Monday, January 17, 2000

State, federal regulators want to hear waste treament concerns

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) - Plans to treat radioactive waste in eastern Idaho include an incinerator for waste that contains hazardous chemicals thought to cause cancer.

State and federal regulatory officials want to hear the public's concerns about the proposed plant. They will take comment from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Cavanaugh's Canyon Springs Inn. Hearings also are planned on Tuesday in Boise and Wednesday in Idaho Falls.

For one hour before the hearing, officials from the state Division of Environmental Quality and the federal Environmental Protection Agency will be on hand to answer questions.

The federal Energy Department wants to build a treatment facility for plutonium-contaminated waste stored at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory. The government has hired the American subsidiary of British Nuclear Fuels Limited to build and operate the facility.

The treatment plant would incinerate about one-fourth of the 85,000 cubic meters of waste. About 65,000 cubit meters of waste - 2.3 million cubic feet or 8,400 dump truck loads - is now stored above the ground at INEEL.

Critics say the money and efforts spent on the proposed plant divert money, attention and energy to buried waste that presents a more immediate risk to the Snake River Plain Aquifer, which supplies drinking and irrigation water to more than 200,000 people in south-central Idaho.

The waste slated for treatment in the plant now is stored above ground.

The Energy Department says treatment is necessary to ship the waste to a disposal facility in New Mexico.