Utah Gov. Gary Herbert objects to Utah being a disposal site for foreign radioactive waste, but he will not be throwing his support behind federal legislation to ban waste imports.

The Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL) asked the Republican governor to write a letter last week in support of the Radioactive Import Deterrence Act, dubbed "RID," a bill co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, to outlaw the importation of foreign waste nationally. Next Friday a House plans a hearing on the bill.

"He is not taking a position on the RID Act," said Herbert spokeswoman, Angie Welling. "But his position on the storage of foreign waste has been made repeatedly: He's opposed to it."

The flap over foreign waste began two years ago, after Salt Lake City-based EnergySolutions Inc. applied for a federal permit to import 20,000 tons of waste from Italy's nuclear reactor cleanups, process the waste at a company-owned plant in Tennessee and bury the remainder at a company-owned disposal site in Tooele County, about 80 miles west of Salt Lake City.

Not only is the largest foreign waste-import request the nation's ever seen, but it also has become the most controversial, triggering thousands of letters in opposition and a federal lawsuit that is on appeal.

Last year the Utah Radiation Control Board urged members of Congress and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to establish a consistent national policy on waste imports, noting "any country that has the technological capability of producing nuclear power within its borders should not seek to dispose of its waste outside them. Development of nuclear power should go hand in hand with development of disposal options."

Neither of Utah's U.S. senators is a cosponsor of the foreign waste ban. Nor is U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, a former lobbyist for the Utah waste site. Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Matheson, a Democrat, support the move.

HEAL Director Vanessa Pierce knocked Herbert for a "nuanced position on the issue" at a time when the company has taken a multi-pronged approach to winning support for its foreign waste plans -- efforts that include a profit-sharing deal with the state that is supported by some House leaders.

"It's hard to understand how you can oppose foreign waste," said Pierce, "and yet not support a bill to ban foreign waste."