EnergySolutions asks to bring thousands of tons of depleted uranium to Utah

Emergency meeting called to address Energy Solutions' request to store 6,000 pounds of radioactive waste in Utah's West Desert. (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) — EnergySolutions wants to permanently store up 6,000 tons of depleted uranium at its Clive facility in Utah’s west desert, and the company is asking for quick approval from the state.

“It needs to be responsibly transported and disposed of,” said Mark Walker, an EnergySolutions spokesman, who signaled his company is well-positioned to accept it.

“Our facility has managed disposal of depleted uranium in the past," Walker said.

The material — considered low-level radioactive waste, in at least powder form — has been used for tips of armor-piercing bullets, otherwise called “penetrators” by the U.S. Army.

Millions of those bullets are apparently now at the Tooele Army Depot and at Crane Army Ammunition Activity in Indiana. The army wants to get rid of them, and EnergySolutions wants a contract to store them.

“We’re concerned with depleted uranium because of the environmental and health risks,” said Jessica Reimer, of the environmental group Heal Utah. “There are places it can go that don’t put Utahns at risk.”

She said depleted uranium gets hotter over a million years, and her organization has fought efforts to bring depleted uranium to the state.

In 2010, out of concern for safety, Governor Gary Herbert suspended shipments to the state. Ultimately, Utah set a storage limit of just one ton of depleted uranium, a limit EnergySolutions now seeks approval to exceed.

The company is asking for a state “exemption” to bypass a “performance assessment” over the plan, which normally could take months or years. It is requesting a 30-day public comment period, starting early next month.

Already pending is another proposal from EnergySolutions to accept depleted uranium oxide in greater quantities. On top of that, the state is weighing what to do with depleted uranium already at the Clive Disposal Facility.

Will it stay, or will the state order it to be removed?

Scott Anderson, director of the Utah Division of Waste Management and Radiation Control, said his office has questions about the new request.

“What are the chemical properties of this particular kind of depleted uranium?” he said. “How does it react in the environment? What are some of the concerns relative to shipment, to storage, to disposal?”

An “emergency meeting” to address the request is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday.

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