The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Saturday, December 20, 2003

Tainted metal at Paducah plant to head West
Two railcars carrying 16 metal boxes of scrap will leave Monday for disposal at a site in Nevada. Some is radiation-contaminated.

By Joe Walker

The first rail shipments of thousands of tons of contaminated scrap metal will leave the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant on Monday morning for disposal in the Western desert.

"We've shipped ingots (blocks) and a small amount of declassified scrap to Nevada and put quite a bit of clean scrap in the landfill behind the plant, but this is the first off-site shipment for disposal of the scrap metal removal project," said Greg Cook, spokesman for lead environmental contractor Bechtel Jacobs.

Two railcars carrying 16 metal boxes of scrap will leave the plant, bound for the Nevada Test Site. The site is approved by the Department of Energy to dispose of radiation-contaminated scrap metal. Cook said the scrap will be loaded onto trucks in Utah because there is no rail service directly to the test site.

There are about 44,000 tons of scrap metal at the plant. Some of it is contaminated, but much of it is "essentially clean" enough to meet state standards allowing burial in a landfill off Ogden Landing Road, Cook said.

About 27,000 tons of piled scrap are being tested and packaged for disposal under a five-year contract with Weskem. Much of the scrap is old machinery removed when the plant's large uranium-enrichment buildings were upgraded in the 1970s. Although considerable scrap already is in containers, shipping has been delayed since August pending a decision by the Energy Department on disposal techniques nationwide, Cook said.

Shipments do not include 9,700 tons of contaminated nickel blocks left over from smelting to recycle metal.

The Paducah Area Community Resource Organization, a DOE-funded economic development group, wants to clean and recycle the nickel for potential limited industrial use.

That is contingent on the Energy Department's lifting a safety-related ban on recycling contaminated scrap metal at its plants nationwide.