Thursday, May 16, 2002

Milestone reached in Fernald cleanup

Last of usable uranium shipped

By Steve Kemme,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        CROSBY TOWNSHIP — To the cheers of about 200 onlookers, the last truckload of usable uranium pulled out of Fernald Wednesday, marking the end of a major stage in the cleanup of the former uranium-processing plant.

[photo] A placard on the last truckload of uranium product leaving Fernald Wednesday warns of its contents.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
        As Bob Seger's “Roll On” was played over loudspeakers at a special ceremony, Robert Sizemore climbed into his truck, which bore a “radioactive” emblem, and drove away.

        He took 1,000 pounds of uranium in steel drums that were enclosed in metal boxes to the U.S. Department of Energy's Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon, Ohio.

        Over the past three years, Fluor Fernald, which was hired by the DOE to clean up the site, has shipped 9.1 million pounds of uranium to Portsmouth, where it will remain in interim storage.

        “We no longer have any uranium product material on site,” said Dr. Don Paine, project director of nuclear materials disposition.

        From 1952 to 1989, the Fernald plant contributed to the nation's defense program by producing 500 million pounds of uranium metal products that were used at other federal sites for the production of nuclear weapons.

        When the plant shut down in 1989, there was 31 million pounds of usable uranium on the 1,050-acre site in Crosby Township.

        Fernald shipped 16.7 million pounds to other DOE sites and to private companies that purchased it, 5.2 million pounds to waste disposition sites and 9.1 million pounds to the Portsmouth plant.

        The first of 760 truckloads was sent to Portsmouth on June 2, 1999. No accidents or injuries occurred on the Fernald site or en route to Portsmouth, said Steve McCracken, DOE site manager.

        “This is a tremendous step forward in completing our cleanup mission,” he said.

        Almost all of those attending Wednesday's ceremony were Fernald and DOE employees. Most Crosby Township residents who were invited could not attend because of work, Fernald spokesman Jeff Wagner said.

        Lisa Crawford, president of Fernald Residents for Environmental Safety and Health (FRESH), which has been monitoring the cleanup, said she's pleased that the last of the usable uranium is off the site.

        “It's another milestone that's been met,” said Ms. Crawford, who was unable to attend Wednesday's ceremony. “There have been very few problems or issues with it. Let's just keep moving in the right direction.”

        The entire cleanup of the site is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2006.

        Remaining cleanup work includes processing the waste in silos, demolishing buildings, excavating contaminated soil and extracting and treating contaminated ground water.

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