NRC says it can't ban importation of nuclear waste

> Associated Press) - Apr 13 - By BROCK VERGAKIS Associated Press Writer
> The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says it doesn't have the
> authority to prevent foreign radioactive waste from being imported
> into the United States.
> The NRC wrote in an April 9 letter to Reps. Jim Matheson, D-
> Utah, and Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., that the Atomic Energy Act doesn't
> distinguish between domestic and foreign waste. The NRC says that as
> long as the material can be imported safely and someone is willing to
> accept it, the commission can't keep the waste out.
> Salt Lake City-based EnergySolutions' is seeking a license 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 be disposed of in the western Utah desert.
> Matheson and Gordon are sponsoring a bill - which has yet to get
> a hearing - that would ban the importation of low-level radioactive
> waste unless the nuclear material originated here or the waste was
> imported for a strategic national purpose.
> They contend that the country should restrict space at its dumps
> to domestic waste. The site in Clive, Utah, is the only low-level
> radioactive waste facility available to 36 states, although
> EnergySolutions says capacity there isn't an issue.
> The company has agreed to limit the amount of foreign waste
> accepted in Clive to 5 percent of its remaining capacity.
> Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has said he doesn't want the waste coming
> to Utah, but EnergySolutions is challenging in federal court the
> state's efforts to keep the waste out.
> Matheson, Gordon and Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., sent the NRC a
> list of questions asking what would happen if the court rules in
> EnergySolutions'
> favor. All three serve on the committee that oversees the NRC.
> The NRC declined to give an opinion on the court case and said
> Utah is responsible for regulating the company's facility.
> "The NRC will issue a license to import low-level waste if it
> determines that issuance of the license would not be inimical to the
> common defense and security or constitute an unreasonable risk to the
> public health and safety and that an appropriate facility has agreed
> to accept the waste,"
> the NRC wrote.
> While Huntsman has said he doesn't want foreign waste coming
> here, state law doesn't prohibit it.
> Passing such a law would be difficult in Utah, where the company
> is a major donor to conservative state lawmakers and it employs a
> relatively large number of lobbyists.
> One of the company's former lobbyists is U.S. Rep, Rob Bishop,
> R-Utah.
> Bishop's district includes the EnergySolutions' facility. He has said
> a national policy on foreign waste isn't needed and that states should
> decide whether to allow foreign waste.