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Health, Science & Environment

Utah-based Nuclear-Waste Company Shifts Strategies

EnergySolutions is making some changes that will give it a virtual lock on the market for radioactive waste services needed in 39 states.

Salt Lake City-based EnergysSolutions announced big changes last week that could affect its Utah operations.

Homegrown EnergySolutions operates a radioactive waste landfill in Tooele County that’s been the nation’s busiest for decades. On Tuesday, officials announced they were selling the company’s foreign operations. Then on Thursday they said they’re buying the company’s  biggest U.S. competitor, Texas-based Waste Control Specialists.  Each deal was worth over three-hundred million dollars.

Spokesman Mark Walker says the moves make EnergySolutions more customer-friendly and able to provide a full range of waste services at, say, a nuclear reactor.

“To be able to go into that plant and say, ‘You know what, we’re able to meet all of your needs,’ is a benefit industry-wide,” he says.

One way to understand the latest deal is to think about household waste: each type has its own place, like the toilet, the garbage can and the recycling bin.

If antitrust regulators approve the Waste Control Specialist purchase, EnergySolutions will have special facilities around the country to handle just about every kind of nuclear waste. For instance, state law bars EnergySolutions from burying higher-concentration waste in Utah, but the Texas landfill is equipped for it.

“EnergySolutions has clearly decided to concentrate its future in nuclear waste disposal in the United States and own as many pieces of the puzzle as they can,” says Matt Pacenza, director of the environmental advocacy group, HEAL Utah.

EnergySolutions might even be able to use the Texas site someday as a kind of long-term parking lot for containers of spent reactor fuel, if the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approves that pending WCS proposal. Pacenza says the merger could mean EnergySolutions will also scrap controversial plans in Utah.

“We are hopeful that EnergySolutions will, in fact, realize that it doesn’t make sense to continue to invest time and money in Utah to get approval for depleted uranium when a site that they very well soon may own can take it right now,” he says.

The company and its employees have made more than one-point-five million dollars in political contributions nationally in the past decade, according to the Follow the Money web site.

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