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Matheson: Agency Indecision Argues for Passage of Bill to Block Foreign Nuke Waste

Press Release

Location: Salt Lake City, UT

Congressman Jim Matheson said today's announcement by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that it will await a federal court decision before ruling on an application to import foreign nuclear waste further supports the need for passage of federal legislation banning foreign waste. Matheson and Congressman Bart Gordon of Tennessee have introduced HR 5632 to prohibit foreign waste from being dumped in this country unless the President deems it would meet an important national or international policy goal.

Matheson and Gordon wrote to the Chairman of the NRC Sept. 23rd, calling on the agency to reject the application for a license to import 20,000 tons of low-level radioactive waste into the U.S., with 1,600 tons ultimately disposed of in Clive, Utah. The letter stated that the NRC has no authority to import waste when there is not a facility for final disposal.

"It is clear that our current radioactive waste policies never anticipated the issue of foreign imports. I want to know who is in charge. What we have is a company asking to dump foreign waste in this country, even though there's no state willing to take it and it's created a policy vacuum that leaves us vulnerable to becoming the world's nuclear garbage dump," said Matheson.

Matheson and Gordon have been leading the fight to ban the practice since the import license application was filed in September 2007. In April 2008, the company was denied permission to use the Utah disposal site by the Northwest Interstate Compact on Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management which must approve importation of foreign nuclear waste into Utah and its other member states. In May 2008, the company filed a lawsuit in federal court, claiming that the Interstate Compact does not have jurisdiction over the Clive site. A ruling is not expected for months.

"Had NRC decided to give the green light to the importation that would have been the worst possible outcome from today's meeting," said Congressman Bart Gordon. "By postponing their decision until this lawsuit is decided, my colleagues and I will have time to get the ban on importing foreign nuclear waste signed into law."

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