Hanford Action of Oregon
|For Immediate Release||For More Info Call:|
|25 July 2000||Robin Klein, 503/310-3050|
Hanford Nuclear Reactor Would Create 6,000 cubic meters of New Radioactive Waste
Hanford Action of Oregon Calls Energy Department's draft Environmental Impact Statement "a license to re-start the Fast Flux Test Facility (FFTF) reactor." DOE's plan could also contaminate an unused Hanford facility - the Fuels and Materials Examination Facility (FMEF).
"Yesterday's release of the draft Environmental Impact Statement from the DOE raises more serious concerns about the federal government's commitment to clean up the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and to listen to the citizens of the Pacific Northwest," said Robin Klein of Hanford Action of Oregon.
The draft EIS describes projected national needs for the production of isotopes for space and medical applications to enhance the U.S. commercial nuclear program. The statement focuses on the restart of the FFTF - an advanced liquid metal reactor. The DOE is moving ahead despite a recent Nuclear Energy Research Advisory Committee report that concludes that FFTF will "not be a viable source of research isotopes" and recommends that FFTF "not be considered as a long-term source of research isotopes."
Of the five alternatives considered in the EIS, operation of the FFTF poses the largest safety risk to the public from an accident, according to the EIS. Most of the risk is associated with the fabrication and processing at companion facilities at Hanford, including the FMEF, a facility that has never been used.
Even though the EIS predicts the FFTF would create more than 6000 cubic meters (the new waste could fill the equivalent of a football field more than four feet deep) of new radioactive and hazardous wastes, as well as 16 tons of spent fuel, it would contaminate an uncontaminated facility. It also fails to consider the cumulative environmental impacts of decontamination and decommissioning.
"The Northwest has already borne more than its share of environmental burden from Hanford's poorly managed nuclear wastes, and continues to wrestle with waste problems that are out of control. The site should be engaged in cleanup, not producing new wastes," said Chuck Johnson of Hanford Action.
The Hanford Nuclear Reservation contains billions of gallons of high-level radioactive waste and is considered the most polluted site in the Western Hemisphere. The FFTF reactor at Hanford has not operated for more than a decade costing taxpayers nearly $200 million to remain on standby status.
Klein pointed out that while the DOE acknowledges in the EIS summary the "strong opposition to re-start of FFTF for any mission," it also promotes the FFTF reactor as the alternative that would provide the greatest flexibility in meeting planned isotope production.
The reactor has been slated for final shutdown and decommissioning for nearly a decade. Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson has vowed to make a final decision on the fate of the reactor by December 18.
"This Environmental Impact Statement was crafted and customized to justify uniquely the re-start of the Fast Flux Test Facility at Hanford, for ten years it has been a reactor in search of a mission," Klein said.
The DOE will address two big areas of concern in separate documents due out in a few weeks: cost and proliferation risks. The cost is expected to be much higher for FFTF than for alternatives. Of even greater safety concern is the use of weapons-usable plutonium in mixed-oxide fuels and highly enriched uranium fuels at FFTF.
The public will have one last opportunity to speak out on the proposal to re-start the Hanford reactor at public hearings in Portland August 29 at 6:30 p.m. at OMSI, Hood River August 28, Seattle August 30, and Richland August 31.