Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Objections raised after Fernald fence removed

By Dan Klepal
Enquirer staff writer

CROSBY TWP. - A fence is causing the latest controversy at the long-closed Fernald uranium plant.

The $4.4 billion cleanup of the nuclear production site won't be finished for more than a year, and the most dangerous radioactive material is still being stored at the 1,000-acre facility. Yet crews recently removed the fence along Fernald's front property line, facing Willey Road.

"They've got the site completely open," said Ralph Hennard, president of Local 14, the security guards' union at the site. "Anyone can circumvent security at the site now. They say it's an acceptable risk, but I live within five miles of the site, and it's not acceptable to me."

Officials with the Department of Energy, which oversees the cleanup, say it's no risk at all. Gary Stegner, DOE spokesman, said the woven-wire barrier was not a "security fence" and its removal isn't a problem. But he did say the radioactive waste from three concrete storage silos is still on site, and that material is not enclosed by any fence or barricade.

"The fence had to come down sometime, and we had the resources to do it now," Stegner said, adding that there is no requirement for a fence at the site.

"We sent letters to the township trustees and nearby land owners, and they had no issues with it," Stegner said.

Others do.

Lisa Crawford, one of the nearby residents who has been keeping an eye on the cleanup for more than two decades, said before the fence came down that it would have been difficult for someone to drive back to the silos without being detected.

Now?

"A fence is a deterrent," she said. "They're not done out there, and they shouldn't have taken the fence down until they're done."

Managers with the government contractor performing the cleanup at Fernald on Tuesday gave a public update on the work completed.

More than 400 acres have been restored to natural wild lands.

The most radioactive material at the site, which was stored in silos 1 and 2, has been transferred to four 750,000-gallon metal storage tanks, where it will sit until crews begin mixing it with fly ash and cement. That process won't begin until the government finds a place to ship it.

E-mail dklepal@enquirer.com




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