The Trump administration’s Department of Energy on Wednesday announced plans to reclassify dangerous, high-level radioactive waste as low-level in a move that has sparked alarm among environmental advocates. The plan would shift authority over toxic waste disposal to the federal government, making it easier to transfer the high-level radioactive waste to new sites. The change would effect more than 100 million gallons of high-level waste currently stored in South Carolina, Washington, and Idaho, allowing it to be shipped to low-level nuclear waste disposal sites in the deserts of Utah and Texas, according to the National Resource Defense Council. The DOE says the move would also save $40 billion in cleanup costs. The reclassification would only occur after a thorough analysis and environmental studies, according to the DOE.
The change was immediately criticized by the NRDC, as well as some government officials in the affected states. Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D) and Attorney General Bob Ferguson released a statement condemning the administration’s actions. “The Trump Administration is showing disdain and disregard for state authority with these actions,” the statement read. “The Trump administration is moving to fundamentally alter more than 50 years of national consensus on how the most toxic and radioactive waste in the world is managed and ultimately disposed of,” said Geoff Fettus, a senior attorney at NRDC, in a statement. “No matter what they call it, this waste needs a permanent, well-protected disposal option to guard it for generations to come.”