California Radioactive Materials Management Forum

Goals and Activities for 2002

By Dr. Alan Pasternak, Technical Director


Cal Rad Forum is an association of organizations that use radioactive materials in the four states of the Southwestern Compact region (Host State California, Arizona, North Dakota, and South Dakota) or otherwise have an interest in the safe management and disposal of low-level radioactive waste. Our public and private member organizations include universities; utilities with nuclear power plants; industries (including biotech and pharmaceutical); medical centers; and professional societies in medicine, radiation safety, and engineering.


Cal Rad Forum works 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, based on sound science and regulation, for our member organizations in the Southwestern Compact region in both the near-term and long-term. We are also working to bring to the political process the goal of sound regulation based on sound science for other aspects of radioactive materials management including facility decommissioning and license termination; safe disposal of very low-level waste materials; and responsible data reporting, tracking, and dissemination. This describes our effort in opposition to non-science based legislation introduced in the California Legislature this year.

Cal Rad's near-term goals:

Disposal facilities in only two states, Utah and South Carolina, accept low-level radioactive waste from the Southwestern Compact region. In order to assure the ability of users of radioactive materials to continue to dispose of their radioactive waste at these facilities, as long as Utah and South Carolina are willing to accept our waste, 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 (one member each) 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 former Supervisor from San Bernardino County and Dr. Robert Lull of the University of California at San Francisco, 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 two years. We have lobbied both the administration and Legislature urging that these vacancies be promptly filled.

2. Cal Rad continues to examine the possibility that the U.S. Department of Energy might 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. A recent DOE Inspector General's report notes that DOE low-level waste disposal facilities are underutilized. The previous administration in Washington was not receptive to requests for interim access to DOE facilities that were made by Cal Rad, the California Department of Health Services in 1998, or the Southwestern Compact Commission in 1999. 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 (June 2000) which was chaired by University of California President Richard Atkinson.

Other near-term activities:

1. Litigation

Cal Rad is not engaged in litigation at the present time but we continue to carefully monitor litigation in California and elsewhere that bears upon implementation of the federal Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act.

Two years ago, US Ecology, the State of California's licensee, sued the State seeking recovery of monetary damages and a writ of mandate 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. Last fall, the California Supreme Court upheld an Appellate Court ruling that US Ecology may pursue its damages claim against the State, but not the mandamus action, and remanded the case to District Court in San Diego. Cal Rad is not a party to the lawsuit, but is on record with a friend of the court brief. Our amicus brief 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. Discovery is expected to begin this summer, and the case may go to trial in early 2003.

Cal Rad is carefully tracking developments in two lawsuits in other regions:

  1. At the end of May 2002, the States of Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, and Virginia and the Southeast Compact Commission sued the State of North Carolina in federal Court. The lawsuit alleges that North Carolina has not fulfilled its responsibility to develop a disposal facility for the compact region. Plaintiffs seek recovery of monetary damages. Because the suit involves states as plaintiffs and defendants, it is expected that the United States Supreme Court will take original jurisdiction.
  2. The Central States Compact Commission has sued the State of Nebraska for failure to license a new regional disposal facility. Nebraska asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the case on the grounds of sovereign immunity, but the Supreme Court rejected this request. Trial began this spring.

Organizations that use radioactive materials and compact commissions throughout the country are watching the Southeast and Central States lawsuits closely. They may establish a model for similar actions in other regions to force reluctant host states to fulfill their statutory and contractual obligations

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

Envirocare of Utah's efforts to expand its license at the Clive, Utah disposal facility were put on hold last year. The Utah facility is licensed to dispose of most Class A low-level waste, and Envirocare sought a license amendment to dispose of waste Classes B and C also.* Although Utah's regulators approved the license amendment, State law also requires approval of both the Legislature and the Governor. This approval was not given.

Recently, an effort to qualify a ballot initiative in Utah was begun. ("Radioactive Waste Restrictions Act.") The proposed initiative would forbid disposal of Class B and C waste and impose large fee increases with the revenue to be used for education and other public purposes. A former Governor of Utah, among others, leads the initiative campaign.

At Barnwell, South Carolina, allowable out-of-compact waste volumes were cut in half for the fiscal year that began July 1, 2001 pursuant to South Carolina law. These volumes will continue to decline until July 1, 2008 when disposal of waste from outside the Atlantic Compact (South Carolina, Connecticut, and New Jersey) will cease.

