Tri-Valley CAREs'

Livermore Lab Flunks DOE Waste Audit

by Marylia Kelley
from Tri-Valley CAREs' August 1999 newsletter, Citizen's Watch

Livermore Lab has halted all shipments of radioactive waste to the Nevada Test Site (NTS) after failing an internal Dept. of Energy (DOE) audit in July.

The audit team spent a week checking the Lab's waste-handling methods and practices. As a result, DOE issued 33 corrective action orders. According to team members, the Lab keeps incomplete records on its radioactive waste materials and fails to conduct required surveys of the waste on schedule. Additional details on the 33 violations are expected in the report, which was not yet available as of this writing. Lab officials said they hope to resume shipments within the next three months.

Livermore Lab officials said they sent 26 shipments of "low-level" radioactive waste to NTS last year. The shipments included 24,083 cubic feet of radioactive material, enough to fill a room 10 feet wide, 10 feet high and 240 feet long, according to a news report.

Previous inspections have revealed serious problems with Livermore's shipments to NTS. A DOE "Tiger Team" report cited an incident where wastes were sent back to the Lab under guard by the Highway Patrol. The reason: Livermore Lab could not demonstrate it really knew what was in the barrels.

In 1990, Nevada officials found 1,640 drums of Livermore Lab's plutonium-contaminated waste sitting at the test site on a concrete slab, all unauthorized. Again, the wastes were poorly characterized, and upon examination, some barrels were found to contain hazardous chemicals as well as plutonium. These "mixed transuranic wastes" had been shipped in violation of Nevada's state environmental laws.

Two facts stand out in sharp relief. First, Livermore Lab must reduce its production of radioactive waste. Dumping waste in someone else's backyard is never a solution. In this case, NTS sits on ancestral lands claimed by the Western Shoshone.

Second, Livermore Lab doesn't comply with its written waste procedures. This should serve as a wake-up call to the California state officials who gave Livermore a permit for a new hazardous and radioactive waste facility based largely on the Lab's assertion it would follow established procedures. Instead, the state should conduct an Environmental Impact Report.

The state is still considering our appeal of the permit (see June 1999 and July 1999 editions of Citizen's Watch for details). We are expecting a ruling later this year. You can help in this effort by sending a letter to the governor requesting that the permit for Livermore Lab be withdrawn and an environmental report prepared. Write to: Governor Gray Davis, Attention Lynn Schenk, Chief of Staff, State Capitol Building, Sacramento, CA 95814. Or, check our web site for a letter you can simply print out, sign and mail!

Marylia Kelley
Tri-Valley CAREs
(Communities Against a Radioactive Environment)
2582 Old First Street
Livermore, CA USA 94550 - is our web site, please visit us there!

(925) 443-7148 - is our phone
(925) 443-0177 - is our fax

Working for peace, justice and a healthy environment since 1983, Tri-Valley CAREs has been a member of the nation-wide Alliance for Nuclear Accountability in the U.S. since 1989, and is a co-founding member of the international Abolition 2000 network for the elimination of nuclear weapons.