|Journal photo by Bill
Barrels of transuranic waste sit in a storage facility
at the INEEL.
Hundreds speak out against INEEL
Jackson crowd tells Wyoming
officials, 'Don't murder me' with toxic waste
By Anne Minard
JACKSON, Wyo. - The 500 seats at Jackson Hole Middle
School filled Tuesday night, and hundreds more poured in to comment on a
proposed nuclear waste incinerator across the state border in
The incinerator is planned for the Idaho National Engineering
and Environmental Lab west of Idaho Falls. It will burn waste contaminated
with organic solvents, PCBs and plutonium.
A clear majority of people
attending the Tuesday night meeting were opposed to the incinerator. They
carried posters featuring the word "No" and wore T-shirts that read "Don't
Speakers questioned the track record of INEEL contractor
Bechtel BWXT Idaho, calling the company "heinous" and "devastating." A
majority maintained that an incinerator of the type proposed has never
actually been tested, and that insufficient scientific research spells a
high probability of accidents.
Tom Patricelli of the environmental
advocacy group Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free told the crowd that INEEL
contains nine Superfund sites, "all of which we were once told would be
safe," he said.
Despite some accidents in the past, INEEL maintains
the incinerator will be safe and that the site will continue to operate
"We have had historic releases," both intentional and
accidental, INEEL spokesman Brad Bugger said Tuesday. The Centers for
Disease Control is currently trying to reconstruct the releases to analyze
health impacts. Most of those, Bugger said, occurred in the 1950s and
On Tuesday, Bugger said the most recent accidental release
occurred in early 1990s. Solvents were emitted during cleaning of the
calciner, a facility that treats some nuclear waste at INEEL.
never got very far from the stack," and apparently caused no harm, Bugger
said. Bugger said the proposed incinerator will have multiple screening
layers, and the Environmental Protection Agency and the state will have
access to constant, real-time emissions data. If there is a malfunction,
he said, the facility will automatically shut down.
program director for the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, said the
alliance opposes the incinerator for two reasons.
For starters, she
said, there's not enough science to support building the incinerator, and
even fool-proof plans are subject to human error.
Secondly, she said,
members of the alliance who toured INEEL became aware that the laws
requiring an incinerator are "convoluted."
She said she'd like to see
progress on the incinerator stalled, the laws changed and other methods
explored to treat the waste.
"There's got to be a better way," Lichtman
But Bugger said Tuesday that INEEL simply doesn't have a choice
but to comply with the laws in place now.
"The Resource Conservation
and Recovery Act does not allow you to generate and store mixed waste
indefinitely," he said. INEEL is a temporary storage facility for waste
generated at Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant near Denver.