Bennett Says He Opposes `Hotter' Nuclear Waste in Utah

Bennett Says He Opposes `Hotter' Nuclear Waste in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett has joined the growing number of politicians and civic leaders opposing the disposal of "hotter" nuclear waste in Utah.

Bennett's opposition adds to the objections made by a group of leading religious, business and community leaders to plans to bring highly radioactive uranium mill tailings to Envirocare of Utah's landfill in Tooele County.

Bennett, in a meeting with the editorial board of The Salt Lake Tribune, said Monday that he was joining with Gov. Olene Walker in her opposition to efforts to bring the waste from sites in Ohio and New York.

The Utah Republican said news reports had suggested that he and Walker were "on different sides" of the debate.

"I am very comfortable we are on the same page," Bennett said. "I didn't come out and say it in exactly those words, but that's where I am and that's where I want you to put me down."

Bennett's meeting with the newspaper came a day after the Tribune reported that he had pushed for regulatory changes, as early as 1999, to allow more radioactive waste into Utah.

Wording in the latest congressional energy spending bill would reclassify such waste and allow it entry into Utah, though Envirocare has since said it would wait until Utah lawmakers review the issue before deciding whether to take the waste.

Bennett helped develop the new spending bill, but claims he was not aware of the provision to reclassify the Ohio and New York waste.

At the state Capitol Tuesday, legislative members of the state's hazardous and radioactive waste task force were scheduled to meet, with the New York and Ohio waste on the agenda.

The task force, halfway through a 21-month study of the state's policies and taxes on Utah's waste industry, invited officials from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality to brief them on the congressional legislation.

Task force co-chairman Stephen Urquhart, R-St. George, has proposed legislation to require plans for the Ohio and New York waste to get the same political approvals -- from the governor and the Legislature -- that are necessary for other new disposal programs.

Meanwhile, the Alliance for Unity in Salt Lake City called the acceptance of such waste a danger to the community.

The group -- which includes Republican gubernatorial candidate Jon M. Huntsman, Democratic Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- spoke with a single voice.

"This is a major public issue now," Elder Alexander Morrison, Alliance for Unity executive director and emeritus member of the Quorums of the Seventy of the LDS Church, told the Deseret Morning News. "We are particularly concerned about the chance of accidents."

An Envirocare spokeswoman said the group's decision was uninformed.

"We're very sorry that this decision was made," said spokeswoman Bette Arial. "It is obviously the result of a very great misinformation campaign that has been perpetuated through the media."

Arial invited alliance members to tour Envirocare's facility to see how it handles waste.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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