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Waste: This Hot Potato's Supposed to Stay in State

January 28, 2002

"If It's 'Hot,' It's Not Just Trash" (editorial, Jan. 22) discussed matters of concern to the Southwestern Low-Level Radioactive Waste Commission. The commission is the governing body that represents the states of Arizona, California, North Dakota and South Dakota under Public Law 100-712. The law requires California to dispose of radioactive waste from hospitals, universities, governmental agencies, utilities and industry in the four states.

A license was issued in 1993 (and is still in effect) for a disposal facility in Ward Valley, but it was never constructed--not because of concerns about safety but because of political issues. Your editorial points out that waste is now being shipped to facilities in Utah and South Carolina and asks, "Why not keep using them?"

The answer lies in the facts that the South Carolina facility is phasing out of accepting waste from states outside of its own compact members and will no longer take waste from the Southwestern region after 2008 and that Utah is not likely to want to be known as the only state in the nation where low-level waste can go. It was precisely that concern that caused the states of Nevada, Washington and South Carolina to close their facilities two decades ago. Unless California acts to open a disposal facility, it and its compact partners may not have any option but to store waste at the hundreds of places where it is generated.

Dana K. Mount

Chairman, Southwestern

Low-Level Radioactive Waste

Commission, Bismarck, N.D.

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