Matheson’s challenger says he’s OK with foreign nuclear waste in Utah

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Matheson’s challenger says he’s OK with foreign nuclear waste in Utah

By Sheena McFarland
The Salt Lake Tribune

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Bill Dew doesn’t oppose foreign low-level nuclear waste coming to Utah, something Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson calls a “fundamental difference” between the two candidates in the 2nd Congressional District.
In a debate Tuesday night on the KSL program “Conversation With the Candidates,” Republican Dew said “the waste is so low-level that I have no problem with bringing and storing it here.”
He added that EnergySolutions plans to bring in 20,000 tons of Italian waste to be processed in Tennessee and then “recycle it and sell it to Japan.” The company, however, has proposed to permanently dispose of up to 1,600 tons of the processed material in Utah.
That comment caught the attention of Vanessa Pierce, director of the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah.
“It sounds like he doesn’t fully understand what that whole recycling process looks like,” she said.
The EnergySolutions contract for Italian waste is for up to 20,000 tons, and spokeswoman Jill Sigal calls it “highly unlikely” that all 20,000 tons would be accepted. However, 8 percent of the accepted amount of material would end up in Utah. That could amount to 1,600 tons of waste that would be stored in the state permanently.
Currently, Matheson is pushing a bill that would ban importation of all foreign radioactive waste unless it came from a U.S. defense facility in another country

or the president deemed it a matter of national security.

“I think it’s outrageous. No other country in the world imports radioactive waste, and I don’t know why the United States should,” Matheson said during the debate.
He also pointed out that more U.S. nuclear power plants may open as the demand for cleaner energy increases.
“Why would we want to fill up the only facility we’ve got to take that waste with foreign waste when we see a future when we have greater demand for ourselves?”
Dew calls his opposition to Matheson’s bill more a disagreement over governance than of disposal.
“I think the best decisions on issues are made by those who are the closest to the issue,” Dew said in a statement Wednesday. “So I reject the legislation sponsored by Matheson and the Democratic Party that will deny states the fundamental right to decide on their own.”
smcfarland@sltrib.com

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Utah left out of loop with radioactive waste buried here

hazardous.jpg

Utah left out of loop with radioactive waste buried here
October 28th, 2008 @ 1:07pm
By Tom Callan

Nuclear waste from Canada and Mexico is buried in Utah, and state regulators didn’t even know.

Gov. Huntsman says the shipment of low-level nuclear waste into Utah by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is shameful. Today he’s vowing it won’t happen again.

Federal regulators granted two waste disposal licenses to a Mexican nuclear power plant and one for Canadian waste between 2004 and 2006, but no one bothered to notify Utah.

The feds say the amounts were “insignificant”, so they didn’t feel they needed to notify the state. The Mexican waste was more than 1,000 cubic feet, and the Canadian waste was more than 6,000 tons. Utah authorities want to know how much would be “significant.”

Gov. Huntsman said, “This is unacceptable, and it always will be unacceptable. The fact that we didn’t know about it in years gone by, I think is unacceptable.”

But could the feds be sneaking in more radio-active waste now? Huntsman doesn’t think so. “Our people are very, very good in working with the Northwest Compact, which regulates all of this,” he said.

The governor vows never again.

E-mail: tcallan@ksl.com

http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=4644794

Utah got burned in weapons screw-up

Utah got burned in weapons screw-up

A pricey stockpile-disposal facility was torn down due to faulty conclusions

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The Army spent $4.7 million to build this neutralization facility, intended to destroy Utah’s…

Four months.
That’s how long it was supposed to take to rid Utah of its stockpile of the deadly blister agent lewisite.
The plan was to use neutralization, a chemical process that has been used in other states to eliminate swimming pool-sized stores of chemical weapons. Environmental activists broadly prefer it to incineration.
But a decade of missteps – including flawed tests that wrongly indicated neutralization didn’t work – delayed the process. And just a few years after building a multimillion-dollar facility at Tooele’s Deseret Chemical Depot to get the job done, the Army tore the building down.
Now the Army wants to try again – by building a new incinerator. And what was once a point of rare agreement between the military and its critics has turned contentious again.

‘A lot of naiveté’: The military had been destroying obsolete chemical weapons for decades before the U.S. added its signature to the international Chemical Weapons Convention on Jan. 13, 1993.
The treaty kicked things into high gear. With an international mandate to eliminate the stockpile – and armed with a 1984 National Research Council decision that incineration was safe – the Army planned to burn away its weapons by 2003, four years ahead of the convention’s 2007 deadline.

