Every step in the nuclear fuel cycle has affected Utah. And when it comes to nuclear waste, Utah bears the unfortunate honor of being home to the nations largest low-level radioactive waste facility, operated by EnergySolutions.
A History of Waste
HEAL has fought to limit the waste that EnergySolutions (formerly Envirocare) has sought to bring to Utah for more than a decade now. And that’s not the only waste battles that HEAL and Utahns have waged. Let’s not forget the now defeated Private Fuel Storage facility, or even the proposed Yucca Mountain project in neighboring Nevada. Utahns have had their share of the nuclear waste experience.
Our EnergySolutions work, most recently, has zeroed in on stopping the company from bringing Depleted Uranium, waste the company wants to bring to our West Desert that would grow in hazard for more than two million years – long after the site can be safely controlled. Click the below video to find out more about the DU menace.
Prior to that, HEAL worked hard to stop the company from dumping foreign waste in Utah and from increasing the size of their site in Clive, Utah. We also succeeded in getting our State Legislature to pass a ban on hotter “B&C” wastes back in 2005 – a ban that EnergySolutions has repeatedly sought to circumvent, particularly in its bid in recent years to bring “blended” waste to Utah.
HEAL Utah remains dedicated to keeping Utah from being the dumping ground for all the world’s nuclear waste and to keeping a watchful eye on the corporate and government actors determined to continue to target our great state for all their messes.
- Sign Up to Receive Depleted Uranium Updates
- Wasatch Environmental Update By John Warlock
Click above to hear a recent radio piece about our Depleted Uranium fight.
Recent Updates on Nuclear Waste…
It comes as a surprise to new Utahns, who move here for the seemingly endless and diverse swaths of open space, to learn that one of them, the Great Salt Lake desert, is viewed by many public officials and private businesses as a good place to dump the nation’s toxic waste. For decades, Utah has been a dumping ground for the military's biological and chemical weapons, chemicals from MagCorps, and radioactive waste from around the U.S. and the globe at EnergySolutions.
While radioactive waste has been out of the headlines for a few years, it hasn’t been off of the HEAL Utah radar. And as of this summer, we think it should be back on yours too. Between depleted uranium, Yucca Mountain, and small modular reactors, radioactive waste in Utah is making a come back - and it’s bigger and badder than ever.
Depleted Uranium: The Nuclear Trojan Horse
Depleted uranium (DU) is a byproduct of enriching uranium ore to make fuel for nuclear reactors and is the Trojan horse of radioactive waste: it arrives as low-level waste and then gets more and more radioactive over time - for thousands of years actually - and eventually becomes more harmful than other types of waste that currently banned in Utah.
There are 700,000 metric tons of DU sitting in various places around the U.S. and EnergySolutions wants to bring it all to Utah. Right now, they are asking the state to allow them to bury all of this DU in shallow pits, just off I-80, west of the Great Salt Lake.
Over the next thousands of years, DU will present significant threats to public health, including kidney impairment, lung damage, and cancer. If we let EnergySolutions bring DU into Utah, these risks will be passed on to our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on.
If you’ve been following HEAL for the last decade, this might sound familiar. And it should because this isn’t the first time EnergySolutions has tried to bring DU to our state. Last time, their attempt was stopped because Governor Herbert thought it might be too toxic, “Frankly, if it's hotter than class A waste, we don't want to have it,” he said.
We will be working with experts to bring the technical flaws in EnergySolution’s new proposal to the attention of state regulators. But this may not be enough. We want to stop DU for good by banning it entirely from coming to Utah. But we need your help. You can urge Governor Herbert to block DU from entering Utah by contacting him here or sign one of our postcards when you see our booth at community events.
Learn more about DU, including where it comes from and other reasons it’s bad for our state, on our DU Watch page.
Yucca Mountain: The Nuclear Zombie
The Yucca Mountain, which is a proposed repository for nuclear fuel that is no longer usable in power plants but is still highly radioactive, has been the focus of national debate for over thirty years. It’s an idea whose time has passed, but, just like a zombie you thought was dead, it just keeps coming back. If Yucca Mountain becomes a reality, it would mean that 10,000 train and truck shipments of the world’s most toxic substance would roll through Ogden, Salt Lake, and Provo before heading to the Wasatch Front, down the I-15 corridor, and through St. George.
In 1987, Congress bypassed the scientific process used to identify suitable sites for deep geologic storage of high-level nuclear waste and instead selected Yucca Mountain, Nevada, near Las Vegas, as the single storage site. But, being too wet and too seismically active, Yucca Mountain has hit countless technical obstacles as a suitable place to store this waste. The result has been thirty years of legal, political, and budgetary delays that have prevented the issuing of a license to operate a nuclear waste storage facility there.
However, in the spring of 2018, the nuclear industry convinced the U.S. House of Representatives to revive the Yucca Mountain project by passing a new funding and licensing bill. If the Senate passes this bill after the elections in the fall, Yucca Mountain could rise from the grave and those toxic trains and trucks would start to roll through our backyard here in Utah. Stay tuned for how to get involved as we closely watch this bill and pay attention to national action around Yucca Mountain.
Small Modular Reactors: The Nuclear Little Engine That Couldn't
Small modular reactors (SMRs) are the nuclear industries’ latest attempt to convince the public that nuclear power is cheap and safe. We’ve been there many times before. A company called NuScale is working with about 30 cities and towns in Utah, that already generate their own electricity, to persuade them to invest in the nation’s first-of-its-kind, $4+ billion SMR facility just outside of Idaho Falls, Idaho.
SMRs are an old technology in a new package and are not considered a commercially viable or necessary source of electricity by several independent nuclear physicists, other nuclear power businesses like Westinghouse, most major utilities, and, most recently, the National Academies of Science. This is a highly speculative venture to risk public funds on since there are not yet any operational SMRs. And, just as concerning, SMRs would bring nuclear power to Utah for the first time ever.
