- Associated Press - Saturday, December 3, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Fears are being rekindled that a type of nuclear waste that grows more radioactive for 2 million years could end up buried in Utah’s west desert now that the federal government is trying to block the pending purchase of a company that has a site in Texas already approved to store the material.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit in mid-November against EnergySolutions, a Salt Lake City-based nuclear waste disposal company, over its pending acquisition of a competitor’s Texas facility that handles low-level radioactive waste, The Deseret News reported (https://bit.ly/2fEWImx ).

Acting Assistant Attorney General Renata Hesse of the department’s antitrust division said Waste Control Specialists is effectively the only competition EnergySolutions has faced since the Texas facility opened. “This competition has allowed customers to extract better prices and to receive more innovative service in the (low-level radioactive waste) disposal industry,” she said.

If the sale was allowed to go through, customers in 40 states would only have one option for nuclear waste disposal: EnergySolutions, Hesse said.

Both EnergySolutions and Waste Control Specialists said they will fight the lawsuit and dispute claims that EnergySolutions would be the only provider in 40 states. “In fact, there are numerous disposal sites for (low-level radioactive waste) operated by competitors of the two companies,” the companies said in a prepared statement.

Critics of EnergySolutions’ plan to dispose of depleted uranium in Utah say if the company could buy the Texas facility for $367 million it would make business sense to send the radioactive material to Texas instead of the Utah desert. Texas regulators already gave Waste Control Specialists permission to take depleted uranium, a byproduct of uranium that is enriched in the nuclear fuel process.

If a judge blocks the acquisition, EnergySolutions will likely pursue its plan to dispose the waste at its Clive facility 80 miles west of Salt Lake City.

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

“This news certainly makes it more likely that we will get the depleted uranium,” said Matt Pacenza, executive director of HEAL Utah, a local organization opposed to nuclear waste storage in Utah. “It certainly is disappointing.”

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Information from: Deseret News, https://www.deseretnews.com


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