Thirty-six states, including the four states of the Southwestern Compact, lack assured access to low-level waste disposal facilities. On our present course, the ability to dispose of waste classes B and C generated by organizations in California, Arizona, North Dakota, and South Dakota will cease on July 1, 2008. And, at that time, the State of Utah will have a monopoly on disposal of Class A waste. Roughly 97 percent, by volume, of the Southwestern Compact region's waste is presently disposed of in Utah. But the 3 percent that is sent to South Carolina contains about 98 percent of the radioactivity.

3. Pending Cal;ifornia Legislation

In late February 2002, four bills were introduced in the California Legislature that relate to radioactive waste. Assembly Bill 2214 and Senate Bills 1444, 1623 (now SB 1970), and 2065 all have the potential to seriously injure the interests of corporations and institutions that use radioactive materials in California and, in the case of AB 2214, in the entire Southwestern Compact region. They will also harm the well-being of the citizens of California (and, again, in the case of AB 2214, the citizens of the compact region) whose economies and health depend on the beneficial uses of radioactive materials. Some of the same organizations sponsoring or supporting these measures have, in past years, litigated against the proposed Ward Valley project; and some have openly opposed society’s beneficial uses of radioactive materials.

SB 1444 (Kuehl) would establish an unnecessarily low, clean-up-to-background standard for facility decommissioning and license termination.

SB 1970 (Romero), as well as SB 1444, would preempt regulatory discretion and require, with few exceptions, wastes with any measurable level of radioactivity above background to be disposed of at a licensed low-level radioactive waste disposal facility.

SB 2065 (Kuehl) would require extensive, detailed, and duplicative reports on low-level waste generated and stored in, or shipped from, California.

AB 2214 (Keeley) would make it impossible to develop, in California, a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility that satisfies U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission requirements. The bill would withdraw authorization for the California Department of Health Services to acquire the Ward Valley site from the federal government and prohibit the development of the already-licensed regional disposal facility at that location. This provision would set back development of a safe disposal facility by at least thirteen years. As introduced, the bill also established prescriptive standards for a radioactive waste facility that describe a storage, not a disposal facility. As amended, Cal Rad believes that provisions of the bill still conflict with NRC requirements for safe disposal of low-level radioactive waste.

Cal Rad Forum, many other associations , and organizations that use radioactive materials are actively opposing AB 2214 and Senate Bills 1444, 1970, and 2065 in the Legislature. The costs of compliance with SB 1444 and 1970 would be huge. The Southwestern Compact Commission has registered its opposition to AB 2214. Representatives of Cal Rad and other groups have also advised Governor Davis’ staff of the serious detrimental consequences of these bills. More detailed arguments in opposition to these bills can be found elsewhere on this web site.

Long-term goal:

Cal Rad's long-term goal is assurance of safe disposal capacity at reasonable rates, and under sound regulation and science, for organizations that use radioactive materials and generate low-level waste in the Southwestern Compact region. Without a regional disposal facility, we will soon be unable to dispose of low-level waste classes B and C and have only one facility (in Utah) to which Class A waste can be sent. This is a politically and economically 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 federal Ward Valley lands to the State or otherwise provide a safe, regional disposal facility. We hope the new administration in Washington, DC may provide new opportunities for this or other long-term solutions to safe disposal of low-level radioactive waste.

Public Information Activities:

Cal Rad played an active role in the annual Waste Management 2001 Symposium in Tucson in February 2001. 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. The luncheon talk at the Tucson symposium was the basis for an article in the May, 2001 issue of Radwaste Solutions A year earlier Radwaste Solutions featured an article be Donna Earley of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center who was, at that time, Chair of Cal Rad. On April 9, 2002, the San Diego Union-Tribune published an opinion article by Pasternak, “Disposing of Radioactive Waste,” which described the precarious outlook for states of the Southwestern Compact and other regions


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

American College of Nuclear Physicians - California Chapter
Arizona State University
Amgen, Inc.
Beckman Coulter, Inc.
Berlix Biosciences
California Radiological Society
California Society of Pathologists
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
General Atomics Company
General Electric Company
Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation
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.
Torrey Mesa Research Institute / Syngenta Research & Technology
University of Arizona
University of California


For information about corporate, institutional, or individual membership and dues, please contact Cal Rad’s Treasurer, Mr. Gary Stimmell, at 925/447-7140 OR Cal Rad’s Technical Director, Dr. Alan Pasternak, at 925/283-5210.

July 2002