- Associated Press - Thursday, December 3, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A nuclear waste disposal company seeking permission to bury a type of nuclear material in Utah that grows more radioactive for 2 million years says the state’s requirements are too stringent and go beyond the scope of federal guidelines.

Utah-based EnergySolutions takes particular umbrage with the stipulation that it must predict the effects out 10,000 years, rather than 1,000 years, shows a summary letter that highlights the company’s response to a list of concerns brought up by state regulators earlier this year.

The company called that request “arbitrary and capricious.”

After state regulators review the company’s submissions, there will be 45-day period where the public can comment, providing Utah officials with feedback to help make a decision.

Regulators didn’t have any immediate comment on the company’s assertions.

Environmental groups staunchly oppose the plan, arguing that the depleted uranium should be reclassified as a hotter type of hazardous waste that’s illegal in the state.

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert echoed that concern this year, saying he suspects it should be reclassified, and if it is, it shouldn’t be in Utah.

Matt Pacenza, executive director of the environmental group Heal Utah, called Energy Solutions new claims ridiculous and offensive to Utah residents.

“This material will be buried in a shallow ditch and dangerous for a millions of years,” Pacenza said. “And here the company is throwing a fit that the state of Utah is requiring them to prove it safe for 10,000 years.”

EnergySolutions also contends in its submission that the Utah Department of Environmental Quality’s proposed safety measures fail to take into account specific conditions at the proposed site, about 80 miles west of Salt Lake City, just off Interstate 80. The submission was posted online this week by state regulators.

It remains to be seen how far EnergySolutions will take its push to get permission in Utah considering that it recently reached an agreement to buy a nuclear waste disposal company that has a site in Texas already approved to store the material.

EnergySolutions officials say the company is moving forward with efforts to get approval in Utah, noting the purchase of the Texas company is not final and pending approval from the Department of Justice. EnergySolutions has agreed to pay $270 million and take over $77 million of debt from Waste Control Specialists.

EnergySolutions’ proposal is to bring 700,000 metric tons of depleted uranium from a federal stockpile to a site The proposal has been on hold through six years of legal and political wrangling. It’s not known when state officials will make a decision.

The depleted uranium is left over from the enrichment process used to make nuclear weapons and generate nuclear energy. It grows hotter over a long period because other toxic materials it produces when it decays also emit radiation. Eventually, after billions of years, the decay process ends and what’s left is a stable form of lead.

The depleted uranium would be stored at a square-mile site nearby three hazardous waste storage, treatment and incineration facilities and 4,000 acres of military grounds for testing chemicals, weapons and aircraft. The site is about 20 miles from the nearest home and 50 miles from the nearest town.

If regulators approve the plan, EnergySolutions would negotiate a deal with the U.S. Energy Department to take the material by rail from Kentucky and Ohio.



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