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Health, Science & Environment

Justice Department Sues To Block Utah RadWaste Company From Merger

EnergySolutions_truck.jpg
Courtesy
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EnergySolutions Inc.
Utah-based EnergySolutions Inc. and its competitor in 36 states want to merge, but the U.S. Justice Department says there's an antitrust issue with the proposed deal.

Salt Lake City-based EnergySolutions Inc. announced plans a year ago to buy a Texas company, Waste Control Specialists.

The companies share a niche: They both dispose of all kinds of radioactive waste except for used nuclear fuel. The Justice Department says a merger would basically create a monopoly in 36 states, and it’s filed suit to block EnergySolutions from buying its biggest competitor.

“If I were a utility or a hospital or another entity that had to find a market for where to ship my nuclear waste,” says Matt Pacenza, director of the environmental group, HEAL Utah, “I was probably pretty concerned that it looked like the only competition out there was going to go away.”

He says a merger could be good for Utah because of “depleted uranium,” a kind of waste that gets hotter over time. EnergySolutions wants to bury 700,000 tons of it in Utah, but Pacenza says that waste should go instead to a Waste Control Specialists site.

“The Texas facility has more engineering,” says Pacenza. “They bury material deeper into the ground, and it does seem to be a better site for more troubling waste streams.”

An EnergySolutions spokesman declined to discuss the suit. But a news release says both companies will “vigorously defend” their union.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department is equally determined. Its news release says competition means lower prices and better service for customers.

The case is now before a federal court in Delaware.

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