February 13, 2000
Openness urged on DOE burials
By Bill Bartleman
Raymond Carroll said he hopes that the complaint he filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission results in other federal agencies being more forthcoming about materials stored and buried at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.
Carroll, a senior manager of health and safety programs at the plant, filed a five-page whistle-blower disclosure statement with the NRC questioning the extent and hazards of nuclear weapon components that may be stored at the plant.
Copies also were filed Thursday with the U.S. Department of Energy and other federal agencies.
"I have no personal knowledge of what is stored that could cause a criticality accident or the release of high levels of radiation," Carroll told the Sun on Saturday.
"However, when I heard reports that potential problems might exist, I felt they needed to be investigated. If I had this information and didn't do anything about it, I would have a guilty conscience if something happened later to injure someone."
Carroll said his statement was based on comments from another safety worker, who became concerned after he was interviewed by a U.S. Department of Justice investigator who was looking into other environmental complaints at the plant. The investigator made reference to a tritium experiment and "nuclear-related hardware," according to the statement.
Carroll, an employee of the United States Enrichment Corp., which operates the uranium enrichment production at the plant, said his disclosure statement was prepared and filed for him by Washington attorney Joe Egan. Last year Egan filed a lawsuit claiming that former operators of the plant lied about the extent of the plant's environmental problems. The suit seeks to recover millions of dollars paid to the operators based on the alleged false reports.
"I contacted Mr. Egan for help in getting this information to the right agencies because of his reputation and his knowledge of nuclear issues," Carroll said. "I know his reputation based on what I've read in the newspapers. I never talked to him before, and I am not involved in that."
Carroll said that before going to Egan, he considered other options, including reporting the information to his superiors at USEC and reporting it to NRC personnel at the plant.
"I ruled out going to USEC because USEC has no authority or control of the material in question," he said. "Its dog isn't in this fight."
He said the material in question is under the control of DOE, which was in charge of all operations of the plant until the USEC took over uranium production two years ago. DOE continues to manage the storage of environmental waste and cleanup at the plant.
He also ruled out going to local NRC officials because he considered it such an important issue that "it should start at the top. I felt that all of the agencies involved needed to talk and communicate. I didn't want it to get bogged down in bureaucracy."
He said the information should go to NRC because the agency regulates safety of the plant's production facilities.
Carroll said he filed his concerns as a disclosure statement under the federal whistle-blower law.
"I didn't really think anyone would try to do anything to me, but that is how we decided to file it," Carroll said. "But I would have done the same thing even if I wasn't protected."
Carroll said he doesn't know who leaked his disclosure statement to news media.
"It wasn't my intent for it to be made public, but since it was filed in Washington with several different agencies, I am not surprised it was leaked," Carroll said. "It just happened a lot quicker than I thought it would. The press had it before I knew it was filed (with federal agencies)."
He said the final draft of the statement was based on a memo he sent to Egan based on a conversation he had on Jan. 13 with Radiation Protection Manager Orville Cypret.
He said in the statement Cypret had been told by DOE's acting site manager Dale Jackson that about 1,600 tons of nuclear weapons components was buried and stored at the site. Also, Cypret said he was told that large quantities of highly radioactive plutonium and highly enriched uranium were stored and buried, according to the statement.
Carroll said in the statement that Cypret was not given specifics about where the material was buried and stored, or how great of a risk it posed for workers. Carroll, however, said he was concerned about the lack of specific information and the potential for exposure.
"My only motivation for this is worker safety," Carroll said. "I think officials in all of the agencies involved are starting to talk. I hope this will be investigated and that we get accurate information. I also hope that we find out everything is safe and there is no danger to anyone."