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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The first shipments of nearly 15,000 drums of depleted uranium from a former nuclear weapons complex in South Carolina will begin coming to Utah in October, a spokesman for the site said Friday.
The 14,800 drums of radioactive waste from the Savannah River Site will be disposed of at EnergySolutions' disposal facility in the Utah desert, about 70 miles west of Salt Lake City.
Savannah River Site spokesman James Giusti said an additional 800 drums would be shipped to a Department of Energy site in Oak Ridge, Tenn., although it wasn't immediately clear what would happen to the waste there.
The shipments are scheduled to last until 2011 and come as Utah's Radiation Control Board considers placing a moratorium on the disposal of depleted uranium.
Depleted uranium is different from other low-level radioactive waste EnergySolutions Inc. is licensed to accept because it becomes more radioactive over time.
An environmental group wants a moratorium in place until the Nuclear Regulatory Commission develops new rules for the safe disposal of the material. That could take years.
The Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah has been asking for a moratorium since May, but the Radiation Control Board has consistently delayed taking any action and canceled its August meeting.
Its next meeting will be in late September, when the NRC is in town for a public hearing about whether new rules are needed for the safe disposal of depleted uranium.
EnergySolutions contends that new rules aren't necessary and that it has safely disposed of the material in the past.
In July, it voluntarily requested that its state license be amended so all future shipments of depleted uranium would be subject to stricter disposal guidelines. The company says that license amendment would likely meet or exceed any new rules federal regulators would impose.
Besides the South Carolina depleted uranium, the company could also win contracts to dispose of material from U.S. Department of Energy sites in Oak Ridge, Tenn., Paducah, Ky., and Portsmouth, Ohio over the next five years.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)