Portsmouth Daily Times

Portsmouth, Ohio

December 3, 2004

USEC, DOE meet

Talks center on cleanup

By Jeff Barron
PDT Staff Writer


In a meeting highlighted by numerous exchanges between a local environmentalist and a Department of Energy spokesman, the DOE talked about its cleanup projects this past year at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant on Thursday.

The DOE owns the plant and leases it to the United States Enrichment Corp.

“You pay no attention to what people tell you or how they feel,” Lucasville resident Vina Colley said to the DOE’s Bill Murphie.

Murphie denied Colley’s allegation and said the DOE spends $100 million per year cleaning up the plant.

“That’s (spending $100 million) not doing nothing,” Murphie said.

In many cases, the DOE uses the Bechtel Jacobs Company for the cleanup. Bechtel Jacobs Project Manager John Meersman described some of the cleanup work in 2004, including groundwater cleanup and scrap metal removal.

According to Meersman, only 170 to 600 tons of scrap metal remain.

“There’s only a couple weeks of work left,” he said.

The company is also converting about 19,000 cylinders of depleted uranium byproducts into a safer compound, including 6,000 the DOE shipped from Oak Ridge, Tenn.

That drew Colley’s wrath because the DOE is shipping them before it builds a conversion plant at the site. The plant is scheduled for construction next year.

“Why not wait until its built before shipping them?” she said. “We shouldn’t be everyone’s junkyard.”

Murphie said the shipments are based on the fact that the conversion process will be successful and the cylinders are stored with the others at the site.

After about 90 minutes, Bechtel Jacobs Public Affairs Director Jack Williams asked Colley and other audience members to hold their questions until the end of the presentation.

As the presentation concluded, USEC General Manager Pat Musser gave an overview of the company’s plans for 2005. The plans include keeping the plant in cold-standby (ready) mode, beginning construction on the conversion plant and continuing to remove older, or legacy, nuclear waste from the site.

He said such waste would not occur in the future.

“Those problems are problems of the past,” he said. “Our standards today are much higher than in the past. We meet or exceed those standards.”

JEFF BARRON can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 236.