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EnergySolutions said Thursday that company executive Dan Shrum had withdrawn his application to join the Utah Radiation Control Board, an advisory panel that helps set policy for the state's radioactive materials regulation program.
Company spokesman Mark Walker said the decision is not due to the flap that has erupted this week over an audit of the Utah Division of Radiation Control. Although he said the company believes Shrum would have done a "tremendous job," his presence on the panel would keep detracting from the oversight board's important role.
"There would always be the potential of an ongoing distraction that would detract from the purpose of the board," Walker said.
Shrum is the senior vice president for regulatory compliance for the company, which operates the nation's busiest disposal site for low-level radioactive waste in Tooele County. He often attends monthly radiation board meetings to explain the company's projects and defend its programs.
After the Legislature revamped all five environmental boards last spring, Gov. Gary Herbert submitted Shrum's name to serve on the board as a representative of the radioactive waste management industry.
Had he gone on to serve, Shrum would have been the first representative of the disposal site to be on the board since 1997, when a corruption case erupted involving the former company owner, a member of the radiation board, another board member and the former director of the radiation office.
But outcry from interest groups prompted senators to delay a confirmation vote on Shrum's nomination last month. And, after an audit criticizing regulators for allowing too much "self-policing" by EnergySolutions, Herbert said earlier this week he was putting the nomination on hold.
"The search will continue" to fill the board position, said Walker, noting that no EnergySolutions employees will be among those applying.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Cooke said Thursday that the issue over Shrum "shouldn't have begun in the first place."
"I can't even imagine it," Cooke said. It's like everything he would do would be a conflict of interest. ... I wouldn't fill the position before I would allow someone who is a walking conflict of interest. I don't see how we allow these things to continue in our state."
The Governor's Office has noted that the law requires an industry representative to sit on the board, so it had little flexibility in the matter.
Cooke said the law probably needs to be changed and that the state needs to get serious about having a higher standard of ethics.
"Clearly it never made any sense for an EnergySolutions executive to serve on the state's principal nuclear waste policy body," says Christopher Thomas, HEAL's executive director. "Now we must turn to the fundamental issues raised in the audit to ensure that state regulators are adequately monitoring the company and protecting Utah from nuclear risks."