Utah firm nixes plan to import Italian nuke waste
July 14, 2010
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – EnergySolutions Inc. said Wednesday it is abandoning its plans to dispose of nuclear waste from Italy in Utah’s west desert and instead will try to help open a disposal facility in that country.
The Salt Lake City-based company had been seeking to import up to 20,000 tons of low-level radioactive waste from Italy’s shuttered nuclear power program. After processing in Tennessee, about 1,600 tons would have been disposed of in Utah.
The proposal drew opposition from two Republican Utah governors and led the U.S. House to pass a bill banning the importation of foreign nuclear waste. The measure has languished in the Senate.
The measure’s lead sponsors, U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., contend that the U.S. should preserve capacity at its disposal sites for domestic waste at a time the nation is increasingly looking at expanding the use of nuclear power.
The Utah disposal facility is the only one currently available to 36 states.
EnergySolutions has repeatedly said capacity is not a problem at the site. The company has long held that it only wanted to dispose of foreign nuclear in an effort to build relationships with other countries and build disposal facilities abroad.
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EnergySolutions CEO Val Christensen said the company doesn’t envision owning any disposal facilities abroad, but that it would seek to be the contractor that operates and manages them.
Christensen said it was unclear how quickly a disposal facility could be built abroad.
An environmental group that helped lead opposition to the waste import plan celebrated the company’s announcement.
“We’re glad EnergySolutions finally figured out what Utahans have said for two years – that Italy should take care of its own waste,” said Vanessa Pierce, executive director of Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah.
EnergySolutions shares fell 23 cents, or 4.4 percent, to $5.03, in Wednesday trading.