Utah Court Green-Lights Importation of Italian Nuclear Waste
A federal court has determined that Salt Lake City–based EnergySolutions
can import 1.600 tons of low-level radioactive waste (LLRW) from Italy to its facility in Clive, Utah, ruling that its efforts
fall outside the regulatory jurisdiction of the Northwest Compact, a coalition that includes Utah and seven other states.
The decision (PDF) by U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart for the District of Utah Central Division denies the Northwest Compact’s
claim that EnergySolutions could only store low-level nuclear waste at its 439-acre facility if it was generated within the
compact boundaries of member states. The Italian waste would occupy 4.3 acres of the total disposal area, EnergySolutions
“The Court ... is troubled by the potential for abuse if private LLRW disposal facilities were to be left so completely
at the whims of the compacts,” Stewart wrote. “Uncertainty thus created may be sufficient to deter private efforts
to increase LLRW disposal capacity, and thereby frustrate, in part, the intent of the Acts.
“Furthermore, the potential
to regulate a private LLRW facility out of existence is the potential to severely interfere with interstate commerce and is
not, in this case, accompanied by an unambiguous expression of Congressional intent to permit such interference.”
“We have always felt confident in our legal position and appreciate the thoroughness of Judge Stewart’s decision
in this case,” said Steve Creamer, CEO and chairman of EnergySolutions, in a statement last week. “Our Clive,
Utah disposal facility is a private commercial facility that is licensed by the State of Utah under delegated authority by
the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. We are pleased that this ruling ends any question on this matter.”
The company said that the Clive facility has been safely disposing of low-level material for over 20 years and has been
disposing of residuals from internationally generated material for more than eight years. “The Northwest Compact has
never voiced an objection to the Clive facility’s disposal of this material until recently.”
The waste is pending
the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s approval of an import-license request submitted by EnergySolutions in September
2007, which it had delayed until the court made its decision.
The Northwest Compact is one of 10 created in 1985 by two separate but interrelated bills: the Low Level Radioactive Policy
Amendments Acts and the Omnibus Low Level Radioactive Waste Interstate Compact Consent Act. Both granted congressional consent
to all nuclear waste compacts ratified by the states up to that point.
Congress has also recently taken up the issue. Earlier this year, Reps. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah), and
Lee Terry (R-Neb.) introduced H.R. 515 (PDF), a bill that would allow foreign radioactive waste to be imported only if it
would be returned to a U.S. government facility, originated in the U.S., or is approved by the president to “meet an
important national and international policy goal.” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) introduced a companion Senate measure,
In a related story, Italy’s Senate approved a modified version of a bill on Thursday that clears the way for a nuclear
energy renaissance in the country. The bill had already been revised and passed by the lower house last November. The Senate’s
version contains modifications that must be approved by the lower house before it becomes law, Reuters reported.
Electricité de France and Italian power company ENEL have already signed an agreement to build at least four EPR power
plants in Italy, starting work by 2013. Apart from selecting nuclear plant sites, the government will have to define rules
for nuclear waste storage, introduce a streamlined procedure for new plants’ approval, and set up an agency to supervise
nuclear safety, Reuters said.
Obama Seeks to Reverse Mountaintop-Mining Rule
By SIOBHAN HUGHES
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration sought to reverse a last-minute
Bush administration rule that made it easier for companies that mine for coal by shearing off mountaintops to dump waste near
rivers and streams.
The action is the latest blow to the coal industry, which defends mountaintop mining as a safer, cheaper alternative to
traditional underground mining. Coal companies had supported the Bush rule, which permits companies that blow off mountaintops
to get at the coal underneath to avoid maintaining a 100-foot buffer zone between nearby waters if it isn't reasonably possible
to do so.
At a news conference Monday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he had asked the Justice Department to ask a federal court
in Washington, D.C., to throw out the rule and send it back to the agency. Mr. Salazar said the rule "simply doesn't pass
muster with respect to adequately protecting water quality and stream habitat" in affected communities.
The decision is likely to have the most effect on central Appalachian surface-mining operations, which account for about
10% of U.S. coal production, according to Energy Information Administration data. West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, a Democrat,
who received a call on Monday morning from Mr. Salazar, is already trying to gauge the impact on the state's coffers and on
"The governor shared his concern about the potential effect it could have," said Matt Turner, a spokesman for the governor.
