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Senate Committee OKs Berke’s Bill Against Foreign Nuclear Waste

Press Release from Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, March 23, 2010:

Bill to prohibit downblending passes Environment Committee 5-4

NASHVILLE – A Senate committee Tuesday passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Andy Berke (D-Chattanooga) to stop 20,000 tons of foreign nuclear waste from potentially being stranded in Tennessee by prohibiting nuclear waste “downblending.”

“We’re one step closer to ensuring that Tennessee doesn’t become the world’s nuclear dumping ground,” Berke said. “I applaud the members of the Senate Environment Committee who placed the safety of Tennessee families ahead of the financial interests of one Utah-based nuclear waste company.”

The Senate Environment, Conservation and Tourism Committee passed the bill 5-4 on Tuesday, meaning the bill likely will move soon to the Senate floor. The House version is in subcommittee.

Under the bill (SB2735/HB2826), Tennessee would prohibit nuclear waste downblending, which involves mixing 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.

Downblending is not supported by the federal 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.

“Tennesseans deserve lawmakers who will fight to protect their families from dangerous nuclear waste,” Berke said. “I’m not going to sit back and let Tennessee become the world’s nuclear dumpster.”