NOTE : Emphasis added

Sunday, October 3, 2004

Fernald waste still needs home

Nevada's opposition forces search for alternative dumping areas

By Dan Klepal
Cincinnati Enquirer staff writer

CROSBY TWP. - The federal government is shopping around for a new place to dump 50-year-old nuclear waste from Fernald's three concrete storage silos.

Cleaning the three "K-65" silos at Fernald is the most complicated and dangerous project at the long-closed uranium plant in northwest Hamilton County. The plant has been the focus of a decade-long cleanup that has included hauling away millions of tons of contaminated dirt, cleaning an underground lake, disposing of radioactive building debris plus thousands of barrels filled with hazardous materials.

The government had planned to dump the silo waste in the Nevada desert, 70 miles outside Las Vegas. But state officials there threatened in April to file a lawsuit to stop that plan, which they say is illegal and unsafe.

Department of Energy officials wrote a letter last week to the contractor managing the $4.4 billion cleanup, directing the company to identify places capable of storing or accepting for disposal millions of pounds of nuclear waste that have been held at Fernald since the 1950s. A report on the alternatives is due Friday.

Energy officials insist they can legally dispose of the waste in Nevada, but have made no progress toward a resolution. They have promised Nevada a 45-day notice before waste shipments begin.

Bill Taylor, the Energy Department's director at Fernald, said the public will have a say if the disposal plan changes.

"Although a formal public comment period is not required ... DOE is committed to continuing full public participation and will have a 30-day public comment period and public hearing," Taylor wrote to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Bob Loux, director of Nevada's Nuclear Waste Project office, said there have been no discussions with the federal government on a possible solution.

"We've just been sitting tight and waiting to see if they give us the 45-day notice," said Loux, whose office reports to the governor. "I think this is recognition that Nevada's legal position is correct."

Nevada's threatened lawsuit came just weeks before shipments of powdery waste from Silo 3 were to begin.

The legal dispute has put on hold that work, while the contractor continues on "standby,'' ready to begin removing the waste on two-weeks' notice.

The decision to keep the crew on standby has cost taxpayers about $200,000, without an ounce of the waste being removed.

The more highly radioactive waste in silos 1 and 2 is being transferred into temporary holding tanks and will eventually be mixed with concrete for shipping. That waste also was to be buried in Nevada.

Dennis Carr, manager of the silos project for contractor Fluor Fernald, said the earliest a decision could be made on alternative disposal sites is the end of February.


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