House Committee Advances Proposal To Change The Way Radioactive Waste Is Disposed Of In Utah

Feb 6, 2019

Scott Baird, deputy director of the Department of Environmental Quality told members of the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Evironment Committee on Tuesday that while DEQ didn't support or oppose House Bill 220 (Radioactive Waste Amendments), the agency wanted to highlight the fundamental change in policy shift it represented.

"As a state department though we do want to clarify, and make sure it's understood, the policy shift that's happening here. Currenlty Class A waste is considered ok. Class B and C wastes are prohibited, based on a table that was referenced earlier," Baird said.

The table Baird is referencing is a waste classification system established by the nuclear regulatory commission describing waste streams by radiation levels. 

"What this legislation does is gives the opportunity to not decide if it's ok or not based on the table," he said. "But instead, as was pointed out, it's based on a site-specific assessment - based on the science, the specific waste and the specific site."

Earlier in the meeting, Casey Hill, a lobbyist for the radioactive waste disposal company Energy Solutions, described the waste classification system as "antiquated" and said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was encouraging states to move to a system where decisions about the kinds of nuclear waste allowed at a given facility were made on a case-by-case basis.

HB220, by Richfield Republican Rep. Carl Albrecht, would effectively give the director of the Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control (within the Utah Department of Environmental Quality) discretion to approve the disposal (meaning permanent storage) of waste that will become more radioactive than is currently allowed under Utah law.

Depleted Uranium, for example, starts as a Class A waste but becomes more radioactive with time.

In the end, Rep. Albrecht's bill passed the committee on a 12 to 1 vote with Salt Lake Rep. Joel Briscoe - one of two Democrats on the committee - offering the lone dissenting vote. Rep. Susan Duckworth, the committee's other Democrat, said she saw the proposal as good for residents in her district who work in the waste disposal industry.