Monday, February 14, 2000

Jackson considers INEEL plans for high-level waste

JACKSON, WYO. (AP) - Geologist Melissa Clark Rhodes is looking for a few good scientists.

Given the emotional controversy over a proposed nuclear incinerator in Idaho, she says it is time to challenge the Department of Energy with more than angry rhetoric.

That is why she quit her job, bought a computer and is recruiting independent technical minds to evaluate different technologies for treating some of the most highly radioactive waste at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory.

"I'm issuing a plea for qualified scientists and engineers to evaluate these options," she said last week at a public hearing on the site's high-level waste study.

Residents in this resort town remain adamantly opposed to a proposed incinerator that would burn plutonium-contaminated refuse generated during the production of nuclear weapons.

They have filed a lawsuit to stop the project, partly because residents in Wyoming were not asked to give public input on the different treatment alternatives.

Now that they are being included on the front end of the project, citizens are scrambling to make sense of the different technologies proposed to treat liquid and powdered wastes from decades of chemically extracting uranium from spent nuclear fuel.

The incinerator will be one of the biggest, costliest and most complicated jobs at the site over the next 35 years, and many Jackson residents complained that two weeks was too little time to research different proposed treatment technologies.