worried l ast fall, said Ron Hochstein, president and chief executive officer of International Uranium Corp., owner of the White Mesa mill.
"It is a misstatement to categorize or insinuate that any material that we would consider taking from Niagara would be 'hotter material' than we have taken in the past," Hochstein said in a letter sent this week to the co-chairmen of a legislative waste task force.
The letter disputed a news report suggesting the White Mesa mill planned to bid on waste with radium concentrations more than 100 times as hot as Utah currently allows, thanks to a loophole in a new Utah law that applies to Enviro care of Utah.
International Uranium said it would be wrong to imply the company "could take advantage of some 'loophole' in the new law" to take the K-65 waste.
Even though state law bans waste as hazardous as K-65, the Energy Department, through an act of Congress last fall, cleared the way for it to be disposed at Envirocare's Tooele County landfill by slapping a new regulatory label on it.
State leaders moved quickly during the 2004 Legislature to close loopholes that might have allowed disposal of waste as dangerous as the K-65 material in Utah. Gov. Olene Walker on Wednesday signed House Bill 145, which would allo w Envirocare to accept waste that is more hazardous only if the governor and the Legislature specifically approve it.
Although Envirocare eventually pulled out of the bidding for that highly contaminated Fernald waste, it has complained that the Legislature did not impose the same requirements on the White Mesa mill.
Envirocare operates a landfill for low-level nuclear waste in Tooele County. White Mesa mill extracts uranium from already processed ore and leaves the discards in holding ponds.
The decision not to include White Mesa in HB145 was not a matter of favoritism but practicality, according to legislators, advocates and regulators involved in bill negotiations.
Because federal law treats White Mesa as a recycling facility rather than a disposal site, regulations covering its operations differ substantially from sites like Envirocare.
And because the International Uranium Corp. has said all along that it had no plans to take waste like the highly concentrated Fernald and Niagara Falls cleanup, there appeared to be no pressing need to impose tighter regulations on the facility in the 2004 Legislature, negotiators said.
"They are two different beasts," said Rep. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, who co-chairs the waste task force.
In the past, 300,000 tons of mildly contaminated cleanup waste has gone to the White Mesa Mill from Niagara Falls.
The Tooele landfill has contracts to dispose of 809,461 tons of contaminated dirt from Ohio.
© Copyright 2004, The Salt Lake Tribune.
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