State inspectors write up DOE for violating air quality in the cleanup.
By Bill Bartleman firstname.lastname@example.org
The removal of the mountain of 85,000 rusted and contaminated drums at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant is causing new problems for the U.S. Department of Energy that could cost it $25,000 a day.
The Kentucky Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Cabinet has issued a notice of violation of clean air standards. State inspectors said they observed dust particles being emitted from equipment used to shred and bale the drums as part of the cleanup operation.
The violation notice, delivered Monday to DOE, said "reasonable precautions were not being taken to prevent particulate matter from becoming airborne from the 'drum mountain' baler and associated transfer point."
The inspectors said that as they watched the cleanup operation, they observed small clouds of dust rising from the equipment. Documents filed with the notice of violation indicated the emission problem was not continuous.
A follow-up inspection was scheduled Wednesday, but state officials said they would not know the outcome of the review until today.
DOE spokesman Walter Perry said the problem was quickly corrected by improving the "misting operation," which involved spraying water onto the material as it moves from the shredder to the baler. The spraying prevented the dust particles from rising.
Perry said air monitoring equipment located near the cleanup operation did not detect the release of nuclear materials. Also, he said the problem did not delay the cleanup work.
If the violation continues, DOE could be fined up to $25,000 a day.
Drum mountain is one of the most visible signs of the years of scrap material that has accumulated at the uranium enrichment plant, which opened in 1952. It is a 35-foot-high pile of crushed and rusted drums once used to store depleted uranium tetrafluoride, or UF4.
DOE officials have promised that the drums would be removed from the plant site and shipped to Utah for burial by the end of the year.
The cost of the cleanup work, being done for DOE by Bechtel-Jacobs Co., is $7 million.