A bill introduced in the Utah Legislature Monday doubles the maximum fine for violating the state’s Radiation Control Act and opens the door for officials to visit sites that generate radioactive waste.
The bill also sets aside fees collected for radioactive waste licenses for the administration of radiation control programs. Sponsored by House majority leader Brad Dee, R-Ogden, House Bill 124, Radiation Control Amendments, raises the maximum fine of violations of the Radiation Control Act, or licenses issued under the authority of the act, from $5,000 to $10,000.
The bill also requires that generators of low-level radioactive waste that want to send waste to Utah for disposal, must agree to allow state officials access to their facilities to inspect and verify that their waste complies with state regulations.
Rep. Doug Sagers, R-Tooele, supports Dee’s bill.
“It is important that we hold everybody accountable to make sure that the state’s ban on greater than Class A waste is respected,” he said. “The bill is a step in the right direction and shows that we are serious about the ban.”
HB 124 is a response to an audit done on the Division of Radiation Control and released in September 2012 by the Legislative Auditor General. The audit found that current controls were not adequate to prevent banned radioactive waste from coming to Utah.
Despite a state ban on Class B and C low-level waste, the audit found that since 2001, 37 containers of greater than Class A waste were shipped to EnergySolutions Clive facility in Tooele County. A total of 23 of those containers have been allowed to remain at Clive while 14 containers, which were identified as greater than class A waste by EnergySolutions during sampling, were returned to shippers.
The DRC allowed the 23 containers that had already been buried at Clive to remain on site because digging up the material created a greater risk to public health than allowing the waste to remain buried.
In January 2011, five companies responsible for sending waste that exceeded Class A to Clive were issued fines by the DRC ranging from $4,875 to $3,250. EnergySolutions was fined $80,000 by the DRC. The audit recommended that the DRC focus on physical verification of waste classification.
Part of the waste stream received at Clive is containerized. Containerized waste arrives in sealed containers that are not opened at Clive due to safety concerns. EnergySolutions and DRC officials are dependent on manifests that accompany the containers, prepared by the waste generator, to verify the waste classification.
Dee’s amendments to the Radiation Control Act will allow the DRC to follow the recommendation of the auditors and travel to generators’ facilities to verify contents of containerized waste before it is sent to Clive.
In a meeting last week with Tooele County officials, representatives from EnergySolutions indicated that while Dee had not released a public copy of his bill, they had no opposition to his proposal to increase fines for radioactive waste violations. Monday after Dee’s bill was introduced in the House, EnergySolutions officials declined the opportunity to comment.
“It is not our bill, so we have no comment,” said Mark Walker, Energy Solutions’ vice-president for media relations. “After the bill has gone through the process, and if it is passed, we may have a comment at that time.”