Lincoln County Weekly

A One-Two Punch

1/27/2000

In a decision almost too good to be true, Maine Yankee announced last week that officials plan to undertake a site cleanup that exceeds state and federal regulations.

But we all know what is said about offers that seem too good to be true.

Once all of the plan s details were revealed, it quickly became clear that this was a quid pro quo offer. There will be a tradeoff -- and a big one at that -- if residents want the more stringent cleanup.

Basically, the community must agree to the burial of low-level contaminated waste at Bailey Point. That means that in addition to the stray contamination that cannot be retrieved and will be left at the site anyway, there will be more deliberately left behind.

The company hopes to bury contaminated waste -- concrete rubble -- by mixing it with clean concrete and dumping it into the cellar holes on the site. It was the sound of the other shoe falling.

Officials want to win the public s support for this untested, unprecedented idea. But it seems unlikely they will get it.

Fill will be needed anyway to return the site to normal, Maine Yankee argues, so why not use the concrete already available? That way, as buildings are demolished, the rubble can be pushed into the foundations and covered up. No fuss, no muss. It sounds simple enough, and plant officials say it will be harmless to the people and the environment. Best of all, it will save money.

But the credibility problems of years past emerge like a specter over this whole scenario. Especially when tradeoffs pit cost savings against the public's health and safety and the environment. Regardless of how innocuous Maine Yankee says the move will be, we are opposed to it.

"Rubblization" has not been attempted anywhere else, and we believe Maine s coast is not the place to test drive an unlicensed, unmonitored nuclear waste dump. This latest scheme should be given a quick death.

Perhaps most astonishing is that for years residents were assured that when Maine Yankee left town, that site would be returned to "green field" condition. The promise evoked images of rolling pastures and pristine skies, with no high level waste on site and certainly no hulking mass of contaminated concrete emitting radiation from beneath the surface.

This proposal is a slap in the face to the community. And company officials are shameless to suggest they might put off the cleanup for 40 years or leave buildings standing, which would hamper repowering of the site, unless they get their way.

The people of Maine already have allowed Maine Yankee plenty of leeway over the years. Therefore, we expect to hear local citizens, legislators, and environmental groups sound off loud and clear in opposition to this crazy idea.

Or one day another shoe may fall.