Press release from Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, July 14, 2010:
EnergySolutions Inc. abandons plans to store foreign nuclear waste in U.S.
NASHVILLE – State Sen. Andy Berke (D-Chattanooga) applauded the news Thursday that a Utah-based company abandoned its plans to store foreign nuclear waste in the United States – nuclear waste that potentially could have been stuck in Tennessee.
“This is a good first step for our country and for the people of Tennessee. Making sure that Tennessee doesn’t become the world’s nuclear dumping ground is critical,” Berke said. “People are making their voices be heard on an issue that could affect their communities for generations.”
An Associated Press story published Thursday in the Knoxville News Sentinel said EnergySolutions Inc. would abandon its plans to dispose of up to 20,000 tons of Italian nuclear waste in Utah – waste that would have been processed, or “downblended,” at its plant in Oak Ridge.
Downblending 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. Research has shown that blended waste would have a radiation dose 465 times greater than federal regulations for Class A waste. No state allows downblending or storage of downblended waste, meaning the blended waste could be stuck in Tennessee.
The proposal led the U.S. House to ban the importation of foreign nuclear waste. However, that legislation awaits action in the U.S. Senate, leaving Tennessee susceptible to future attempts to store foreign nuclear waste in the state. Berke has sponsored a bill in the State Senate to ban downblending this waste.
“This company says they don’t want to store foreign nuclear waste here, but we are leaving the door open to similar proposals in the future,” Berke said. “We need to make it very clear that Tennessee will not become the world’s nuclear dumping ground.”