Nukewatch Quarterly Fall 2013
PADUCAH, Kentucky — For 59 years, the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Kentucky has produced low-enriched uranium for nuclear reactor fuel. On June 1 the DOE closed the antique system, which used 20 times the electricity of the centrifuge process that replaced it. The DOE assumed responsiblity for its multibillion-dollar decommissioning, deconstruction and partial cleanup. Groundwater on and off the site is poisoned with dozens of toxins, principle among them the degreaser trichloroethylene, technetium-99, a radioactive fission product, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Taxpayers have paid $2 billion since 1988 for cleanup projects (including providing drinking water to people whose wells were poisoned with technecium) and are on the hook for billions more as the effort, held up by numerous difficulties, drags on.
As of August 8, 28 rail cars filled with radioactive debris from demolition have travelled across the country to Clive, Utah where EnergySolutions runs a radioactive waste disposal site. Due to the mountain of radioactive materials at Paducah, no deadline has been projected for cleanup operations. Thus, the inherent health and environmental risks that come with deconstruction, demolition, packaging, decontamination, handling and shipping of radioactive materials and structures will multiply and continue for decades. — New York Times, May 24; NRC, June 28; Louisville Courier-Journal, July 15, 2013