Our regulators have a proposed a new rule which would put into place new standards before any more DU could be buried in Utah. A hearing to take comments from the public has been scheduled. Please plan on attending to show your support!
What: Public Hearing on a proposed rule surrounding depleted uranium disposal.
Everyone who attends will receive a “No DU” button.
If you would like to make a comment, we recommend that it be focused specifically on the depleted uranium issue and in support of the proposed rule. We suggest encouraging the Board to adopt additional and thorough safeguards. Please bring a written copy that can be submitted. A sample statement could read:
“As a citizen of Utah, I firmly believe that our state should work to protect future generations from radiological exposure and contamination. I therefore stand behind and support the Board's course of action to devise a new rule to ensure that no depleted uranium comes to our state in advance of the completion of thorough public health studies and performance assessments. A new rule should also take into account when levels of peak dosage occur as well as likely geological processes such as flooding and erosion.”
If you cannot comment in person, please consider sending in a written statement: These can be addressed to:
All submissions must be received by February 2nd.
A 740,000 ton problem
Thanks to a March 2009 ruling by The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, an estimated 740,000 tons of depleted uranium is now one step closer to finding a permanent home in Utah’s West Desert.
By deciding to treat depleted uranium as Class A waste, the least-hazardous category of radioactive waste, the NRC made a clear choice of convenience over science. Considering that depleted uranium grows more radioactive over time and will eventually exceed the hotter standards of Class B & C Waste, we deserved a better solution from our federal regulators.
The beneficiary of this waste? EnergySolutions, the nations largest commercial nuclear dump site, is the Department of Energy's site of choice for the disposal of these stockpiles. EnergySolutions has since signed a contract with the Department of Energy to dispose of 14,000 drums of concentrated depleted uranium from the Savannah River Site, a government nuclear material refinement facility responsible for nuclear weapon fissile materials.
But the fight to stop depleted uranium from slipping in through the regulatory back door is far from over. Over the upcoming months, we will be working to encourage the Radiation Control Board to stop this dangerous waste from coming to Utah.
At the July 14th RCB meeting, the Board heard technical presentations regarding the disposal of depleted uranium (DU) from Energysolutions, and HEAL Utah. HEAL Utah's arguments that DU was inapropriate for near surface disposal site were buttressed when Dr. Steve Nelson, a geologist at BYU and a former Radiation Control Board Chairman, during which he explained that the Clive site isn’t fit for DU disposal. At the end of the day, despite a strong showing of 65 citizens against importing DU, the Board voted to postpone the voting on new rules until after they had the opportunity to meet with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in September.
On August 5th, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that, "DOE announced July 17 that Salt Lake City-based Cavanagh Services Group had received a $3.4 million contract to haul the waste from the South Carolina site to the specialized Clive landfill." EnergySolutions had previously denied any such contracts were in place. Read the full article posted in our news section.
At the September 22nd RCB Meeting, the Board heard testimony from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The Board was warned that attempts to pass regulations to protect human health and safety could endanger Utah's "agreement state" status, even thoug hteh Clive site was considered "less than ideal". The Board voted 8-3 against the proposed moratorium and instead accepted watered-down licensing amendments proposed by EnergySolutions rather than face a legal battle.
On September 25th, HEAL Utah called on the governor to use his executive power to block depleted uranium shipments. Governor Herbert failed to act in the interests of public health and the environment and did nothing.
On October 13th, the State Radiation Control Board met again and discussed putting in place tougher standards before DU could come to Utah. In a stunning about-face, the Board voted 7-1 vote in favor of requiring EnergySolutions to perform extensive modeling in advance of any DU disposal. This would in all probability delay any DU disposal for two years, time for the NRC to complete its criteria for site specific analysis and public health studies. A public comment period followed by a December final vote are required before these standards can be finalized and adopted.
On November 10th, EnergySolutions threatened the State Radiation Control Board with legal action, claiming they had overstepped their authority in approving tougher standards. HEAL Utah Policy Director and accompanying attorney rebutted their claims, citing the relevant statutes spelling out the Board's powers. After a closed door session, the Board voted to sidestep legal action by withdrawing the October decision while simultaneously opening up the rule-making process to draft new state rules barring the disposal of depleted uranium until all studies are completed. This was welcome news, but leaves the possibility open for EnergySolutions to bring in depleted uranium before the rule-making process is complete. HEAL Utah will continue to work to halt shipments of DU while the Board goes through the rule-making process, expected to be completed in March.
Here is what you can do to help: Attend one of the upcoming public events on DU.
On December 8th, the Board will meet again and language for new rules on the disposal of depleted uranium. This vote will be critical to secure better long term protections for our public health and the environment. Please mark your calendar and plan on attending. We need to show our support for the Board's current path of action as well as influence them to draft tougher restrictions into the proposed rules.
Demand action from our state regulators! Sign our petition here.
Submit a letter to the editor of your local paper: Use our online form here.
More information on DU:
For our handy fact sheet on depleted uranium, click here
To learn more about the history and hazards on depleted uranium disposal, click here to view the presentation by HEAL Utah policy director Christopher Thomas given to the Board of Radiation Control in May 2009.
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