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Envirocare’s ‘hot’ plan not entirely cold

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Envirocare of Utah's plan to dispose of "hotter" radioactive waste may be on the back burner for now, but it hasn't gone away.

The company has until July 9, 2006, to seek legislative and governor approval. Although Envirocare has announced it won't seek political approval at this time, it has no plans to withdraw its application.

"We don't want to go through that process again," said Envirocare spokesman Tim Barney. "The license is valid for five years, and we have literally spent millions of dollars pursuing it."

Meanwhile, the Attorney General's Office is reviewing whether the appeals process would move forward.

Envirocare announced Monday that it is delaying its plan to accept radioactive wastes that can be thousands of times hotter than it currently takes at its landfill in remote Tooele County. The decision came shortly after Bill Sinclair, director of Utah Division of Radiation Control, determined that the company's plan meets all the technical requirements of state and federal law and issued a license contingent on political approval.

Opponents were stunned at Envirocare's decision. They had hoped the state would kill the proposal.

"It's startling to me," said Claire Geddes, spokeswoman for Utah Legislative Watch. "I'm concerned (Envirocare) got its license."

Geddes' group has notified the Utah Division of Radiation Control that it plans to file an appeal.

But it's unclear whether the administrative appeal process before the Utah Radiation Control Board would move forward.

"We're kind of in limbo land," Sinclair said. However, he stressed that people have until Aug. 7 to appeal his decision. "We don't want to discourage anyone from appealing," he added.

Envirocare is prepared to support Sinclair's decision in an appeals hearing.

"It is our view the process does not stop," said Barney. After the appeal, the company then would hold off on seeking legislation to pursue its plan.

"There are people who think this is some kind of smokescreen. It's not," he added.

Because of the state's strong opposition to the Skull Valley Band of Goshute tribe proposal to store spent fuel from nuclear power plants, Envirocare has said it would be difficult receiving approval.

It's a sentiment that Gov. Mike Leavitt has indicated to company officials, Barney said.

During some informal talks, Barney said Leavitt told Envirocare officials that he is concerned about the public perception if he approved Envirocare's proposal yet remains adamantly opposed to the Goshute project.

"But we have had members of the Legislature call us to say they are upset with our decision, that they are very supportive of it," Barney said. However, he added, Envirocare has told lawmakers there are no plans now to seek legislation endorsing the project.

E-MAIL: donna@desnews.com