Press Release from Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, and Rep. Ty Cobb, D-Columbia, March 18, 2010:
Bill would prohibit nuclear waste downblending
NASHVILLE – State Sen. Andy Berke (D-Chattanooga) and Rep. Ty Cobb (D-Columbia) want to stop 20,000 tons of foreign nuclear waste from potentially being stranded in Tennessee by filing a bill designed to prohibit nuclear waste “downblending.”
“The ramifications of allowing downblended nuclear waste into Tennessee will be disastrous for generations. The highly radioactive waste will endanger our families, our communities and our environment,” Berke said. “I’m not going to let Tennessee become the world’s dumpster.”
Under the bill (SB2735/HB2826), Tennessee would prohibit nuclear waste downblending, which involves diluting highly toxic and radioactive “Class B and C” waste with less harmful “Class A” waste in an attempt to classify the waste as Class A.
A Utah-based nuclear waste company is applying to downblend nuclear waste at its Oak Ridge facility. At the same time, the company wants to import 20,000 tons of Italian radioactive waste into its Oak Ridge facility.
No state in the country allows downblending. If the Italian radioactive waste is downblended in Oak Ridge, no disposal site in the United States will accept the waste – meaning it could be stuck in Tennessee for good.
“This is just another example of a huge corporation looking out for its own interests at the expense of our families’ health and well-being,” Cobb said. “Lawmakers have a responsibility to stand up and put Tennesseans first in this issue. As a leader for this state, I will not allow Tennessee to become a dumping ground for hazardous nuclear waste.”
Downblending is not supported by the national Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Tennessee already prohibits similar processes in its clean water and hazardous waste programs. Research has shown that blended waste would have a radiation dose 465 times greater than federal regulations for Class A waste.
Berke and Cobb’s efforts are similar to those by Tennessee Congressman Bart Gordon and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who are sponsoring the Radioactive Import Deterrent Act in Congress to prohibit the import of foreign-generated radioactive waste anywhere in the United States.
“Rep. Cobb and I support Senator Alexander and Congressman Gordon’s efforts in Washington,” Berke said. “I hope we can work together in Nashville to achieve the same purpose – the protection of our citizens and our environment.”