FRIDAY April 23, 2004

Task force waffles on review of hot waste

By Judy Fahys
The Salt Lake Tribune

    A legislative task force stopped just short Thursday of aborting its study on whether Utah should allow disposal of hotter radioactive waste.
    Several lawmakers tried to put a quick end to the task force review of "B and C waste," even though the group was supposed to investigate the subject through November. The attempts were condemned by advocates of a ban on Class B a nd C waste, who described proposals by Sens. Ron Allen and Curt Bramble as a ploy to divert attention from the politically thorny issue as the election season heats up.
    "Clearly there were legislators who wanted to eliminate nuclear waste as an election issue so they didn't have to face accountability from their constituents," said Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah's Jason Groenewold.
    The debate over hotter waste intensified last fall when Envirocare angled for an Energy Department contract for Ohio nuclear-fuel plant clean-upcleanup containing hundreds of times more radioactivity than waste currently allowed i n Utah. Class A waste, the least radioactive and most abundant form, is the only type now permitted in Utah.
    Envirocare has received technical approval to receive the higher-level B and C waste from the Division of Radiation Control, but before the license request expires in June 2006, it still needs to gain approval from the Legislatur e and the governor.
    Bramble had planned Thursday's meeting as the first of eight on B and C waste. But just as Envirocare prepared to present its long-term plans, he suggested it would be a waste of time to study the issue further, since he and Allen projected there would be too little revenue from taxing B and C waste.
    "I'm not sure $10-$20 million a year is worth the public relations and other challenges the Legislature might face," Bramble said..
    Based on that view, Allen pushed for a vote to conclude the task force study of B and C waste and send a letter to the full Legislature recommending it not approve hotter waste.
    Rep. Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, the co-chairman of the task force, pushed for something definitive: a specific rejection of Envirocare's pending B and C license or a ban for at least for, perhaps, two years. Otherwise, the ta sk force should take more time to formulate a clearer recommendation, he said.
    "The net effect of the [Allen] motion was to take a pass on this issue," Urquhart said. "The task force was put together to grapple with the complexities of the issue and not to take a pass."
    Ultimately, the task force rejected both Allen's and Bramble's approach. The task force meets again next month to decide what to do at its seven remaining meetings.
    Envirocare was "disappointed," said Tim Barney, the company's senior vice president. He said he did not know if the company would take the pending license directly to lawmakers.

Copyright 2004, The Salt Lake Tribune.
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