Gordon Questions Plan to Import Nuclear Waste Into U.S.
(Washington, DC) House Committee on Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) today asked the Northwest Interstate Compact for Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management to withhold its support for a license application filed by EnergySolutions with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to put low-level radioactive waste (LLRW) from Italy in a Utah waste site.
"It appears that EnergySolutions’ exploitation of a loophole in our country’s nuclear waste regulatory framework and its agreement with the Compact could put the U.S. on a path to becoming the world’s nuclear garbage waste dump," Chairman Gordon said. "I refuse to believe this was the intention of the Compact when the 1998 approval was granted."
EnergySolutions, which operates the only private Class A LLRW disposal in the United States, has asked the NRC to permit it to take 20,000 tons of LLRW from decommissioned nuclear reactors in Italy, process it in Tennessee and dispose of the final product in its site in Clive, Utah.
Federal regulations require the approval of the state and the Compact in which the disposal site is located. EnergySolutions disposes of more than 90 percent of the LLRW generated in the U.S. through a license granted by the State of Utah and with the permission of the Northwest Compact. The Compact allows EnergySolutions to take LLRW from outside the Compact because it serves "an important national purpose." The Compact has reserved the right to "modify or rescind" its authorization at any time.
This application marks the first time in the history of the NRC that a company has asked to dispose of large amounts of foreign-generated LLRW in the U.S. Chairman Gordon has long said that the application did not appear to represent a "one-time" event because EnergySolutions, a publicly traded company, had made clear its intent to pursue decommissioning work in both the US and Europe. "It is highly likely that this is the first application with a string to follow," Gordon said.
The U.S. has a long-term storage challenge for both low-level and high-level waste, and many European countries face exactly the same challenge, wrote Gordon today in his letter to the Compact. He contends the Utah facility should not be viewed as a "convenient alternative" for Europe’s problems in finding disposal sites.
"The U.S. already faces capacity issues and other challenges in treating and disposing of radioactive waste produced domestically," added Gordon. "We should be working on solving this problem at home before taking dangerous waste from around the world."
Gordon asked the Compact to examine the license application with an eye toward the long-term storage needs of the U.S. and to revoke or amend the Second Amended Resolution and Order to prevent foreign LLRW disposal in the U.S.
The letter was also sent to the governors of the eight states (Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Utah, Oregon, Idaho, Hawaii, and Alaska) that are members of the Compact.