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Panel OKs S. Dakota Nuclear Waste Pact

April 16, 1986|STEPHANIE O'NEILL | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — A bill that would enter California into a low-level nuclear waste disposal agreement with South Dakota was narrowly approved by an Assembly committee Tuesday over opposition of the Deukmejian Administration.

The measure, by Assemblyman Steve Peace (D-Chula Vista), complies with a federal law that requires states to create their own dumps or form compacts with other states to jointly dispose of such wastes.

Federal Requirements

The statute insists that the state generating the most low-level atomic waste--in this case California--would establish the dump site within its boundaries and then accept wastes from a compact state, which would pay for dumping rights.

Additionally, under the federal statute, if any state fails to enter into a compact, it would be forced to accept low-level nuclear waste materials from any other state. Such materials usually include protective clothing, gloves, medical treatment materials and other contaminated items from nuclear industries and hospitals.

Currently, California, which annually produces about 220,000 cubic feet of low-level nuclear waste, ships the materials to a site in Washington state.

Peace said an agreement with South Dakota, whose Legislature already has ratified a compact with California, is advantageous because the amount of radioactive waste produced in South Dakota is "minuscule." South Dakota produces about seven cubic feet of low-level waste annually, Peace said.

The Peace measure was approved by the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on a 7-4 vote and was sent to the Ways and Means Committee. It is one of two such bills in the Legislature.

A bill introduced last year by Sen. Alfred E. Alquist (D-San Jose) and favored by opponents of the Peace measure, would enter California into an agreement with Arizona. That bill, however, stalled after Peace and other Assembly Democrats added an amendment that would put the dump site in the legislative districts of two Republicans, Sen. H. L. Richardson of Glendora and Assemblyman Bill Leonard of Redlands.

Peace says he opposes an agreement with Arizona because that state produces 119,000 cubic feet of low-level waste each year in comparison to the seven cubic feet produced annually by South Dakota.

Dan Heincy, a deputy director of the Department of Health Services, said he and other opponents of the Peace measure favor the Alquist bill but want the specific site for the proposed dump removed. The Peace measure contains no site, but Heincy said he fears that Peace will later write a specific location into the bill.

Search for Site

Heincy said the health services department "would like to search through California and find a site that would meet the environmental concerns."

But Peace said he opposes the "convoluted process that requires people all over the state to hold hearings" because it would be too time-consuming.

If California is unable to establish a dump by 1993, federal law would ban export of its wastes to other states.

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