Nuclear Waste 01

Utah would be able to take depleted uranium byproducts for permanent storage under a bill being proposed by state Rep. Carl Albrecht.

HB220 was introduced Thursday morning, and says that any hazardous material taken in by the state of Utah will be judged when it is approved – and not how that waste may change over time.

Depleted uranium can actually become more radioactive, although hazardous waste industry officials say it can be safely stored over a long time, as well.

But anti-nuclear industry groups have been vocal in their opposition to Utah taking such waste.

Albrecht, R-Richfield, a retired electrical energy generating manager, said EnergySolutions – Utah’s main hazardous waste storage operator – “has a fine record” in safely storing all kinds of waste.

“This would be a change in policy,” said Albrecht, as the state doesn’t have any depleted uranium storage presently.

“We need to take care of this issue across the country,” he said.

There is currently depleted uranium being stored unsafely, with some sitting in barrels on cement docks.

Even if the bill passes, said Albrecht, it doesn’t mean Envirocare – whose main facility is located in the west desert in Tooele County – would get state approval to store depleted uranium.

The Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control could approve such storage.

But that would be up to the division’s advisory board after public hearings, he said.

The question of Utah taking a broader range of hazardous waste has been debated for years in the state – as it has across the nation as the issue of what to do with long-term nuclear waste has been argued.

Albrecht said Envirocare “did a fine job” in disposing of low-level radioactive material that was being stored on site just outside of Moab, with material leaking into the Colorado River.

“And they can do a fine job” of storing depleted uranium, as well, he added.

But no doubt HB220 will be controversial on Capitol Hill this session, as well.