Utah needs to join forces with other Western states if it wants to avoid being overrun by trucks carrying nuclear waste, state officials say.
A committee formed late last year by Gov. Norm Bangerter recommends the governor appoint a full-time representative to work with the federal government and other states.Otherwise, the small amount of nuclear waste traveling through the state may grow to almost 3,000 tons per year if a nuclear waste dump is established in Nevada.
"If in fact a repository is located in Nevada . . . it will have significant transportation impacts in Utah," John T. Nielsen, Utah public safety commissioner and chairman of the committee, said Thursday.
Representatives from Pacific states are meeting to decide how to handle the issue. The U.S. Department of Energy is studying Yucca Mountain, Nev., as a possible site for the first high-level nuclear dump.
"We need to have someone pres-ent at those meetings to make sure the needs of Utah are met," Nielsen said.
Nielsen presented the committee's recommendations to Bangerter on Thursday. The governor called the federal government's desire to put a nuclear dump in a Western state a "quick political fix."
Most nuclear waste is generated in the East, he said. "The best solution would be to store waste safely near where it's produced," he said.
Bangerter said he has requested legislation that would require trucks carrying nuclear waste to pay fees. Such a move, however, should be made with neighboring states.
If Utah acts alone in setting fees, the state's transportation industry could be harmed, he said.
Bangerter will be discussing fees and other nuclear issues at a meeting of Western governors in Seattle later this month.
The committee's report said the state would need $67,000 to pay for a representative on nuclear issues.
Although nuclear waste issues are not on the governor's agenda for next week's special legislative session, Bangerter said he may decide to include some matters.
He wants legislators to allow Utah to join the Pacific States Agreement on Radioactive Transportation Management, a group of Western states cooperating on nuclear-waste management.
The committee also recommended that it continue to meet periodically to plan the state's response to various issues involved in transporting radioactive wastes.