Blended waste decision is weeks away, regulator says

Radiation • Utah is weighing whether to let disposal facility take the material.
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A state regulator said Tuesday it will be at least a few weeks before a decision is made on allowing "down-blended" radioactive waste to be buried at the EnergySolutions' landfill in Tooele County.

Rusty Lundberg, director of the Utah Division of Radiation Control, said the company answered a few additional questions his agency raised, and it will take a few weeks before any decision on whether the company will be asked to do an in-depth "performance assessment" before large volumes of blended waste roll into the disposal site.

Blending involves diluting higher-concentration radioactive waste into waste with lower concentrations. The technique has been used to a limited extent for years, but it has become more attractive to the nuclear industry because of a shortage of disposal for classes B and C waste, which has radioactive-hazard levels too high for the Tooele County site.

Utah lawmakers banned classes B and C waste in 2005, and the state Radiation Control Board opposes blending done "when the intent is to alter the waste classification for the purposes of disposal-site access."

Allowing waste blending would solve a problem for many nuclear reactor operators that have had nowhere to send their classes B and C waste since new restrictions began at a South Carolina disposal site in July 2008.

Operators of a soon-to-be opened disposal site in Texas have joined forces with environmentalists in opposing EnergySolutions' request to skip the performance assessment. The environmentalists say the in-depth study is needed to ensure the Tooele County site is suitable for blended waste in the long term.

EnergySolutions says blending won't present any unusual health or safety problems. Company officials noted Tuesday, the site was engineered to handle even the most hazardous waste that would make up blended waste.