Friday, August 25, 2000

Fernald shipment plan halted

Waste won't be routed via Queensgate

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A shipment of low-level radioactive scrap from Fernald won't be passing through the Queensgate rail-yard after all.

        After delaying until Thursday a shipment that had been scheduled to move Monday, Department of Energy spokesman Ken Morgan said Thursday that the shipment has been delayed indefinitely.

        CSX, which runs the Queensgate terminal, has refused to accept the shipment. The company told Fernald officials that other customers that ship products through Queensgate objected to the plan, Mr. Morgan said.

        The two-container shipment was part of a pilot study to decide whether it would save money to use intermodal transportation (in which trains haul stacks of truck trailers over long distances) instead of trucks, to haul some waste to the Nevada Test Site, northwest of Las Vegas.

        The Fernald site near Ross, Ohio, processed urani um ore for America's nuclear weapons complex for nearly 40 years before stopping production in 1989 and becoming Greater Cincinnati's biggest Superfund cleanup site. Over the years, contractors have shipped thousands of tons of Fernald waste by train and thousands more tons by truck.

        Yet even with all the regulations about disposing of radioactive materials, DOE officials considered the waste in this shipment so safe that it could be placed in unshielded truck trailers and moved alongside any other products that might be carried on a train.

        CSX staff at the Queens gate terminal superintendent's office confirmed that the company refused the shipment, but referred further comment to a corporate spokesman who could not be reached.

        The idea that CSX or its customers would be spooked by the shipments perplexed Fernald officials, especially because the concept was endorsed by a citizens advisory board that includes some of Fernald's toughest environ mental critics.

        “Sometimes you can't overcome perceptions,” said Johnny Reising, DOE's associate director for environmental management at Fernald.

        For now, the plan is to return to already established truck shipments for this kind of waste, Mr. Reising said. But the intermodal idea might be reconsidered in the future.


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