Journal photo by Bill Schaefer
Barrels of transuranic waste sit in a storage facility at the INEEL.

Hundreds speak out against INEEL incinerator
Jackson crowd tells Wyoming officials, 'Don't murder me' with toxic waste

By Anne Minard
Journal Staff Writer
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 Idaho.
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 murder me."
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 safely.
"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 1960s.
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.
"They 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.
Pam Lichtman, 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 said.
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.

     


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