(KCPW News) Opponents of bringing depleted uranium to Utah say a deal Governor Gary Herbert struck yesterday is a step in the right direction, but not good enough. The compromise allows 3,500 tons of depleted uranium to come to Utah, but gives the state more time to study whether it’s safe to permanently dispose of it here. Christopher Thomas with Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah says it doesn’t make sense to allow any depleted uranium to come to Utah before the study is completed.
“I don’t see how they can ensure safe disposal of the material before the study’s been done to say whether it’s appropriate to come here in the first place,” Thomas says. “So, absolutely, you know, I am concerned that anybody would be talking about this depleted uranium going into EnergySolutions’ facility before the study is there that says whether it can go there or not.”
Depleted uranium is unlike other types of radioactive waste because it becomes more hazardous over time. The shipment heading to Utah is the first of thousands of barrels slated for disposal at EnergySolutions’ facility about 75 miles west of Salt Lake City.
The governor’s spokeswoman, Angie Welling, says the compromise struck on Thursday guarantees the waste won’t be buried here until the state can ensure it is safe to do so. And if it isn’t, she says the Governor is committed to shipping the depleted uranium elsewhere.
“That is the reason that this initial shipment will not be buried until that study process is complete, so that it is more easily transported out of Utah,” Welling says. “Once it’s in the ground it’s a little bit more difficult and problematic to dig back up. But if it’s still easily transportable, we’re comfortable that it will be removed from Utah if ultimately that’s what the science determines.”
HEAL Utah wants Governor Herbert to speed up the process, however. The group will hold a press conference tomorrow to ask Herbert to mark the depleted uranium shipments “return to sender.”