Senator aims for radioactive waste fee
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Senator aims for radioactive waste fee

Date: February 20, 2007
By: Gavin Off
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A central Missouri senator is seeking to prevent the state from becoming a radioactive waste pipeline.

A bill, sponsored by Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Saline County, would charge companies $1,800 for each trucking container of high-level radioactive waste that enters the state. The state would charge companies $1,300 for the first railroad container holding high-level waste, and $125 for each additional rail container.


Much of the high-level radioactive material comes from depleted uranium from nuclear reactors. The quantity of material is expected to rise substantially when the federal government opens the permanent radioactive storage site in Utah.


Stouffer's bill would also charge companies a $125 fee for shipping low-level radioactive waste through Missouri.


"Basically, what we're trying to do is bring ourself up with other states around us, so we don't become the route of choice," Stouffer said. "If we're the free one, we're going to get it all."


Sen. Michael Gibbons, R-St. Louis County, sponsored a similar bill last year, but "I think it got lost in the process," Stouffer said.


State and local governments would use the money generated by the fees for inspecting and escorting radioactive waste shipments, and training and funding emergency response units.


State departments involved in overseeing radioactive shipments include the Transportation Department, Public Safety Department, Health Department, Natural Resource Department and the Missouri Highway Patrol.


"It (the fee) allows us to recoup the expenses," Stouffer said. "And that's the bottom line."


Before radioactive materials enter the state, the Transportation Department ensures the company follows all state and federal hazardous material transportation guidelines. It inspects the trucks, their logbooks and employee records, said DeAnne Bonnot, outreach coordinator for the department's Motor Carriers Service.


If the company passes inspection, the state issues it a one-year license, Bonnot said.


Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Greg Kindle said high-level radioactive waste shipments cross the state once or twice a year. Each time, highway patrol officers take radiological readings and inspect the truck's breaks and suspension. Four to five officers then escort the shipments, which typically head west toward Utah, Kindle said. 


Kindle said the shippers already reimburse the Highway Patrol for labor and patrol car use.


"We have a standard rate," Kindle said. "It's no different than we charge anyone else."


The Highway Patrol also escorts and charges companies that ship over-sized loads, such as houses and windmills.


Although the Patrol does not escort low-level radioactive waste transports, it does monitor their actions. Companies shipping low-level radioactive materials must notify the patrol of when and where they would enter the state, the route the truck would take, the truck's license plate number, the driver's name and what he or she is wearing.


Most of the trucks carrying waste use Interstate, 44, Interstate 57 and Interstate 70, said Edward Gray, with Missouri's State Emergency Management Agency.


Kindle said cobalt-60, the material hospitals use for X-Ray machines, is a common low-level radioactive material.


"The real impetus of this bill is Missouri is becoming the route of choice for nuclear waste," said Floyd Gilzow, Natural Resources Department deputy director.


Under Stouffer's bill, radioactive waste shipped by Missouri universities or the federal government for military or national defense reasons would not be assessed the fee.


Tom Crawford, president and CEO of the Missouri Motor Carriers Association, said because of the tight governmental regulations only two or three companies within the association haul radioactive waste.


Crawford said the association would watch the bill to make sure the fees are levied against the companies shipping the materials, and not the trucking companies hauling them.


"We're tracking it to make sure the language keeps the fee where its supposed to be," Crawford said.