May 3, 2002

To Members of the California Assembly:

Cal Rad Forum Requests A “No” Vote on AB 2214 The California Radioactive Materials Management Forum (Cal Rad Forum) respectfully requests a “no” vote on AB 2214 (Keeley).
AB 2214 would reject the lawfully licensed Ward Valley site for a needed, and legally required, low-level radioactive waste disposal facility and specify requirements for a facility that conflict with U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations. The proposed requirements in AB 2214 describe an interim storage facility, not a disposal facility.

The Proposed, Safe, Ward Valley Site.
Just as we would not think it appropriate to ask the Legislature to select and approve a site for a low-level radioactive waste disposal facility, so we believe it a mistake for the Legislature to reject a lawfully approved site.
Every state and federal agency with jurisdiction has approved the Ward Valley site. In addition, the National Academy of Sciences, in a special report issued in 1995, rejected opponents’ arguments. In 1993, the California Department of Health Services licensed Ward Valley, and our State courts upheld the license and EIR. Favorable findings were rendered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (favorable joint EIR/EIS and a Supplemental EIS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (two favorable biological opinions), and the U.S. Geological Survey (favorable comparison with other sites). In commenting on the Draft Environmental Impact Report/Statement, the League of Women Voters of California wrote, “We are pleased that the site and the siting process meet our goals of maximum protection for public health and the environment and of citizen participation in the decision-making process at all levels of government.”

AB 2214 Describes an Interim Storage Facility, Not a Disposal Facility.
AB 2214 would establish new, unnecessary performance and prescriptive requirements for a low-level waste facility. These requirements would not meet the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s requirements for a safe facility. (Title 10 Part 61 of the Code of Federal Regulations.) The Southwestern Low-Level Radioactive Waste Compact Commission has commented, ”…AB 2214 would set criteria for what appears to be a storage facility.” (Letter to the Assembly Appropriations Committee; April 18, 2002.) The Commission notes that a storage facility would be available to the entire country whereas use of a regional disposal facility would be restricted to the four states of the Compact. California’s statutory and contractual obligation under the Compact (P.L. 100-712) is to “Cause a regional disposal facility to be developed on a timely basis.” (Emphasis added.)

Fiscal Impact.
The fiscal impact of AB 2214 on the State would be between $150 and 300 million. If, as proposed by AB 2214, the Legislature rejects the Ward Valley proposal, the State will have to pay for any future facility. The State’s current licensee, US Ecology, Inc., has funded the costs to date of site selection, characterization, license application preparation, etc. The company says it is prepared to finance completion of the Ward Valley disposal project. However, it has sued the State because, in 1999, the State ceased efforts to acquire the site from the federal government. (The cost of site acquisition will also be borne by the licensee.) After US Ecology’s experience, no private company will risk its own funds on another effort. Under existing law (Chapter 1177, Statutes of 1983) if no private developer steps forward, then the job falls to the Resources Agency. If AB 2214 is enacted, the State would wind up bearing the upfront costs for two facilities: the facility still needed to meet disposal needs and the State of California’s obligations plus the licensee’s expenditures for Ward Valley.

Cal Rad believes that governmental decisions on safe disposal of low-level radioactive waste should be based on sound science and regulation. These criteria prevailed in the licensing of the proposed Ward Valley project. We respectfully urge the Assembly to vote “no” on AB 2214.

Alan Pasternak

cc: Cal Rad Forum Member Organizations
Cal Rad Forum Board of Directors