Thursday, May 20, 2004

Arizona governor objects to Fernald waste shipments

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

CROSBY TOWNSHIP - Another roadblock has been raised - this time in Arizona - that could jeopardize the Department of Energy's plan to dispose of radioactive waste from three Fernald concrete silos in Nevada.

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano wrote Energy Department Assistant Secretary Jessie Roberson on May 11, saying the plan to truck Fernald waste through her state on the way to Nevada from Ohio is illegal. The letter doesn't threaten a lawsuit, but asks energy officials to "prevent the transport of waste" through Arizona.

"DOE's plan to bring this dangerous waste through Arizona appears to be a violation of applicable federal and state laws," the letter says.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, along with the Ohio EPA, has approved the transportation plan for the 7,000 containers of powdery waste from Silo 3. EPA officials on Wednesday said they don't think the shipments would violate any law, but declined to comment further.

Department of Energy officials did not return phone messages left Wednesday.

This is the latest crisis involving silo waste at Fernald in northwest Hamilton County.

Officials with the Nevada Attorney General's Office have threatened a federal lawsuit if energy officials continue with their plan to ship 153 million pounds of silo waste for permanent disposal at the Nevada Test Site, outside of Las Vegas.

The shipments are scheduled to begin in late June.

That problem leads to another for crews responsible for removing the waste from the silos:

Rules governing the cleanup say the waste cannot be even temporarily stored at Fernald. It must be processed, packaged and shipped in a continuous process. That means there has to be some agreement with Nevada before energy officials can tell their prime contractor, Fluor Fernald, to begin removing the waste.

Energy officials from Fernald went to Chicago this week to discuss the situation with EPA officials. Jim Saric, a U.S. EPA project manager for Fernald, said his agency cannot give energy officials any waiver that would allow them to begin temporary storage of the material on Fernald property.


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