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Cone paints self as radiation watchdog

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

His position on Utah’s Radiation Control Board may compel Oakley resident Patrick Cone to grill officials like those who once employed him in the uranium-mining industry.

"But I don’t represent the nuclear industry," Cone insists.

The former Summit County commissioner says he instead represents the public on the 13-member committee that oversees the state’s Division of Radiation Control.

Citing reasons Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. might have appointed him to serve a second term on the board for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, Cone said, "I have a little bit of a background in the radiation industry, plus, I’ve been in government."

Having begun his career exploring for gold, copper and uranium in the West, Cone was reappointed to the state’s radiation board in July after he was selected last spring to serve the remainder of a term for a board member who resigned.

"Our job is not to provide answers, but to ask questions," Cone said.

As a member of the committee, Cone toured a facility in New Mexico that stores spent nuclear fuel rods. This month he will visit a nuclear testing site in Nevada and a facility for radioactive-waste disposal at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain.

He fears radioactive waste could spill onto Interstate 80 in Summit County as the material is trucked through Utah.

"I think it’s a legitimate concern," he said. "Our interstates tend to go right through population centers."

With firms currently storing low-level radioactive waste in Utah, Cone is against disposing of more toxic substances in the state.

"No one I have talked to is in favor of bringing nuclear waste here," he said.

The Tooele firm, Energy Solutions, which stores radioactive waste, is attempting to expand its facility near Utah’s Great Basin, Cone said.

"When the Legislature gave the radioactive waste permit to [Energy Solutions] they had certain limits," he said. "The Legislature gave them certain limits on the money they could spend, the size of the facility and the amount of nuclear waste they could take in."

Meanwhile, the Utah Radiation Control Board is made up of nuclear regulators, representatives from the waste-management industry and scientists who oversee Utah’s nuclear industry, Cone said, adding that he filled one of two at-large seats on the board.

"I wanted people to know that they have somebody on the board that they can approach," Cone said, adding that his term expires in July of 2010.

The board’s next meeting is scheduled Sept. 8 at 2 p.m. at the Department of Environmental Quality in Salt Lake City.


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