"A lot of jobs in West Virginia and throughout Appalachia depend on mining, and certainly our nation depends on coal as an
The action comes one month after the Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration announced that it would
scrutinize 150 to 200 mining permits because of concern about waste dumped into rivers and streams. So far, the EPA has asked
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to revoke at least one previously granted permit, and to ensure more safeguards before signing
off on a handful of other permits.
"We've seen a real change in the EPA," Consol Energy Inc. Chief Executive Brett Harvey said in an earnings call last week.
"There's a lot of resistance to mountaintop mining."
Growing Pollution Leads to 'Global Dimming'- Study
March 16, 2009
Visibility on clear days has declined in much of the world since the
1970s thanks to a rise in airborne pollutants, scientists said on Thursday.
They described a "global dimming" in particular over south and east Asia, South America, Australia and Africa, while visibility
remained relatively stable over North America and improved over Europe, the researchers said.
Aerosols, tiny particles or liquid droplets belched into the air by the burning of fossil fuels and other sources, are
responsible for the dimming, the researchers said.
"Aerosols are going up over a lot of the world, especially Asia," Robert Dickinson of the University of Texas, one of the
researchers, said in a telephone interview.
Dickinson and two University of Maryland researchers tracked measurements of visibility -- the distance someone can see
on clear days -- taken from 1973 to 2007 at 3,250 meteorological stations worldwide.
Aerosols like soot, dust and sulfur dioxide particles all harmed visibility, they said in the journal Science.
The researchers used recent satellite data to confirm that the visibility measurements from the meteorological stations
were a good indicator of aerosol concentrations in the air.
The aerosols from burning coal, industrial processes and the burning of tropical forests can influence the climate and
be a detriment to health, the researchers said.
Other pollutants such as carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases are transparent and do not affect visibility.
The data will help researchers understand long-term changes in air pollution and how these are associated with climate
change, said Kaicun Wang of the University of Maryland.
"This study provides basic information for future climate studies," Wang said in a telephone interview.
The scientists blamed increased industrial activity in places like China and India for some of the decreased visibility,
while they said air quality regulations in Europe helped improve visibility there since the mid-1980s.
The aerosols can have variable cooling and heating effects on surface temperatures, reflecting light back into space and
reducing solar radiation at the Earth's surface or absorbing solar radiation and heating the atmosphere, they added. (Editing
by Maggie Fox)
Climate Warming Gases Rising Faster Than Expected
By: Randolph E. Schmid
AP Science Writer
CHICAGO – Despite widespread concern over global warming, humans
are adding carbon to the atmosphere even faster than in the 1990s, researchers warned Saturday.
Carbon dioxide and other gases added to the air by industrial and other activities have been blamed for rising temperatures,
increasing worries about possible major changes in weather and climate.
Carbon emissions have been growing at 3.5 percent per year since 2000, up sharply from the 0.9 percent per year in the
1990s, Christopher Field of the Carnegie Institution for Science told the annual meeting of the American Association for the
Advancement of Science.
"It is now outside the entire envelope of possibilities" considered in the 2007 report of the International Panel on Climate
Change, he said. The IPCC and former vice president Al Gore received the Nobel Prize for drawing attention to the dangers
of climate change.
THE ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
SUBJECT: State of California Request for Waiver Under 42 U.S.C. 7543(b), the Clean Air Act
Under the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. 7401-7671q), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets emissions standards
for new motor vehicles. California may also adopt standards for new motor vehicles if the Administrator of the EPA,
based on criteria set out in the statute, waives the general statutory prohibition on State adoption or enforcement of
emissions standards. Other States may adopt emissions standards for new motor vehicles if they are identical to the California
standards for which a waiver has been granted and comply with other statutory criteria.
For decades, the EPA has granted the State of California such waivers. The EPA's final decision to deny California's
application for a waiver permitting the State to adopt limitations on greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles was published
in the Federal Register on March 6, 2008.
In order to ensure that the EPA carries out its responsibilities for improving air quality, you are hereby requested
to assess whether the EPA's decision to deny a waiver based on California's application was appropriate in light of the Clean
Air Act. I further request that, based on that assessment, the EPA initiate any appropriate action.
This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable
at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers,
employees, or agents, or any other person.
You are hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.
THE WHITE HOUSE
January 26, 2009