Maggio recognizes that the initial goal was unrealistic.
But in the early 1990s, “We were a bunch of engineers who believed that there was an engineering solution to everything,” Maggio said. “There was a lot of naiveté there.”
Utah’s 25,000 pounds of lewisite posed a particular problem because more than a third of the deadly mixture is arsenic – which the Army determined it would be unable to keep from pouring out of an incinerator smokestack. Instead, the military decided to destroy lewisite through neutralization – a process in which hot water is used to separate deadly chemical compounds into less volatile component parts.
But an analysis of the byproducts created in lab tests kept showing that not all the deadly compounds were breaking down. In other words, Maggio said, “we had agent that we couldn’t get rid of.”
For help, the American engineers looked north, where Canada had destroyed its own small stockpile of lewisite a few years earlier.
In 1995, the military wrote a proposal to

Disposal race began after the arms race

To understand the debate between neu­tralization and incineration, it’s helpful to understand a bit about how the U.S. Army got into the chemical-demilitarization game.
The use of weaponized agents such as mustard and lewisite has been banned under international treaty since 1925. But a ban on the development of such weapons didn’t come around for another 70 years.
As the Cold War simmered between the U.S. and the Soviet Union through the lat­ter half of the 20th century, both nations amassed large arsenals of battlefield chem­ical weapons – and both nations allegedly provided assistance to allied nations that wanted to develop their own stockpiles.
Under the law, those weapons were to be used for deterrence alone.
But laws mean little to the lawless. In 1980, Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq – then an ally of the United States – went to war with Iran, bringing his biological and chemical arsenal of mustard, tabun and cy­anide into the fight. The photographs that came out of Iran – and later from Iraq’s own Kurdish north, where Saddam’s forces deployed mustard gas and hydrogen cyanide against separatists and civilians alike – horrified the world.
With the end of the Cold War, the race to create such weapons was replaced by a growing international consensus that the hundreds of thousands of tons of chemical agents being stored in nations across the globe must be destroyed.
Still, the Cold War superpowers were among the latest nations to come to the ta­ble. As late as 1990, the U.S. was still in the business of building sarin-filled artillery shells, said chemical weapons historian Jonathan Tucker.
“One of the factors that finally gave the U.S. interest in the ban was the Persian Gulf War of 1991,” said Tucker, a senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Non­Proliferation Studies. “There was a real threat that Saddam Hussein would use chemical weapons against U.S. forces.”
On Jan. 13, 1993, the U.S. and the Rus­sian Federation were among nearly 100 signatories of the Chemical Weapons Con­vention.
Soon, the clock would be ticking.
Matthew D. LaPlante

build a $4.7 million facility based on Canadian specifications. Once the plant opened, the process was expected to take about 120 days, according to documents filed by the military at the time. State officials approved the plan and issued a permit. The building went up at the Chemical Agent Munition Disposal System (CAMDS) site, about 12 miles south of Tooele.

‘There was a kaboom’: Although the solution to its lewisite problem seemingly was in the bag, the Army faced another challenge – growing public concern about the burning of other weapons, such as mustard, VX and sarin.
In Utah, those anxieties were stoked by whistle-blowers claiming safety and environmental violations at Deseret Chemical Depot – and amplified by the history of Cold War atomic tests, which left “downwinders” exposed to nuclear fallout.
Under congressional order, the Army began exploring alternatives to incineration, using the research and development arms of CAMDS to tackle the task. The lewisite program was tabled.
Though the military ultimately held fast to studies that indicated burning was safe, the research done at CAMDS contributed to decisions elsewhere to use neutralization over incineration for some agents.
But burning continued in Utah, where the Army had gotten a head start by building its incineration facility before the tide of controversy and had found relatively receptive government leaders – particularly after agreeing to pay cash-strapped Tooele County more than $13 million in “hazard pay.”
In 2002, with incineration of Utah’s stockpile of other chemical agents under way, CAMDS turned back to lewisite. By then, however, several of the Canadian experts it intended to bring south had moved on to other jobs. Some had retired. At least one had died.
“Essentially, we had started to lose the basic knowledge and comfort with the technology,” Maggio said.
Instead, American engineers took up the task of operating the CAMDS neutralization facility themselves, working from notes provided by their Canadian counterparts.

