The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Friday, February 01, 2002

DOE has new plan to speed cleanup
The Paducah plant will be among sites considered in the plan to be announced Monday. Additional funds will help speed up the work.

By Bill Bartleman

The U.S. Department of Energy will release new strategies for cleaning up the nation's contaminated nuclear sites, including the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, on Monday.

U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said Thursday that the plan was drafted after a yearlong review of the department's environmental management plan. Abraham discussed highlights of the plan at DOE's Fernald site near Cincinnati.

His speech was published on DOE's Web site.

Highlights of the plan will be a request for an extra $800 million annually to speed the cleanup at DOE's 111 sites, including 30 that are still open. He said the extra funds will be in addition to the $6.7 billion that will be requested for cleanup and environmental management.

The $800 million will accelerate the department's current plan to clean the sites over the next 70 years. Abraham said a 70-year plan "is not good enough for me, and I doubt it is good enough for anyone who lives near these sites."

Abraham said priorities will be determined by ranking sites based on the greatest threat to the environment and the public. The highest funding will go to the priority sites.

The new plan emphasizes three basic goals:

Eliminating significant health and safety risks as soon as possible.

Reviewing remaining risks on a case-by-case basis by working with state and local officials to determine the most appropriate remediation schedules and approaches.

Streamlining cleanup so that funding spent on routine maintenance and security which the program estimates accounts for two-thirds of the environmental management budget will be used for further expedited cleanup.

Abraham said the plan incorporates DOE's new homeland security strategy to reduce risks of terrorism threats. He said the strategy includes accelerating the consolidation of nuclear material and waste into more-secure locations.

Whether Paducah gets extra funds will depend on how its health and environmental risks rate with other sites nationwide that include nuclear reactors, laboratories, chemical and uranium processing operations, and storage buildings.

To qualify for the extra funds, a site will have to show measurable gains in addressing cleanup activities, Abraham said.

"By cleaning up serious problems more quickly under the new plan, our communities will be cleaner and safer," Abraham said. "The environmental management program will be stronger and more effective in its mission of reducing health risks and expediting the environmental restoration of the nation's nuclear sites. And there is an extra benefit to the taxpayers, because over the long run, the new plan will yield substantial savings on overhead, maintenance and security costs which the program estimates to account for two-thirds of the overall environmental management budget."