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Blended waste is too hot for Utah via Salt Lake Tribune

By michael cowley

First published Dec 31 2011 01:01AM
Updated Dec 31, 2011 01:01AM

By Michael Cowley

As a lifelong Utahn who has fought for decades to protect this jewel of a state, I read with utter dismay the tortured opinion piece on blended nuclear waste on Dec. 18. Division of Radiation Control chief Rusty Lundberg tried to explain why state regulators have decided to allow EnergySolutions to begin dumping blended waste here — before they do a study on whether this makes sense for Utah.

Lundberg’s essay is full of deceptive assertions. Allow us a moment to dismantle the scaffold of misinformation the state is building around their dangerous decision.

He asserts that the blended waste which would be dumped in the EnergySolutions facility in Clive is “less than 1 percent” of the total volume brought there each year. While his volume claim is true, it ignores the extraordinary increase in radioactivity allowed through this new process. Blended waste may be small by volume, but it packs a hell of a punch. So much so that, according to estimates from HEAL Utah, where I serve on the board of directors, blended waste could add as much radioactivity to Clive each year as was disposed there in the facility’s first 14 years.

Despite blended waste’s potency, Lundberg claims it is not “more radioactive” than other low-level radioactive waste. That’s an appalling assertion from our state’s lead nuclear waste regulator. A few facts: According to state data, the nuclear waste dumped at Clive in 2010 averaged just over 1.1 millicuries (a measure of radioactivity) per cubic foot. Using data from EnergySolutions, we calculate that blended waste would average between 210 and 333 millicuries per cubic foot initially. That’s 200 to 300 times more radioactive. If blending is widely allowed, radioactivity could rise by several thousand times.

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