deseretnews.com | Envirocare bidding for big N-waste deal | Deseret Morning News Web edition

Note: Utah Rep. Bishop's glib description notwithstanding, these "silo wastes" have been determined by the NAS's NRC to be no different in hazard than high-level waste (HLW).

Deseret News, Saturday, October 11, 2003

Envirocare bidding for big N-waste deal

Shipments wouldn't be 'hotter' than current materials, Bishop says

By Lee Davidson
Deseret Morning News

WASHINGTON — 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 Envirocare lobbyist.

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 Legislature.

"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 Envirocare.

"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

E-mail: lee@desnews.com


© 2003 Deseret News Publishing Company

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