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LEGISLATORS URGED TO BACK CALL FOR N-WASTE HEARINGS

An anti-nuclear activist told a legislative interim committee that it ought to support Gov. Norm Bangerter's call for hearings in Utah about the U.S. Department of Energy's plans to ship nuclear waste through the state.

Steve Erickson of the group Downwinders told the Transportation and Public Safety Committee that it should worry about 10,000 shipments of radioactive waste that the DOE plans to send through Utah over the next 25 years. The wastes, from atomic weapons factories and research facilities, are scheduled to be shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, 26 miles southeast of Carlsbad, N.M.Erickson spoke after two members of the committee gave glowing reports of the new WIPP facility, which they visited at the department's invitation. One of them, Rep. Lee Allen, R-Tremonton, said the waste to be shipped there is probably not much more radioactive "than your wrist watch."

"It's important to understand that transuranic wastes are not necessarily low-level wastes," Erickson said. Some can cause "severe health effects" if radioactive particles are inhaled, and some are even more dangerous, he said.

Hearings on the isolation plant and shipments of waste are scheduled for late this month and early June in five states, but not Utah.