California Radioactive Materials Management Forum

Goals for 2001

By Dr. Alan Pasternak, Technical Director


Cal Rad Forum is working to encourage state and federal government officials to pursue policies on low-level radioactive waste disposal that will assure the availability of safe disposal capacity for our member organizations in the Southwestern Compact region in both the near-term and long-term.

Cal Rad's near-term goals:

1. In order to assure the ability of users of radioactive materials in the four-state Southwestern Compact region (Arizona, California, North Dakota, and South Dakota) to continue to ship low-level radioactive waste to disposal facilities in other regions that still accept LLRW we are urging the Governor of California and his administration to promptly fill the two California vacancies on the Southwestern Compact Commission.

The Commission positions representing Arizona, North Dakota, and South Dakota are filled. Two of the four California positions are vacant. Under the compact law, a two-thirds vote is required to approve petitions to export waste for disposal outside the Southwestern Compact region. With only five members, the Commission now has merely the bare number required to approve such petitions. A Supervisor from San Bernardino County and Dr. Robert Lull of UCSF, a member of the Cal Rad Board of Directors, hold two positions on the Commission. The two other California positions have been vacant for well over a year. We have lobbied both the administration and Legislature urging that these vacancies be promptly filled.

2. Cal Rad continues to recommend that the Governor of California request the U.S. Department of Energy to provide access, at least on a near-term basis, to DOE disposal facilities in Washington and Nevada for safe disposal of the commercial LLRW generated in the Southwestern Compact region. Both the Department of Health Services (1998) and the Southwestern Compact Commission (1999) are on record in support of the proposal for interim access to DOE facilities. Access to DOE facilities is discussed as a possible national strategy in the report of the Governor's Advisory Group on Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal which was chaired by UC President Richard Atkinson.

The previous administration in Washington was not receptive to the requests for interim access made by Cal Rad, the Compact Commission, or the DHS. We will renew our request with the Bush administration and seek the support of Governor Davis and Governor Hull of Arizona. We will also ask the Compact Commission to renew its request to DOE and, last fall, we asked the

Department of Health Services to renew its request.

These two actions -- filling the vacancies on the Southwestern Commission and requesting access to DOE disposal facilities -- can be taken by the State of California now without waiting for resolution of pending litigation in state and federal courts.

Other near-term activities:

1. Litigation

US Ecology, the Stateís licensee, has sued the State of California seeking recovery of monetary damages and an order by the Courts instructing the Governor to pursue acquisition of federal lands in Ward Valley in the Mojave Desert for use as the site of the Southwestern Compact's regional disposal facility. At the present time, Cal Rad is not a party to the lawsuit but we have filed a friend of the court brief. Our amicus argues that any monetary damages due the licensee are the State of California's responsibility and should not be reflected in disposal fees or otherwise charged to waste generators. The trial court dismissed the US Ecology action, but US Ecology has appealed. We will continue to track and report developments in this lawsuit because they pertain both to the future of low-level waste disposal in California and to the financial interests of our member organizations.

Cal Rad is carefully tracking developments in two other lawsuits. 1) The Southeast Compact Commission has sued the State of North Carolina in federal court s. TheCommission complains that North Carolina has not fulfilled its responsibility to develop a disposal facility for the compact region and seeks recovery of monetary damages. 2) Organizations that use radioactive materials in the Central States Compact region and the Central States Compact Commission have sued the State of Nebraska in federal court for failing to perform its duties as host state for the Compact.

2. Status of Existing Facilities (Envirocare of Utah and Barnwell, South Carolina)

Cal Rad periodically reviews with both Utah regulators and representatives of Envirocare the status of Envirocare's application to the State of Utah for a license to dispose of Classes B and C LLRW. Regulators in Utah did not complete administrative licensing actions on Envirocare's application for a B, C license in time for the Utah Legislature to consider approval of the license in 2001. (Under Utah law, both the Legislature and the Governor must approve the license.) This means the earliest a B, C facility could be in operation is late 2002.

At Barnwell, allowable out-of-compact waste volumes will be cut in half beginning July 1, 2001, and we have reviewed with officials in South Carolina their plans for allocation of limited disposal capacity thereafter. Allocations will be based on disposal volumes and fees during the 2000-2001 fiscal year. We recently provided our members with details on the situation in both Utah and South Carolina.

Long-term goals:

Cal Rad's long-term goal is assurance of safe disposal capacity at reasonable rates for organizations that use radioactive materials and generate low-level waste in the Southwestern Compact region. Without a regional disposal facility, the best-case scenario -- in which Envirocare of Utah receives a B, C license while Barnwell phases-down as a national disposal facility and eventually restricts access to members of the Atlantic Compact -- will be thirty-six states dependent on one state (Utah) for disposal of their LLRW. This is a politically unstable situation. The State of California needs to fulfill its obligations as host state for the Southwestern Compact.

Cal Rad has urged, and will continue to urge, the California Department of Health Services to convene its longstanding, statutory Advisory Committee to develop a plan of action for low-level waste disposal consistent with state and federal statutes and regulations and the needs of organizations that use radioactive materials in the four-state Southwestern Compact region. We will continue to urge the State of California to seek transfer of the Ward Valley lands to the State or otherwise provide a safe, regional disposal facility. Again, the election of a new administration in Washington, DC may provide us some new opportunities for this or other long-term solutions to safe disposal of low-level radioactive waste. Now that the new Secretaries of the Interior and Energy are in place, we will contact them to discuss both near-term and long-term solutions.

Public Information Activities:

Cal Rad played an active role in the annual Waste Management 2001 Symposium in Tucson in February. Our technical Director, Dr. Alan Pasternak, delivered the luncheon talk on the opening day of the conference and organized a workshop to be held the same day. Both the luncheon talk and the workshop covered low-level waste politics and policy options. Workshop participants included representatives of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Southeast and Southwestern Compact Commissions, the Nuclear Energy Institute, and the California licensee US Ecology.

We recently developed electronic distribution for our newsletter, Straight Talk. The latest issue of the newsletter can now be seen on the Cal Rad web site.


A list of Cal Rad Forum's corporate and institutional members follows:

American College of Nuclear Physicians - California Chapter
American Nuclear Society, Northern California Section
Arizona Public Service Company
Arizona State University
Amgen, Inc.
Beckman Coulter, Inc.
Berlix Biosciences
California Radiological Society
California Society of Pathologists
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
City of Colton
General Atomics Company
General Electric Company
ICN Pharmaceuticals
Isotope Products Laboratories
Ligand Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Moravek Biochemicals, Inc.
Northern States Power Company
Nuclear Energy Institute
NWT Corporation
Roche Bioscience
Southern California Edison Company
Stanford University
Thomas Gray & Associates, Inc.
University of Arizona
University of California


Both the financial support and the active participation of Cal Rad members can play an important role in achieving the objectives that we are working for. We do not underestimate the difficulties. We are working in an area which, unfortunately, is filled with political and emotional controversy. The support and participation of our members will enable Cal Rad to continue our work and achieve our mutual goals. For information about corporate, institutional, or individual membership and dues, please contact Cal Radís Technical Director, Dr. Alan Pasternak, at 925/283-5210..

March 2001