The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Friday, June 02, 2000
Paducah, Kentucky

Beating the drum
Testing begins Monday on contaminated pile

By Jennifer Sacharnoski The Paducah Sun

Officials from Bechtel Jacobs intend to begin shredding the barrels on "drum mountain" at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant later this month and project the removal will be complete in November.

Operational testing will begin Monday on the equipment used to sort, segregate, shred, sample, bale and contain the barrels. The process should begin the following week. Greg Shaia, Bechtel Jacobs' task leader for the project, explained the removal plans to the Site-Specific Advisory Board on Thursday night at the Paducah Information Age Park.

"We are ready to move toward removal action," Shaia said. "The work plans are in the state's hands for approval now."

The basic process includes moving small quantities of the waste onto a conveyor to sort and segregate the containers. The drums then move into a low-speed shredder, from which the waste continues into a baler for compacting. Particulates (items other than the drums) are collected before they reach the baler to be identified and analyzed.

Only after the testing is done on all the material at drum mountain will final approval be given to ship it to a final disposal site.

Shaia said surface water and sediment controls have been installed in ditches and water routes surrounding the plant. Several fences and traps have been put in place to capture runoff water and sediment. The state has also installed water samplers in the surrounding area to measure periodically the effectiveness of the traps.

Although Shaia said emissions tested at a level below the regulatory standard and requires no monitoring, radiological control technicians will survey for contamination and any indication of emissions. Air samplers on the perimeter of the plant site will also be used to validate estimates.

Advisory board committee members voiced concern about the potential for air contamination during destruction. Mark Donham asked Don Seaborg, the Department of Energy site manager, about the possibility of enclosing the removal site to ensure the safety of the workers and the environment.

Seaborg said the enclosure of the site would be too costly and previous testing does not warrant such a precaution.

"If you go in to tear the mountain apart to characterize (analyze) it, you might as well destroy it at the same time," Seaborg said.

Donham said he would rather see all possible precautions taken because of the damage that has already been done.

"You're willing to put more contaminants into the air, but you're not willing to put more money into the project," Donham said. "And with the $400 million you've spent, all you've generated is paper."