Nuclear Waste Update
March 12, 2005
The governor and the Legislature (and the new owners of Envirocare) have driven a “silver stake through the heart” of Class B&C Low-Level Waste storage. BUT that does not mean that we should abandon the issue we have spent several years studying. There will be many nuclear (and dumping) issues in the future. Utah’s ability to regulate the industry has been questioned. Economic development vs. land use vs. the will of the people has to be considered. We urge local leagues to request the consensus questions and participate in the discussion so we have a basis for action when these issues arise.
Senate Bill 166 (Arent) to prohibit acceptance of class B&C was incorporated into the Task Force bill (SB24, Bramble) once Envirocare’s new owners indicated that they would not pursue obtaining legislative and gubernatorial approval of Envirocare’s regulatory permit. SB24 was signed by Governor Huntsman in February.
Uranium mining could be returning to San Juan County now that the uranium market has turned around. Prices are higher than at any time during the past 20 years, per IUC. What steps will be taken to avoid creation of new tailings piles?
The decision on what to do about the Atlas tailings pile in Moab could be made as early as March but is more likely in the summer of 2005. The EPA is urging the DOE to move the pile, as are the governors of the states using Colorado River water. If DOE decides to move it, it will take years and there will be safety issues. If it is capped in place, there will continue to be flood-related issues. Governor Huntsman wants it moved, but the decision is not his to make. 90% of the funding will come from DOE.
The “900-pound gorilla” is fuel rod storage on the Goshute Reservation. Utah’s administrative objections were rejected by the Atomic Safety Licensing Board in February. This can be appealed to the full Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Ultimately a federal appellate court and the US Supreme Court could be involved.
In March two panels of the National Academies of Science urged that highly radioactive waste should stay where it was created. This may have implications for the parking lot for fuel rods planned for Skull Valley. Yucca Mountain’s fate remains uncertain.