The city councils in these Utah communities will be deciding over the next 18-24 months whether or not to commit millions of dollars from their residents’ utility bills to this project. With the cost of solar and wind power dropping fast, there is no need for these cities to add nuclear power to their electricity generation portfolios and commit themselves to support this project for the next century.
These SMRs will result in more high-level toxic nuclear waste, which the nation already has a stockpile of with nowhere to dispose of it safely long term. We are following the development of these SMRs closely, including the nuclear power industry’s pattern of budget overruns and delayed project completion timetables, ratepayer protection issues, and overall economic viability. And we are consulting with power experts across the state and the country who think SMRs are a bad investment for small municipal power companies.
Stay in the loop with DU, Yucca Mountain, SMRs, and all other nuclear waste issues by signing up for our email list.
It’s springtime in Utah, and you never know what you’re gonna get! Sun, rain, snow, or an EnergySolutions proposal to bring Depleted Uranium into our state....
ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN...... That's why the HEAL Utah staff is always on alert. Do you want to be informed and involved? Below you’ll find some upcoming events we hope you’ll attend with us, like anEarth Day clean-up, "Do Good Feel Good" Kick-off, and our Annual Spring Breakfast with a special guest host!
HEAL is excited to be putting together some pretty cool events that will bring us right into the summer! You’ll see us collaborating with Mark Miller Subaru on a number of activities in coming months to educate more and more Utahns about our important work and how we can reduce our vehicle emissions and clean the air. We hope you'll join us on one, or all, of these occasions (events posted below).
Additionally, we wanted to fill you in on our campaign work. As you'll see in our updates below - the legislative session may have ended, but there is always more to do in our beloved state and we're tackling issues and keeping our eyes & ears open. From clean air to renewable energy and hazardous waste work, HEAL is staying up to date, analyzing in-depth policy documents, strategizing methods for bringing more renewables online, and building coalitions with the great groups around Utah. Scroll down to look a little more closely what's up our sleeves.
As always, if you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out.
-Hannah Whitney | Development Director
Spring Breakfast: Utah’s Changing Climate
Join us for an exciting twist on our 15th Annual Spring Breakfast to jumpstart your Thursday morning (May 17, 7:00-9:00am) and get energized to stand behind HEAL during the challenging campaigns ahead. Doug Fabrizio of Radio West will engage in a conversation with three remarkable female legislators about the evolving perceptions of air quality, climate change and energy use in Utah.
Do Good Feel Good Kickoff at Mountain West Cider
Our partners at Mark Miller Subaru like to do good, and we know you do too! In honor of their 11th year raising money for nonprofits like HEAL, we invite you to join us in celebrating this Do Good Feel Good event, Tuesday, May 1, 5:30-7:00pm. Enjoy light refreshments, beverages and learn about how HEAL can benefit from people purchasing Subaru’s during the month of May! Registration required.
Dimple Dell Park Earth Day Cleanup
We recognize Earth Day EVERY DAY by working hard to clean the air, promote renewable energy and protect Utah from nuclear and toxic threats. Help us celebrate Earth Day by cleaning up Dimple Dell Regional Park with the HEAL staff, starting at the Wrangler Trailhead on Saturday, April 21, 9:30am-noon. Please read all volunteer instructions and RSVP HERE so we can report our group size to the event organizers.
Here's a quick update on HEAL's other campaigns.
CLEAN ENERGY & CLIMATE CHANGE
◘ Assess how Utah can more rapidly transition from coal to renewable electricity generationwhile benefiting ratepayers, utility companies, coal-dependent communities and, most importantly, the global climate.
◘ Monitor the implementation andimpacts of the recent rooftop solar settlement.
◘ Develop specific climate change criteria and principles to evaluate how Utah’s public policies align with the Concurrent Resolution On Environmental And Economic Stewardship (HCR 007) passed in 2018 by the Utah Legislature.
◘ Closely monitor and actively oppose EnergySolutions’ permit request to begin importing long-lived radioactive waste (known as depleted uranium) into Utah for disposal. Unlike the low-level Class A radioactive waste ES currently brings in, this material continues to increase in radioactivity for millions of years.
◘ Analyze the risk, benefits and costs of the proposed Small Modular Reactor (SMR) projectbeing promoted for subscription by many of Utah’s cities and towns by the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS). If it proceeds, this would result the first use of nuclear power in Utah and result in high-level radioactive waste being stored right across the border in Idaho.
◘ Working with legislators and other advocacy groups to lay the groundwork for a package of air quality bills for the 2019 legislative session.
◘ Conducting a review of air quality data to more precisely identify gaps in information, trends, and opportunities for improvement.
◘ Developing specific air quality criteria and smart growth principles to use in evaluating major development proposals, such as the prison site in Draper and the Inland Port.
Salt Lake Tribune
March 10th, 2018
This session, the Utah Legislature passed three bills to make EnergySolutions “more competitive” in the nuclear waste and nuclear power plant decommissioning business. In other words, Utah just hung out a sign that says “Your Waste is Welcome Here”.
HB169 would shift $1.7 million of EnergySolutions business costs to Utah taxpayers. This is the amount of regulatory fees previously paid by EnergySolutions, a company with a half-billion dollars in annual revenues. These fees cover the cost of state permitting and inspections required at the nuclear waste dump west of the Great Salt Lake. They claim that their half-billion dollar company needs Utah taxpayers to pick-up these costs in order to become “more competitive”.
SJR11 would authorize EnergySolutions to create a new landfill where they can dump non-nuclear waste. This allows them to be a ‘one-stop shop’ for dumping nuclear power plant waste and secure the entire decommissioning contract.
Read the full article here