Gov. Walker Takes Stance on Nuclear Waste

Gov. Walker Takes Stance on Nuclear Waste

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John Hollenhorst ReportingA hot issue got even hotter today as Utah's new governor staked out a strong position on nuclear waste. The issue is whether the Envirocare radioactive waste facility should accept 30 million pounds of waste from a defunct nuclear weapons plant in Ohio.

The company says it's no hotter than waste they already receive. But Governor Walker says she's been told it's hotter, and she's against it.

Governor Walker's strong stance not only puts her in opposition to one of Utah's most politically connected companies, it also puts her on a different page from Utah's four Republican members of Congress. They've done nothing to derail the proposal. She says she'll do everything she can to fight it.

Envirocare stands to make millions if the waste is shipped here from Ohio. The company says it can be handled safely and is no hotter than waste already buried at Envirocare.

Gov. Olene Walker: "From all I've heard, it is hotter."

Governor Walker says the radioactivity in the waste has a remarkably long half-life. She's willing to listen to more experts, but....

Gov. Olene Walker: "I don't think I would change my, ever change my position though. I do not want hot waste in Utah. We have more than our share. We have far more than our share. So I'm willing to stand up very strongly not to have any hotter waste than we currently have."

Envirocare's critics have attacked Republican Congressman Rob Bishop. He quietly accepted a legislative proposal from the Bush administration clearing the way for Envirocare to get the waste. That provision now seems certain to pass the House and Senate.

Today Bishop announced a compromise. He asked federal agencies and Envirocare to step back for a few months, allowing more public discussion, and allowing the state of Utah to make the decision instead of federal agencies.

Rep. Rob Bishop/R-1st District: "All the politics and the rhetoric and the shouting is taken out. You're now going to let regulators who understand the details and the complexities of the issue make those decisions."

Bishop says he's willing to accept either conclusion from the experts.

Rep. Rob Bishop/R-1st District: "Deep down inside I think it can be done safely."

Gov. Olene Walker: "I'd rather err on the side of being overly cautious. And besides that, I don't want the reputation. I don't think that's the image we want here in our state."

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