Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Radiation Board should fight imported waste
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 12/18/2007 06:24:02 AM MST
Posted: 6:21 AM- What can Utah do to block the disposal of radioactive waste from Italy in Tooele County? Would refusal to accept the waste - 1,600 tons of contaminated ash from imported waste incinerated in Tennessee - be a violation of the U.S. Constitution, which gives only Congress the power to regulate commerce between states?
The state Radiation Control Board has asked its attorney to research the issue. And if the attorney gives the board the green light, it will lead to yet another question: Does the board, with its rule-making capacity, or the state Legislature, with its law-making capacity, have the brass to stand up to EnergySolutions Inc.?
If bookmakers were laying odds, EnergySolutions, which operates a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility at Clive, would be a heavy favorite.
Historically, the Legislature has lacked the political will to take on the waste disposal giant, a major political-campaign contributor and free-Jazz-ticket distributor.
And the control board, at its December meeting, was divided over EnergySolutions' application for a license from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to import low-level waste from Italy's nuclear power industry. Some board members miss the big picture. While it's true that the overseas waste is no different than waste generated domestically, it's Italy's waste, and it should stay in Italy.
Hopefully, the issue is moot. While the implications are primarily local, the request has mushroomed into a national policy debate. Hopefully, the NRC will deny the request, or Congress will come to its senses and outlaw the importation of irradiated waste. The United States, and Utah by default, shouldn't become the world's dumping ground.
While it's doubtful that Utah alone will have the authority to stop the shipments, the Radiation Control Board, if it is true to its name, can and should encourage Congress and the NRC to ban imported waste.
By simply approving a policy statement opposing the importation of irradiated waste, the board could rally citizens, environmental groups, and our state and federal legislators to voice their objections to the NRC and lobby Congress on our state's behalf.
It's a cheerleader function. And cheerleaders can't score touchdowns. But they can and do play a significant role in the outcome of the game.