But on July 2, 2002, an accident led officials to fear that lewisite had escaped from the lab’s ventilation system. While investigating, Maggio said, the engineers came up with a disconcerting surprise: The Canadians had indeed destroyed their lewisite, but they also had suffered a significant setback – a chemical reaction that caused an explosion.Chemical Materials Agency senior engineer Cheryl
“There was a kaboom,” Maggio said. “Obviously that created a considerable amount of concern.”
Neutralization efforts using other processes were under way in Maryland and expected to be used in several other states. But CAMDS never recovered from the one-two combination of its accident and the realization that the Canadian process may not have been as safe as once thought.
The process was abandoned, the building later razed.

‘Important to look forward’: For Chris Thomas, executive director of the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah, the saddest irony in the story of neutralization in Utah is the twist he learned just last week.
Long before American engineers decided to contract with Canada, the neutralization process they were using seemed to be unsuccessful. But earlier this month, Army officials told The Salt Lake Tribune that, as it turns out, it wasn’t their original process that was broken.
Rather, the testing regimen was not differentiating between broken and connected chemical bonds – what Chemical Materials Agency spokesman Greg Mahall called “the proverbial ‘false positive.’ ” The process that had been tested many years and many millions of dollars ago was, in fact, effective.
“It’s frustrating that the Army’s poor execution prevented Utah from having neutralization a decade ago, but it’s important to look forward,” Thomas said. “Neutralization is a more protective technology at a competitive price, and as a taxpayer, that’s where I’d prefer to see my tax dollars spent.”
Even if that means rebuilding a new facility to replace one that was knocked down just a few years ago? Thomas says yes.
But the Army says no.
A year past the original treaty deadline and with less than four years to an extended and final deadline, the military now wants to build a small, new incinerator specifically for the lewisite.
Army officials say they will tap expertise from the much larger mustard incineration plant at Deseret Chemical Depot.
The cost has not been determined, Mahall said, but it would include special filters to eliminate arsenic from emissions – the problem that prevented the burning of lewisite more than a decade ago.
Mahall acknowledged the story of lewisite in Utah reads a bit like a soap opera. But he also noted that no one ever thought about how such weapons would be destroyed when they were created.
And that, he said, has been a task that has been more complicated, expensive and timeconsuming than anyone expected.
“Does hindsight ever show room for improvements? I’ll bet almost always.”
mlaplante@sltrib.com

Utah one-stop shop for N-waste

Utah one-stop shop for N-waste

State regulators worry about the growing role of Tooele site

LAS VEGAS – When some people refer to Utah as a “national treasure,” it’s not for the state’s picturesque deserts or breathtaking mountains but because of a mile-square disposal site in Tooele County for much of the nation’s radioactive waste.
Without it, rail cars of low-level radioactive waste would have nowhere to go.
That kind of notoriety is making the Utah public and policymakers uneasy, a state regulator said Wednesday.
Bill Sinclair, deputy director of Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality, advised an industry group here: “Don’t put all of your eggs into one basket.”
He was talking about Utah’s low-level waste disposal site in Tooele County.
Sinclair was speaking at a forum sponsored by Exchange Monitor Publications that involves local, state, regional, national and international regulators, as well as businesses that provide cleanup, disposal and treatment of low-level radioactive waste.
High-level nuclear waste, like spent nuclear fuel, is not allowed in Utah. And the low-level waste permitted at the EnergySolutions Inc. site comes from 36 states and federal government cleanups.
With the closure last summer of a disposal site in Barnwell, S.C., to waste from all but three states, most of the low-level waste in the nation now has nowhere to go but Utah.

The industry’s solution has been to consider a variety of options:
* Using hazardous waste sites for waste mildly contaminated with radiation.
* Blending mildly contaminated waste with hotter waste so that it is eligible for disposal at the EnergySolutions site.
* Updating regulations so that less hazardous waste is classified as the Class A waste allowed in Utah.
Speakers from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the trade association for nuclear companies, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), talked about their efforts to rethink the current limits on mixing waste.
Without risking the public health and safety, they hope to ease restrictions on mixing so some of the Class B and C waste is diluted enough to meet state restrictions on radioactivity concentrations. NEI’s Ralph Andersen said states like Utah would be free to decide if they don’t want the waste that has been blended.
“The time is right to reconsider the [regulatory] framework and make changes that make sense,” he said.
Sinclair bristled at the notion that “the solution to pollution is dilution” in the case of radioactive materials. Mixing B and C waste with less-contaminated material might not be an acceptable solution from the state’s perspective, he said.
“It causes us concern,” he said.
Bret Rogers, representing EnergySolutions, indicated little needs to be done with federal regulations to accommodate mixing. He said there already is much flexibility in the NRC regulations.
But Scott Kirk, of Waste Control Specialists, urged colleagues to reconsider any changes to the mixing regulation. He said it might trigger both regulatory complications and public-perception problems.
“Waste that is diluted may not be acceptable for disposal under Texas rules,” he said.
Still, Waste Control Specialists might be in a position in the next couple of years to provide a solution to the hotter waste.
Kirk’s company received a draft license for a new low-level waste disposal facility for Class A, B and C waste last month. If it receives final approval, it would be the first low-level waste facility approved under the federal law enacted in the 1980’s
fahys@sltrib.com

