SALT LAKE CITY — Critics who assailed the pending appointment of an EnergySolutions employee to the Radiation Control Board are pleased his name has been withdrawn, but said Thursday it is only one step on a long path of reform necessary in oversight of the industry.
“Clearly it never made any sense for an EnergySolutions executive to serve on the state's principal nuclear waste policy body," said Christopher Thomas, executive director of HEAL Utah, an anti-nuclear activist group. “Now we must turn to the fundamental issues raised in the audit to ensure that state regulators are adequately monitoring the company and protecting Utah from nuclear risks.”
The reaction comes after Dan Shrum, senior vice president of regulatory affairs for EnergySolutions, withdrew his name for appointment to the Radiation Control Board.
Company spokesman Mark Walker said Shrum stepped aside because the attention being generated has become too much of distraction. He added that the company feared it would compromise the ability of the eight-member board to function at its most efficient level.
"We want this board to be an effective board that accomplishes what it has been set out to do," Walker said. "It has nothing to do with the audit and everything to do with the Radiation Control Board being able to function at its highest level."
Shrum's late July nomination to the board by Gov. Gary Herbert had already stoked controversy in the face of EnergySolutions' critics who claimed having Shrum on the policy-making board would be akin to having the fox guarding the hen house.
His confirmation to the board by a vote of the Utah Senate was delayed last month after critics raised their objections and a hearing had been set for Sept. 18 before the Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Confirmation Committee.
On Tuesday, when a legislative audit ripped the Division of Radiation Control's lack of regulatory oversight of EnergySolutions, the controversy over Shrum's appointment took on new fervor, and Herbert said Wednesday it would be "prudent" to reconsider the appointment given the audit's findings.
In the midst of all the ensuing uproar, Walker said the company figured it was best to step out of the fray and withdraw Shrum's name from consideration, which, he added, is regrettable.
"Dan would be an effective member. He would offer up very good advice and there is no one in the industry with qualifications like Dan Shrum," Walker said. "He would do an incredible job for the people of the state of Utah as a member of the Radiation Control Board, but the attention it is drawing would draw away from the ability of the board to function at its highest level."
Sen. Ralph Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe, and chairman of the confirmation committee, said next week's meeting has been cancelled and members are waiting on the governor to see what happens next.
Another of the nominees, Sarah Fields from Uranium Watch, is on hold for consideration given Shrum's withdrawal. Uranium Watch is a citizens group opposed to the radioactive waste industry.
Okerlund said having someone from the advocacy side and the industry side as members of the board "seemed to balance one another out," so that too, for now, remains in flux.