14 March 2014
The Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance today filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Energy in Oak Ridge, TN, seeking to learn the extent of contamination uncovered during construction of a “haul road” in preparation for building the Uranium Processing Facility.
“Four years ago, when the plans for this project were being analyzed for their environmental impact, OREPA warned that the areas under consideration were likely to hold surprises. Our concerns were dismissed; the National Nuclear Security Administration said they would follow a procedure to characterize the areas being disturbed in advance,” said OREPA coordinator Ralph Hutchison.
“The recent discovery of radioactively contaminated debris as workers were creating a “˜haul road’ to connect the site of the proposed UPF with a concrete batch plant makes it clear those characterization efforts, if they were carried out, were inadequate,” Hutchison said. “UPF project manager John Eschenberg said the discovery was a surprise, meaning they missed it when they did their site characterization.”
“The NNSA’s statements minimizing any impacts of the surprise contaminants can not be taken at face value,” Hutchison said, “so we are asking for documentation.”
Unanswered questions include:
• How much material was found and how radioactive was it?
• What other contaminants have been uncovered?
• What procedures are in place to characterize soil as it is being removed?
• What are the impacts, potential or realized, on workers?
• What steps are being taken to re-characterize the soils now that the previous efforts have been revealed to be inadequate?
• What is being done to constrain the release of contaminants into the environment during the removal of soils?
• Where are contaminated soils and materials being disposed of?
“We don’t expect our FOIA request will answer all these questions,” Hutchison said, “but we hope the information will point us toward the answers, and we’ll take the next steps to fill in the blanks.”
OREPA also requested information related to the construction practices used during the construction of the haul road through wetlands areas.
“We want to know if NNSA kept its word,” Hutchison said. “In 2010, after they had finished the public hearings on the Environmental Impact Statement, the NNSA added an Appendix to the document describing the haul road construction through wetlands areas, several of which were to be destroyed. NNSA said they would be extra careful and do the construction with manual labor. Now it’s time to learn if they kept that promise; I hope to learn they did.”
You can read OREPA’s FOIA request here: FOIA haul road mess