(KCPW News) The Utah Attorney General's Office is appealing a district court ruling that says a regional compact cannot block EnergySolutions from importing Italian nuclear waste. Vanessa Pierce with the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah says the lawsuit will determine whether states have the right to limit the amount and source of radioactive waste disposed within their borders.
"The state is making the argument that we should have the ability to say, ‘Uncle, we've had enough nuclear waste,'" Pierce says. "And so this lawsuit that EnergySolutions has waged against the compact does undermine our state's right, our state's ability to say ‘enough' when we've had enough nuclear waste."
Utah is part of the Northwest Interstate Compact on Low-level Radioactive Waste Management, which opposes EnergySolutions' plans to store 1,600 tons of Italian nuclear waste in its Tooele facility. EnergySolutions filed a lawsuit in Utah district court, claiming the compact has no authority over the facility, and last month, the court ruled in the company's favor.
While it is located within Utah, the EnergySolutions' facility is not technically part of the Northwest Compact, because it contracts to dispose of waste from other regional compacts and countries. Pierce says the situation highlights what she believes is a fundamentally broken system, in which only a few states are responsible for storing radioactive waste.
"Nobody wants to be responsible for housing the long-term liabilities of nuclear waste," Pierce says. "We think it's unfortunate that regions within the United States aren't being responsible for their own waste, but we think it is far worse for another country to export those liabilities to the United States."
The Northwest and Rocky Mountain Compacts are also expected to appeal the district court ruling. EnergySolutions declined to comment.