Niedrich: Say “no” to risky “glow”

By Anastasia Niedrich

Whether or not Utahns may suffer from cancer, birth defects, other illnesses or may glow in the dark someday currently lies in the hands of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The NRC is currently considering a proposal that would allow EnergySolutions to import 20,000 tons of nuclear waste from Italy to the U.S., 1,600 tons of which would be buried at the EnergySolutions’ waste disposal site in Tooele County. The largest amount of waste that the NRC approved for import prior to now was 6,000 tons. The size of this request is over three times that previous record amount.

EnergySolutions’ Tooele site is one of a handful of sites in the nation that currently takes in lower-level nuclear waste from other states and countries. It is estimated that the other sites will either be full to capacity or near to capacity by the year’s end. What does this all mean? Unless things change and Utah acts now, Utah may soon become the only viable dumping ground in the nation for U.S. states’ and the world’s nuclear waste.

While proponents of nuclear waste storage in Utah (i.e., EnergySolutions) say this waste is “low-level and safe,” and Utah already stores this kind of waste, opponents say that even “low-level” nuclear waste can be harmful or even deadly. There is always the risk during transport through the state that the waste could spill, or that even after storage for many years, a leak could occur, permanently poisoning the ground and water sources. While this risk, based on previous incidents, may be minimal, it is still there.

The point is that the safety of storing this waste is in dispute, and there is risk of major harm resulting from it. We only need to recall the repercussions of nuclear testing earlier in the 20th century and the effect those tests had on the “downwinders” in Utah to see what exposure to nuclear materials can do to a person. The potential consequences of nuclear exposure are abominable and unacceptable.

I am an Air Force brat who spent the first part of my life growing up in Europe. When I was about three years old, the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Russia had a meltdown. Even though I was living in England at the time, I remember the panic and repercussions of the fallout and potential exposure to the nuclear materials in the air coming over from Russia to England via the jet stream. I remember my mom telling us we were not allowed to drink tap water or eat any meat from animals grown in England or Europe because of the fallout. Food and water had to be flown in from the U.S. and other locations further away just to be safe. Even with the minimal exposure we had to the nuclear material in the air for a few days, my entire family suffered medical problems.

While I recognize that the Chernobyl situation and this Italian waste situation are entirely different, I also know first-hand the horrific potential consequences for people exposed to nuclear materials.

I can’t help but ask myself why Utah would risk the safety of its citizens to transport and store waste that isn’t even from Utah or even other U.S. states? Why is Utah allowing Italy, an entirely separate nation, to pass the sludge and make its problems our problems?

Why else? Money.

There’s major money to be had for the state, the EnergySolutions company and its shareholders by taking other people’s waste and dumping it here. Italy and others are willing to pay a deformed arm and a leg to make their nuclear waste disposal problems someone else’s.

Even putting aside my scary personal experiences with exposure to nuclear materials, I oppose the whole idea of taking in another country’s nuclear waste and storing it here in Utah. I believe in hometown accountability and responsibility. If Italy created the waste, they ought to store it or dispose of it in Italy. Not in Utah. The same theory goes for other states.

We don’t ship our garbage to Texas or anywhere else. We deal with it and bury it here. Why can’t we do the same with nuclear waste? While it’s true that we have accepted nuclear waste from outside sources before, it doesn’t mean we should continue to do so. Taking in more waste only increases the risk of harm to Utahns.

I entirely oppose risking the health and safety of Utah’s current and future citizens so that EnergySolutions can help Italy and others out while making a buck. If you feel the same way I do, you have the opportunity to state your opposition to this proposal by contacting your elected officials or taking part in the NRC’s comment period on the proposal.

Send your comments to: Secretary, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, D.C., 20555-0001, Attn: Rulemaking and Adjudication Staff.

Again, I think much can be learned from the past and The Simpsons. If you don’t want three-eyed fish swimming around Utah Lake or anything else like that in Utah and you believe in accountability, say, “No!” to any more nuclear waste coming into Utah. By doing so, we can work to ensure that none of us or future generations will ever suffer any harmful side effects due to an accident or exposure to nuclear materials. Here’s to hoping none of us or our children ever glow in the dark.

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