SALT LAKE CITY -- Salt Lake City-based EnergySolutions Inc. is appealing to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to let it blend more potent low-level radioactive waste with the materials it already disposes of in Utah.
The company told the NRC last week that it doesn't think it will need additional state approval for the "downblending" if it gets the NRC's OK.
The company wants to mix higher concentrations of low-level radioactive waste with lower concentrations but still keep the overall classification at a level -- Class A -- that allows it to dispose of the material at a site in Utah's west desert. Class B and C wastes are currently banned in Utah.
The NRC currently forbids the method but is considering a change. The agency is expected to make a decision on the matter in the spring.
"I don't know what would trigger" the company to have to notify the state or seek its approval, EnergySolutions Senior Vice President Tom Magette said at Thursday's public meeting with NRC staff.
"We're talking about Class A waste coming into a facility that is licensed to dispose of Class A waste," Magette said later. "This notion that there is some new thing ... I don't think is correct."
State officials last week issued a statement opposing the blending. Utah Radiation Control Director Dane Finerfrock said that while the state currently doesn't forbid blending, it could pass a rule to prohibit it and EnergySolutions would have to comply.
U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, also last week sent a letter to NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko outlining concerns about the practice.
"I worry that permitting downblending may be a backdoor means to store higher level radioactive waste in a state that has decided not to take hotter waste," Matheson said.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Marty Letourneau said last week in Rockville that the department and nuclear plants use blending often and that it's "part and parcel of the industry and ... used every day."