Portsmouth (Ohio) Times

Uranium Headed To Piketon: DOE Officials Discuss Plans To Move Uranium Through Southern Ohio

July 27, 1999

by Lori McNelly

Piketon -- The uranium material on its way to southern Ohio from Department of Energy sites will not be a danger to the public or the environment and would help the area's economy, according to DOE officials. Plans were confirmed Monday for the transport of the material to the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

According to J. Dale Jackson, director of DOE's Uranium Management Division at Oak Ridge, Tenn., who spoke at a public meeting Monday, material to be shipped to the Piketon site from Richland Wash., will be a combination of depleted, normal, and low-enriched varieties -- but will still be marketable for use in commercial reactors.

The sale of the material will be used to fund the Uranium Management Center, which was created to manage DOE's uranium inventory.

The Hanford Reservation in Washington has approximately 1,700 metric tons of uranium material being considered for interim storage at Piketon. The Fernald project, which is 18 percent complete, deals with more that twice that amount at 3,800 metric tons.

None of the uranium is classified as waste and will not present additional dangers to workers, the public or the environment. The uranium will be stored for use or sale by the DOE or Department of Defense, according to the DOE.

Transport of the material, which is now being moved from the Fernald project site as a salt-like granular material, will be accomplished in Department of Transportation approved boxes carried by semi-trucks. The trucks are capable of carrying approximately 48,000 pounds, but will be carrying a limit of four containers, each weighing between 9,000 and 12,000 pounds each, Jackson said.

The question of possible accidents during transports arose during the meeting, but according to Randy Janke, nuclear disposition project manager for the Fernald project, any danger is minimal at best. The uranium would only pose a danger if inhaled, he said, addiing it is extremely heavy and would not travel far if an incident would happen that it would be released from its boxes.

"It is a very stable material," Jackson said, who elaborated on response steps in case an emergency occurs.

First, the truckers carrying the material agree under contract to have a satellite tracker on the truck.

Second, the truck cannot stop anywhere, even if refused at the site to which it was traveling. In one case when that occurred, the truck promptly turned around and traveled back to Fernald.

Third an emergency response team from both Fernald and the Piketon plant respond to the scene. And fourth, cleanup of the material is to be done entirely by Fernald.

"One of our main experiences at Fernald is remediation," Jackson said, adding the material shipped to Piketon is that from the end of the enrichment process.

But, in addition to the transport of the uranium, there is the question of where exactly at the Piketon facility the material will be stored. It is a question no longer, as DOE has undertaken certain upgrades and clean-up projects to make the building known as 744-G adequate.

Walls have been painted, floors coated with epoxy, and new equipment purchased for the storage facility, according to Jackson. He also said renovations at the Piketon site have allowed DOE to save money which otherwise would have been used for a new storage site at approximately five times the cost.

Funding for the improvements at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant is not being taken from other projects in the works, but is coming from the Fernald deal.

In the future, materials from other sites such as the Hanford Reservation and universities which have borrowed samples for nuclear engineering or physics programs will be received in Piketon. The university removal project to retrieve the loaned material can begin as soon as August.

Jackson gave a possible timeline for the projects as up to 10 years, and said the Fernald project has had an economic benefit of $3 million for the local economy. It also has produced ongoing jobs, he said, and future such projects will assist further with the job stabilization of the area.