Lone Star Chapter

Associated Press Story : Friday, April 29, 2005

Ken Kramer 512-476-6962 or 626-4204
Cyrus Reed 512-740-4086
Donna Hoffman 512-477-1729 or 299-5776



Tons of uranium byproduct waste headed to West Texas

By BETSY BLANEY Associated Press Writer

Tons of uranium byproduct waste from a government plant in Ohio will be stored in West Texas as part of a $7.5 million agreement, the Ohio contractor cleaning up the site announced Thursday.

The waste, enough to fill as many as 800 railroad cars, will come to the site Waste Control Specialists operates near the New Mexico border and about 30 miles west of Andrews, a town of about 10,000.

The agreement, announced in Cincinnati by Fluor Fernald, is worth $7.5 million and covers two years of interim storage at the site.

"It's obviously something we've been working toward for some time," said George Dials, president of Waste Control. "We're quite excited."

Cyrus Reed, a spokesman for the Lone Star chapter of the Sierra Club, said the environmental group was not surprised that the contract went to Waste Control "since no other state is willing to put its citizens at risk to take this highly volatile and radioactive waste."

Specially designed flatbed trucks carrying two containers each of the Ohio waste could begin their trip to West Texas as early as the end of May, Fluor Fernald spokesman Jeff Wagner said.

Workers in Ohio will blend the waste with flyash and cement to create a loose grout that will be loaded into half-inch-thick cylindrical carbon steel containers. In all, there will be 5,000 containers, each weighing an average of 20,000 pounds. The shipments, which must meet U.S. Department of Transportation requirements, should be completed by the end of the year, Wagner said.

The canisters being used have been rigorously tested, Dials said.

"This is one where the containers are robustly designed and demostrated to be safe," he said.

In February, state health officials approved a license amendment that expanded the company's storage capacity from 250,000 cubic feet to 1.5 million cubic feet. The change made the company eligible to receive the waste from the abandoned Fernald plant, just northwest of Cincinnati.

The Sierra Club has requested a hearing on behalf of members who live in the area to contest the amendment. No date has been set.

Reed said Fluor Fernald is "jumping the gun" because the hearing is pending.

"We will continue to use this and other legal methods to prevent this waste from coming to Texas either for storage or eventual disposal," Reed said.

The energy department still owns the waste, which will remain at the site for two years as the department looks for a long-term storage or disposal arrangement.

Waste Control has an application pending with the Texas Department of State Health Services to dispose of the waste. A decision could come early next year.

Waste Control also is seeking a state license from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to dispose of low-level radioactive waste. That would include contaminated clothing or tools, most from commercial nuclear plants.

Now, it can treat and store the waste but must send it elsewhere for disposal.

The Fernald plant processed and purified uranium metal for use in reactors to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons from the 1950s until it ended production in 1989.

Fluor Fernald, with corporate headquarters in Aliso Viejo, Calif., has received $12 million under a Department of Energy contract to clean up waste at the 1,050-acre Ohio site.

The West Texas site is about 100 miles southwest of Lubbock.

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