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Official: Utah not considering nuclear waste deal

Official: Utah not considering nuclear waste deal



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Utah attorney general's office said Friday it is not in negotiations with EnergySolutions Inc. to drop the state's objections to importing foreign nuclear waste for disposal here.

The company wants to import as much as 20,000 tons of low-level radioactive waste from Italy through the ports of Charleston, S.C., or New Orleans. After processing in Tennessee, about 1,600 tons would be disposed of in the desert about 70 miles west of Salt Lake City.

If approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, it would be the largest amount of radioactive waste ever imported into the country.

The state is currently appealing a federal judge's ruling that the state can't use a regional compact to keep foreign nuclear waste out.

EnergySolutions said in a statement earlier in the day it was in settlement discussions with Utah.

After previously declining to comment, Paul Murphy, a spokesman for Attorney General Mark Shurtleff sent an e-mail to The Associated Press saying his office was not in any settlement talks with the company.

EnergySolutions clarified its earlier statement.

"We have let the new administration know that our offer is still on the table. There are no new settlement terms being proposed or negotiated," the statement said. "Because this issue is still before the court it would be inappropriate to comment further."

In February, the company said it would offer Utah 50 percent of its net revenues from the disposal of foreign nuclear waste if it agreed to let it in Utah.

Former Gov. Jon Huntsman scoffed at that proposal, saying the long-term impact wouldn't be worth a temporary financial windfall.

Huntsman resigned last month to become U.S. ambassador to China. In May, Huntsman's replacement, former Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, said he wouldn't do anything differently from Huntsman in regard to foreign waste.

"While Gov. Herbert is aware of the proposal, it should be noted that he has not formally been presented with any offer on this issue," Herbert spokesman Angie Welling wrote in an e-mail to the AP.

"The governor remains committed to the lawsuit that is currently on appeal and continues to believe that foreign waste should not be imported into Utah," the e-mail said.

Meanwhile, U.S. Reps. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., are pushing forward with legislation to ban the importation of foreign radioactive waste unless it served a strategic national purpose.

There are only three low-level radioactive waste disposal facilities operating in the U.S. Matheson and Gordon contend those sites should be preserved for domestic waste.

The Utah facility is the only one available to 36 states.

EnergySolutions has said it has plenty of capacity at its site for the Italian waste and has pledged to cap the amount accepted at the site to 5 percent of all capacity.

It also says the Italian waste would represent less than 1 percent of the waste it accepts annually.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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BROCK VERGAKIS writer

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