Factors that give Utah’s EnergySolutions disposal site a high profile:

* Proposal to import waste from Italy and possibly other nations.
* Prospect of future expansion, if the politicians and public will allow.
* Proposal for blending/mixing waste.
* Need for additional disposal capacity for low-level nuclear waste.

Regulator says Utah can’t be only solution for nuclear waste

Regulator says Utah can’t be only solution for nuclear waste

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Posted: 12:58 PM- LAS VEGAS – A Utah regulator advised nuclear waste producers that his state might not be willing any longer to solve their many disposal problems.
Bill Sinclair, deputy director of Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality, noted that many around the nation rely on EnergySolutions Inc.’s disposal site for low-level radioactive waste in Tooele County. And it is being eyed as a solution for even more kinds of waste from more places, including international cleanups, he told nuclear waste handlers and regulators today at the RadWaste Summit in Las Vegas.
But Utah leaders and the public are growing wary of being a known as a “national treasure” because of the EnergySolutions site.
“Don’t put all of your eggs into one basket,” he told the group, recalling advice his grandfather used to give.
The three-day meeting, the second of its kind, involves local, state, regional, national and international regulators, as well as businesses that provide cleanup, disposal and treatment of low-level radioactive waste.
Many of those attending are looking at ways to use hazardous-waste sites for material that is mildly contaminated with radiation. They also are considering blending mildly contaminated waste with hotter waste so that it is eligible for disposal at the EnergySolutions site.
EnergySolutions is the only disposal site for low-level waste from 36 states.


fahys@sltrib.com

NRDC: Energy Policy Meltdown: Bush Administration and Oil Shale

NRDC: Energy Policy Meltdown: Bush Administration and Oil Shale
NRDC Reacts to Department of Interior Oil Shale Announcement

By: Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

WASHINGTON, DC (July 22, 2008) – In a potentially disastrous plan that would destroy large tracts of the Rocky Mountain region, the Bush administration today announced its draft regulations for opening 2 million acres of public lands in Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah for commercial oil shale production, according to experts at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The following are statements from Amy Mall, the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Senior Policy Analyst regarding today’s announcement:

“Our addiction to oil has gotten so bad that the Bush administration is considering cooking rocks as an energy solution. By putting out long-term oil shale production regulations, they are proposing that we swap oil for water in the Rockies. There is a better way. We can use the resources we already have more efficiently, such as doubling the fuel economy performance of our vehicles which would be the same as cutting gas prices in half.”

“Instead of smart investment in clean, efficient energy for the long term, this proposal offers false hope and hollow promises to everyday Americans who are struggling with energy gas prices. This is more evidence that President Bush has no intention of curing-as he calls it-‘the country’s addiction to oil.'”

“Some of our largest oil companies have stated that current research efforts into oil shale will not produce any tangible results for decades. It is impossible for a government agency to develop sensible regulations for an unknown industry, and a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

“The technological hurdles to actually cook oil out of rock are enormous. We have limited understanding of the long term impacts of this process, aside from destroying some of America’s great landscapes and sucking up the most valuable commodity in the West-water.”

NRDC analysis confirms that a commercially viable oil shale industry would have enormous environmental impacts. Oil shale production is expected to emit four times more global warming pollution than production of conventional gasoline-making it the dirtiest fuel on the planet. It could require as much water as almost 1.5 million people use in one year, a threat to an arid region that depends on every drop of water. Because oil shale will be far more costly to produce than conventional fuel, commercial oil shale development may not even reduce gas prices.

The Bush administration should be offering positive solutions to Americans, such as incentives to keeping vehicles properly maintained and using transportation alternatives one day per week, which can save the average driver about $800 on gasoline per year. For more information on solutions, rather than false promises, see: http://www.nrdc.org/energy/oilshale.pdf