FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Steven Dolley
OFFICIALLY ABANDONS DIRECT DISPOSAL OF MILITARY
Washington---The U.S. Department of Energy today made official that it is abandoning the cheapest, fastest and safest approach to disposing of excess military plutonium. Instead, it authorized long-term storage of the plutonium at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina without meeting Gov. Jim Hodges demand for a guarantee that the site wont become a dumping ground for plutonium from the Rocky Flats plant in Colorado that cannot be safely disposed of.
The Nuclear Control Institute, pointing to a notice placed by DOE in todays Federal Register, noted that DOE has amended its earlier Records of Decisions on plutonium disposition without undertaking a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement as required by federal law. The notice states that DOE is canceling the original program that would have disposed of contaminated plutonium by combining it with highly radioactive waste in a glass matrix for final disposal---so called immobilization. DOEs announcement leaves unanswered how this surplus plutonium will be disposed of other than transferring it from Colorado to South Carolina for consolidated long-term storage at the Savannah River Site.
NCI has called on Energy Secretary Abraham to conduct the required NEPA review to determine whether all of the contaminated plutonium originally designated to be immobilized can be safely converted into plutonium-uranium mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for use in nuclear power reactors. As NCI pointed out to Abraham in a February 8 letter, an all-MOX disposition program was never analyzed in the previous Environmental Impact Statements. (This letter is available at http://www.nci.org/02NCI/03/DOEletter2-08-02.htm )
In todays notice, DOE announced that it is currently evaluating the changes to the MOX fuel portion of the disposition program, including the need for additional environmental reviews pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). While NCI is pleased with DOEs pledge that no final decisions regarding the MOX fuel portion of the program will be made until these reviews are completed, we still insist that NEPA requires a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement be completed before such wholesale revisions of the records of decision.
DOEs Federal Register notice is available at http://www.nci.org/pdf/fr41902.pdf
The following NCI documents also provide useful background information for your reporting on this issue.
NCI Letter to DOE National Nuclear Security Administration Director Gordon Requesting a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on Plutonium Disposition, March 4, 2002 http://www.nci.org/02NCI/03/DOELetter3-04-02b.htm
Defying South Carolina Opposition, DOE Will Ship Rocky Flats Plutonium to Savannah River (NCI Press Release, April 16, 2002) http://www.nci.org/02NCI/04/pr41602.htm
The Revised Plutonium Disposition Strategy: DOEs House of Cards (Dr. Edwin Lyman, NCI Scientific Director, February 22, 2002) http://www.nci.org/02NCI/02/pr22502-memo.htm
NCI Letter to Secretary Abraham emphasizing that disposal of U.S. and
Russian plutonium must proceed at the same pace, March 27, 2002