Uranium & Greed | CitizenSpeak | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Uranium & Greed 

Welcome to Utah, where the corporations make their own rules and send them to the regulatory agencies for rubber-stamp authorization.

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On September 22, 2009 the Utah Radiation Control Board officially handed over the responsibility for nuclear waste regulation to EnergySolutions. In addition to their 8-3 vote rejecting a proposed moratorium on the disposal of depleted uranium at the Clive facility, the Board then accepted a letter, written by EnergySolutions, as an enforceable license amendment. Welcome to Utah, where the corporations make their own rules and send them to the regulatory agencies for rubber-stamp authorization.

The letter, dated September 21 and hand-delivered before the Board meeting, summarizes “commitments” made by EnergySolutions to the Utah RCB. In the letter, EnergySolutions recognizes that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s generic evaluation recommends a minimum disposal depth of 10 feet for depleted uranium. EnergySolutions generously offers to dispose of depleted uranium concentrations of greater than 5% (by weight) a minimum of 10 feet below cover. What that means is that they will pile 10 feet of dirt on top of the barrels of depleted uranium if the total weight concentration of that DU is greater than 5%. It ignores the fact that they could easily downblend that DU with other materials to reduce the concentration, thereby avoiding that stipulation entirely – even though that downblending in no way reduces the long-term hazards of the depleted uranium and its daughter products as they break down over 5 billion years.

EnergySolutions has also contracted with an outside firm to provide an updated performance assessment for the disposal of DU at Clive. They anticipate that this assessment will be complete and available to the RCB by December 2010. In the meantime, tens of thousands of tons of depleted uranium will be shipped to and stored at the facility in Clive, even though the site has not been modeled for safe disposal of this material. They have agreed, however, to retroactively modify the disposal site to accommodate any changes that may be recommended by the performance assessment.

What does all of this nonsense mean? In short, it means that neither EnergySolutions nor the Utah Radiation Control Board really have any idea about how to safely handle depleted uranium, especially within the context of a site designed for low-level waste. Their answer: we don’t care. Instead of waiting for a real assessment of the site and for the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to finish reviewing their rules regarding depleted uranium, they’re going to jump on the chance to make a few million bucks without care or concern for the health and safety of Utah’s population or environment. Utah’s new Executive Director of the Department of Environmental Quality, Amanda Smith, went so far as to consult with her friends and family about the morality of her decision. Of course, that consideration didn’t extend as far as consulting with the people of Utah who will have to suffer the consequences of this atrocious dereliction of responsibility for the next several thousand generations.

Utah’s Radiation Control Board chose to take the path of no resistance, to allow EnergySolutions to do whatever they want, however they want, in pursuit of a few dollars. Instead of taking a stand and doing the right thing to protect Utah’s people and environment, they again caved in to thinly-veiled threats of legal action, siding again with corporate greed over public interest.

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About The Author

Bob Henline

Bob Henline is a social and political activist and resident of Tooele County, Utah.

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