Nuclear Waste

Italian Waste

Any country possessing the technology for nuclear power should be capable of disposing of its own radioactive waste. In response to a company’s request to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a license to import 20,000 tons of waste from Italy for long-term storage in Utah, Matheson introduced legislation to ban the importation of foreign waste. With increasing demand for low-level radioactive waste storage domestically and dwindling space, it is neither in Utah’s nor the United States’ interest to become the destination for other countries’ waste.

Update:  The Utah company has apparently abandoned plans to import Italian waste for long-term storage in Utah. On July 23, 2010, the company formally withdrew its application for an import license from the NRC.

Moab Tailings Clean Up

A 16-million ton pile of radioactive waste sits next to the Colorado River in Moab, a toxic relict of a dismantled uranium mill. After more than 10 years of study the Department of Energy (DOE) announced its decision to remove the material to a stable, secure site, after scientists determined that it was a question of “when, not if” a major flood washes the radioactive waste into the river. That would harm not only Moab residents but it would contaminate the drinking water for 25 million downstream users. Congressman Matheson included language in a defense bill that establishes a cleanup deadline of 2019, making it incumbent upon DOE to safely and efficiently complete the remediation by that date.

Update:  More than 2 million tons of tailings have now been removed from the Atlas pile. According to old records, when the mill was operating, it produced 1,000 tons of tailings a day and now 10 times that much is being removed daily.  Read my letter to Energy Sec. Stephen Chu urging that the cleanup stay on track to meet my 2019 deadline.

Opposition to Yucca Mountain Repository

The West is not a dumping ground for the world’s most lethal radioactive waste. Public health, safety, science and budget constraints all argue against moving spent nuclear fuel on the nation’s roads and railways to Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Those routes would send 95% of the waste through Utah, if it’s moved by rail and 87% if it’s trucked. Nationally, 50 million Americans would be exposed to the risk of an accident or terrorist attack on high level radioactive waste cargo. Matheson introduced legislation to amend the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. It requires commercial nuclear utilities to transfer nuclear waste from spent nuclear fuel pools into dry storage casks. As such, it can be safely and securely stored on site for at least 100 years.

Nuclear Waste Blending

This is a proposed waste processing option under consideration by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in light of the lack of a Class B and C waste disposal pathway. According to NRC estimates, resin waste from nuclear power plants, accounts for about half of the volume of Class B and C waste generated each year.  NRC discussions are underway on how to regulate the disposal of blending waste. Matheson has raised concerns that allowing the mixing of Class B and C waste with Class A waste—so-called “downblending” –would violate the storage guidelines established for disposal facilities licensed only for Class A waste. He has written a letter to the NRC Chairman raising questions and concerns, including that downblending may be a back-door means to store higher-level radioactive waste in Utah—a state that has specifically decided not to take “hotter” waste.