Public to weigh in before state votes on accepting depleted uranium

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s radiation control board voted to open a 30-day window of public comment for EnergySolutions’ request to store depleted uranium at its Tooele County facility.

FOX 13 first reported on Wednesday the company had filed for an exemption to be able to store 6,000 tons of depleted uranium from munitions under a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense. It would be in a different format than previous requests and a smaller amount.

“We do believe it’s an issue that can be resolved. This type of depleted uranium can be disposed of at Clive,” said Mark Walker, a spokesman for EnergySolutions.

Some of the munitions are already at the Tooele Army Depot, others would be brought in from Indiana.

Depleted uranium is controversial because it gets more radioactive over time. Utah has previously prohibited it and blocked EnergySolutions’ previous attempts to store the waste.

Environmental groups are lining up to oppose this latest effort.

“This waste has the potential to become 14 times more radioactive than when it’s initially stored. At this facility, it’s not been determined whether or not storing that kind of waste is safe,” said Ashley Soltysiak of the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club.

As the Utah Dept. of Environmental Quality heard EnergySolutions’ request, Governor Gary Herbert was meeting with reporters at his monthly news conference. He previously has expressed reservations about depleted uranium being stored in Utah.

On Thursday, the governor told the DEQ to “follow the law” when it comes to depleted uranium. In addition to a 30-day public comment period, the DEQ has discretion to ask for an additional 30 days. The next time this topic will be brought up is Sept. 13.