DOE, FERMCO deny secret cleanup plan

The Cincinnati Enquirer

U.S. Department of Energy officials at Fernald said Tuesday the companies hired to manage the site do not have a ''secret plan'' to develop new cleanup processes for radioactive waste as reported in an Enquirer story Tuesday.

Jack Craig, the Energy Department's chief at Fernald, said Tuesday the Energy Department is aware of those processes, including one that would dehydrate and powderize 20 million pounds of radioactive waste before encapsulating it into glass pellets.

The Enquirer reported that on Thursday Mr. Craig said he was unaware of the processes until told of them by the newspaper, and that he did not know of any authorization for Fernald Environmental Restoration Management Co. (FERMCO) or its parent company, Fluor Daniel, to develop such operations.

''That is something I should have been aware of,'' Mr. Craig said Thursday in a tape-recorded interview.

On Friday, Mr. Craig said that he had learned that one of his subordinates had been told about the new process by Fluor Daniel - FERMCO. Because someone at the Energy Department had known of the new process, it should not be characterized as ''secret,'' Mr. Craig said.

On Friday, Mr. Craig said he did not know when his subordinate had learned of the plan or if it had received formal authorization from the Energy Department.

On Tuesday he said he still did not know the answers to those questions.

In a related development, FERMCO issued a press release Tuesday in which its president, Don Ofte, denounced The Enquirer's story.

Mr. Ofte said Fluor Daniel - FERMCO had informed the Energy Department of their plans - including the work on dehydration and powderization - in ''weekly meetings at the staff and management levels.''

But in a taped interview last Thursday, Mr. Ofte categorically denied that anyone in either company was studying or developing plans for a dehydration and powderization process.

''I can't find anyone who knows about that . . . Make sure I got your - dehydration and what was the second word? powerization?'' Mr. Ofte asked in the interview.

Asked about that discrepancy, Mr. Craig said Tuesday, ''You'll have to take that up with him.''

Published Feb. 14, 1996.