N-waste may end up in Nevada, rather than Utah

By Patty Henetz | The Salt Lake Tribune

The federal government may be leaning toward sending 10,000 drums of depleted uranium (DU) to Nevada instead of Utah.

Radwaste Monitor, a nuclear industry trade publication, reports in its Oct. 11 issue that the Department of Energy (DOE) wants to permanently dispose of the material at the Nevada Test Site northwest of Las Vegas.

Originally, the radioactive waste from the Savannah River cleanup site in South Carolina was headed for the EnergySolutions landfill in Clive, Utah.

EnergySolutions confirmed Friday that it is aware the DOE is exploring Nevada disposal of the depleted uranium.

U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, called the report “welcome news.”

And Vanessa Pierce, spokeswoman for HEAL Utah, an organization opposed to nuclear waste storage in Utah, said if the report turns out to be correct, “it’s a huge victory for Utah.”

Amanda Smith, director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, wasn’t available for comment Friday.

The move apparently has less to do with public safety than money.

While the report said the Energy Department hasn’t made a final decision on what to do with the waste, a Nevada official told Radwaste the choice would make sense from a financial perspective because the Utah storage would be only temporary. The government needs to find a permanent solution.

Funding for the waste disposal would come from federal stimulus, which must be spent by the end of next year. Tim Murphy, chief of the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection federal facilities bureau, told Radwaste that the DOE has specific deadlines for disposing of the depleted uranium.

“They’re saying: ‘It’s going to cost us how many millions to leave it at Clive?’  ” Murphy is quoted as saying.

Murphy said the DOE is evaluating how much it would cost to temporarily store the waste in Utah and the current restrictions on disposing any more DU at the EnergySolutions site. Murphy said DOE told Nevada the DU would go there if it met the state’s acceptance criteria — “which it does,” he said.

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