Debate Over Radioactive Waste Gets Hotter

Debate Over Radioactive Waste Gets Hotter


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John Daley ReportingA war of words is breaking out over a proposal that would open the door to 30 million pounds of highly concentrated radioactive waste being stored in Utah's West Desert. The company Envirocare wants to take the waste and has launched an expensive PR campaign to further its cause.

In today's Deseret Morning News and Salt Lake Tribune Envirocare took out an ad saying media accounts calling this new waste it might accept "hotter" or more radioactive, are simply inaccurate.

The West-Desert based company Envirocare stores wastes many other communties don't want in their backyard. Now the company, thanks to a proposed change in federal law, may accept uranium ore tailings from a Department of Energy cleanup project in Ohio. How "hot" or radioactive is that waste?

The ad states: "News reports about 'hotter' waste from Fernald' are simply wrong...The Fernald uranium byproduct material is 90% less radiologically active than other materials currently handled in Utah under state licenses.

“Material just like the Fernald tailings has already been accepted by another Utah company, International Uranium Corporation, near Blanding."

But contacted today, the head of IUC Ron Hochstein disputed Envirocare’s claim saying, "We haven't taken material that is just like the Fernald waste."

Meantime, citizen advocacy groups today called on Representative Rob Bishop to cut his ties with Envirocare and to remove language in the Energy Bill potentially allowing Envirocare to accept the waste.

Jason Groenewold, Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah: "Clearly if he were acting in utah's interest he would not be doing what he's been doing."

Congressman Bishop declined to comment on the issue today. But in the past Bishop--a former lobbyist for Envirocare--has said he hasn't worked for the company for a number of years, and that the proposal is backed by the Energy Department and will be a win-win situation for Utah that'll bring in new tax money.

We asked the head of the state agency that regulates Envirocare about the Fernald waste today.

Dane Finerfrock, Division of Radiation Control: "Its uranium mill tailings and the uranium mill tailings they received previously is less radioactive than these uranium mill tailings. Question: so this is hotter? It is, yes it is."

A spokesman for Envirocare disagrees with that assessment. Last week he told us "we already take waste that's ten times hotter." Bottom line, the debate on just how hot this stuff is, is getting hotter, but not clearer.

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