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N-WASTE BILL IN WYOMING IS CRITICIZED

A nuclear expert formerly with the Environmental Protection Agency says he is concerned about an effort to push a nuclear-waste siting bill through the Wyoming Legislature.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Land Management's state headquarters in Cheyenne, Wyo., confirms American Nuclear Corp. has contacted it about purchasing BLM land near Lander for a nuclear disposal site.The Wyoming House has already approved the bill, and it has passed on reading in the Senate. It would allow the development of a waste site to compete with Utah's Envirocare facility, located in the Tooele County desert.

The legislative session ends this week, so time is short for passage of the bill.

Don Hendricks, the former director of EPA's office of Radiation Program at Las Vegas, spoke with the Deseret News by telephone on Tuesday, criticizing the Wyoming bill. He retired from the EPA in 1981 and since then has worked as a consultant for the federal government, the state of Wyoming and private business.

Last week, environmentalists paid Hendricks to speak before the Wyoming Legislature about the measure. Because of the press of business, he said, he was given only a few minutes to speak.

"Basically, it is not a well-written bill," he told the Deseret News. "It does not define the type of waste that they can take up there."

The bill does not limit the number of waste-disposal sites that could be set up. At least two companies have expressed interest in locating such facilities in Wyoming, he said.

"To further complicate matters, they do not have any sort of radiation-control program, like the state of Utah and almost all the other 50 states have," Hendricks said. "They have no radiation staff, they have no radiation programs in place."

Siting a nuclear facility would be accomplished under regulations that cover solid-waste landfills. According to the regulations covering such landfills, a decision on whether to issue a permit must be made within 120 days of applications.

Typically, a site evaluation for nuclear waste must take years, said Hendricks, who helped Envirocare draft some of its license applications.

If Wyoming is forced to make a decision within 120 days of the bill's passage, he and other experts fear that will not be long enough to write state regulations and get a staff in place.

The bill attempts to overcome these obstacles by charging would-be siting concerns a $45,000 preapplication fee, with which consultants would be hired. And Hendricks said one possible amendment to the bill would require a 10-month delay before an application is approved.

"It (the bill) seems to be in a state of flux," he said.

Asked to summarize the situation, he said, "It's a pretty minimal bill. I think they could have spent a lot more thought on the bill.

"For reasons I'm not privy to, there certainly is an effort to rush this thing through . . . It's a very minimal and confusing bill; it needs to be redrafted."