Radioactive Utah?

Post update: On October 25, 2018, the Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control board unanimously voted to DENY EnergySolutions’ their exemption request on a law governing depleted uranium, which they sought in order to store depleted uranium munitions in Utah. Read more in our press release.

HEAL Utah. Depleted uranium. EnergySolutions. Exemption. Radioactive.

You may have seen the above names and phrases in some headlines lately — and for good reason! Utah has a surge of radioactive waste issues that have popped up this fall and HEAL is at the forefront of them all.

What’s happening?

There are two current issues that both involve a type of radioactive waste known as depleted uranium (DU) and the company who wants to handle this waste, EnergySolutions. A public comment period has opened for one of the issues, and the other is expected to have a comment period in the spring of 2019.

Cartoon: Katauskes via Greens MPs on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND)
Back up…what’s depleted uranium again?

Depleted uranium is a form of radioactive waste that results from enriching uranium, which is the process for creating nuclear fuel and weapons. While DU starts out as low-level waste, it becomes increasingly radioactive overtime — eventually becoming more radioactive than any of the forms of nuclear waste currently banned in Utah. So there’s nothing “depleted” about it! Yikes!

What’s the difference between these issues?

Most DU (700,000 tons) is sitting in casks at sites around the U.S. waiting for a permanent disposal site — the first issue deals with the disposal of these casks. DU is one of the hardest known metals and so some of it has been converted to bullets and armor for military uses but what remains is no longer useful and also needs to be disposed of — the second issue deals with these used military munitions and a request to be exempt from state law.

It’s hard to keep track of them all, so we’ve laid out each issue below:

[table id=RadioactiveUtah /]

Whew! Good job making it through all that. Questions on either of these issues and how else to get involved? Contact us at

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