The next time EnergySolutions may make a mistake, it will pay double the current fine.
The Utah Radiation Control Board is making changes to comply with recent state legislation that increases fines for violations of state radiation protection rules.
Previously the maximum penalty was $5,000 per violation. The legislation increased that penalty to $10,000.
The same legislation that raised the penalty for violations also requires the RCB to classify applications for new licenses, renewal of a license, or the amendment of a license that requires the approval of the director of the Division of Radiation Control.
The RCB must also classify license applications according to nature of the application, the amount of scrutiny required for approval, and whether or not the application requires public input.
Some applications have specific time frames mentioned in the legislation, while the time frame for other applications is not specifically spelled out, according to Laura Lockhart, from the Utah Attorney General’s office.
Based upon the classification, the legislation sets a time limit for the consideration of the application that ranges from 60 days for an application that is classified as administrative in nature, to 540 days for a new radioactive waste license.
The Healthy Environmental Alliance of Utah (HEAL) submitted a letter during the public comment period for the rule changes. The letter questions the practicality of the proposed time frames.
HEAL Utah cites as concerns the two years that have transpired without a decision on depleted uranium, the 17 months that have passed without a response to their comments on EnergySolutions’ proposal to accept blended waste, and the 18 months it took the Division of Radiation Control to approve an amendment to EnergySolution’s license that HEAL Utah did not oppose.
The proposed rule changes are in response to legislation inspired by a legislative audit that was critical of the Division of Radiation Control’s regulation and enforcement of state laws and administrative rules, according to HEAL Utah.
“The overall tone of the audit is concern that regulators aren’t offering sufficient oversight,” said Matt Pacenza, policy director for HEAL. “Certainly the answer wouldn’t be to truncate, abridge, or otherwise speed up the oversight we do have.”
The proposed rule change for fines and time frames for rule changes were on the RCB Sept. 10 agenda for a review of public comment and discussion. They will be voted upon at a future board meeting.
The board also reviewed a petition for rulemaking submitted by EnergySolutions. Utah code allows for interested persons to propose the making, amendment or repeal of administrative rules.
EnergySolutions submitted a request to amend the three-year old technical analysis rule, which was updated by the board in April 2013. The rule requires a site-specific performance assessment, and approval by the director of the DRC, before accepting unanalyzed waste streams.
While the rule was invoked to require a performance assessment for depleted uranium and large amounts of processed-blended Class A low-level radioactive waste at Clive, EnergySolutions’ proposed amendment will not affect those decisions, according to Mark Walker, EnergySolutions vice president of marketing and media relationships.
“The primary change requested by EnergySolutions is to change the word “or” at the end of Rule 313-25-8(1a) to “and,” he said. “When R313-25-8 was modified a few years ago, the text at R313-25-8(1a) stated ‘and.’ During the course of discussion, it was proposed that the ‘and’ be changed to ‘or.’ There is a significant difference between “and” and “or” in this matter. We have requested that the “and” be returned.”
EnergySolutions proposed a new section be added at the end of the rule that clarifies its purpose in proposing the word change.
The new paragraph includes language that states that an applicant or licensee can’t be required to conduct a performance assessment prior to accepting radioactive waste that was included in the analyses of the draft environmental impact statement submitted as part of its licensing requirements with Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations.
“The use of the ‘or’ meant we had to meet all of the criteria, when in reality, we only needed to show that the waste was considered in the development of the limits on Class A waste and was included in the analyses of the DEIS,” said Walker.
The petition letter from EnergySolutions suggests that the way the rule is currently written, it is more stringent than corresponding federal rules, something state law prohibits.
The Radiation Control Board formed a subcommittee to review the request for the rule change. The board has 80 days from the day the request was submitted, which was Aug. 23, to either deny the petition or initiate rule making proceedings, according to state code.
To comply with the timeline the subcommittee will report back to the full board at its October meeting.