NRC delays decision on waste import application

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Monday it is delaying a decision on whether to allow EnergySolutions Inc. to import the largest-ever amount of nuclear waste into the U.S.

The NRC said it will wait until a federal court decides whether an interstate compact can block disposal of the waste in Utah.

The Salt Lake City-based company wants to bring the 20,000 tons of low-level waste from Italy through the ports of Charleston, S.C., or New Orleans for processing in Tennessee. After processing, about 1,600 tons would be disposed at the company's dump in the western Utah desert.

The proposal has drawn a record number of public comments - most in opposition to the plan.

Utah joined the Northwest Interstate Compact on Low-level Radioactive Waste in 1982 under a plan by Congress to promote regional solutions for low-level waste. When EnergySolutions, then called Envirocare of Utah, sought to accept low-level waste in 1991, the state backed the company.

But at Utah's urging, the eight-state compact ruled earlier this year that EnergySolutions can only use its dump for domestic waste, not foreign waste.

However, EnergySolutions contended the compact has no authority over operations at its landfill in Tooele County about 70 miles west of Salt Lake City and has filed a federal lawsuit asking for a judge's ruling on the issue. Utah has agreed to become a defendant in that lawsuit.

It was unclear Monday when a court would make a ruling on that case.

"We look forward to a judge making the ruling," said Jill Sigal, senior vice president of government relations for EnergySolutions.

Sigal said the company had hoped to begin importing the waste this year.

"We respect (the NRC's) decision," she said. "We don't view this as a setback."

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