deseretnews.com | Envirocare bidding for big
N-waste deal | Deseret Morning News Web edition
Deseret News, Saturday, October
Envirocare bidding for
big N-waste deal
Shipments wouldn't be 'hotter' than current
materials, Bishop says
Deseret Morning News
Envirocare in Utah could soon win a contract to bury 30 million extra pounds of
radioactive waste thanks in part to Rep. Rob Bishop, who is a former
Bishop, R-Utah, wrote to House and Senate negotiators working
on a big energy bill asking them to tuck in a change that would reclassify as
"commercial" some of the waste at the Energy Department's former Fernald plant
in Ohio, where atomic bomb fuel was made. The change would permit Envirocare to
handle the government waste at its landfill in western Tooele County.
Bishop says he was told the waste is similar to what Envirocare
already handles and is not "hotter" or more dangerous. He said his support does
not come just because he worked as a lobbyist for Envirocare at the Utah
"Not only did I work for Envirocare, they fired me, too,"
Bishop noted. "I didn't work for them for the last two years before I was
elected to Congress. But we parted on amicable terms, and I do like Envirocare.
I will do what I can to help them . . . and any Utah business."
The change was not requested by Envirocare, according to the
company's vice president of compliance and licensing, Ken Alkema. Instead, he
said, it came from the Department of Energy.
"They wanted to provide more options so they have more
competition for taking this," Alkema said, adding that Envirocare is not
guaranteed the job. "We'll have to bid on it," he said, possibly against sites
in Colorado and Texas.
Bishop signed a letter dated July 21 asking that conferees
redefine "silo waste" at Fernald as "commercial" so it can be handled by
"The silo waste at Fernald is the same as other materials
currently being handled by Envirocare," Bishop wrote.
"The only difference is, the Fernald waste was generated prior
to the enactment of the Uranium Mill Tailings Remediation and Control Act in
1978, and the waste was never handled commercially so the NRC (Nuclear
Regulatory Commission) could not classify it as IIe.(2)[sic]," or commercial,
the letter said.
Without that reclassification, "The only option Fernald will
have is to transport by truck, approximately 3,800 shipments of this waste to
the Nevada Test Site," the letter said.
Bishop argues that is more dangerous than sending the same
waste by rail to Envirocare's Utah facility. He said using Envirocare would
help Fernald meet its target closure date of 2006, which he said truck
transport would make impossible. He said it could save taxpayers $30 million in
transport and storage costs and help Envirocare.
Alkema said that Envirocare takes "waste that's a lot hotter
than this already," including from power plants and other facilities involved
in the manufacture of electricity. He, too, said that the government would save
money if it didn't have to ship to the Nevada Test Site.
House and Senate negotiators are continuing to work out
differences in their versions of the bill, but it is expected to go back to
both houses for final votes before the end of the month.
"These sort of letters are commonplace," Bishop said. "We get a
lot of calls from companies asking us to remind the chairman about something
they need in a bill. If the company is from Utah and it is for something
meritorious, I'm happy to do that."
The Energy Department and its contractor at Fernald also
support the redefinition and have pushed it.
That contractor, Fluor Fernald, has estimated it will cost $1.6
billion to deal with two silos full of the waste there.
Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche
© 2003 Deseret News