TONAWANDA NUCLEAR SITE UPDATE: SHODDY "INTERIM" DOE CLEANUP UNMASKED

CANiT POLITICIANS UP TO OLD TRICKS?

by Jim Rauch, F.A.C.T.S. (For A Clean Tonawanda Site)

Recently, F.A.C.T.S. has learned that "interim cleanup actions"
being performed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) at the
Linde property (now owned by Praxair, Inc.) are proceeding in
an illegal manner.  These actions were started in the fall of
1995, following the April 1994 "suspension" of the legitimate
environmental review process.  The Linde/Praxair property is
one of five properties that make up the DOE's Manhattan
Project-contaminated Tonawanda Site.

Last summer, one of the radioactively contaminated uranium
refinery buildings, Building 38, was torn down.  DOE's
Tonawanda Information Center reported that the demolition
debris was ground up to reduce its volume and that the whole lot
was shipped to a storage facility operated by Envirocare, Inc., at
Clive, Utah.  This facility is properly licensed to accept the
uranium processing wastes which contaminated the Tonawanda
Site properties.  All well and good.  End of story.

Unfortunately, with both DOE and these long-lived, toxic
radioactive wastes there really is no "end of story."  The new
DOE Site Manager, Dave Adler, now says that some of the
Building 38 debris, so-called "clean" material, was shipped to an
as-yet-unidentified local solid waste landfill. After the material 
was all ground up together, it is difficult to imagine how any truly
clean material could have been separated from the radioactive 
debris mix.

According to regulations of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory
Commission (NRC), there is no de minimus (i.e. below-
regulatory-concern) level of contamination for these uranium
processing wastes.  The offsite "disposal" of materials
contaminated with any amount of these uranium wastes
anywhere except in a specifically-licensed, NRC-approved
disposal facility is illegal.

Furthermore, this illegal offsite "disposal" of radioactive material
was apparently approved by the New York State Department of
Environmental Conservation.  According to Mr. Adler,
NYSDEC agreed to the disposal action "as long as the
landfill's radioactive [detectors] alarms do not go off."

It is unclear what method or criteria DOE used to separate the
so-called "clean" debris that was sent to a local landfill.  Thus
far, DOE has ignored a written request for a complete
explanation of the details of this action.  DOE may have used
the controversial criteria which it has proposed for the
"suspended" final site-wide cleanup.  These criteria, which were
developed for remote, western mill tailings sites and which are
unsuitable for the Tonawanda situation, have not been approved
by Tonawanda community stakeholders or the responsible
federal regulator, the NRC.  In fact, NRC's applicable cleanup
criteria are from three to fifty times (depending on the
criterion) more stringent than the DOE-proposed cleanup
criteria for the Tonawanda Site.  F.A.C.T.S. has requested
NRC to intervene.  To date, NRC has not yet responded.

In other "interim actions" at the Linde/Praxair property, DOE
recently let a second contract in the amount of $6 million for a
second attempt at decontaminating Building 14.  At a cost of
more than $2 million, an additional, an initial attempt early last
year failed to decontaminate this building to even the DOE's
proposed decontamination criteria.

F.A.C.T.S. has obtained evidence, from an unsuccessful bidder
on the second decontamination contract, that the
decontamination criteria DOE has been using are fifty times less
stringent than the applicable NRC decontamination criteria for a
radium-contaminated site.  A 1976 radiological survey of the
Linde buildings performed by Oak Ridge National Laboratories
found heavy radium contamination and, in their survey report,
these experts recommended that the Linde buildings be
contaminated to the much more stringent radium criteria.

According to the Tonawanda community's preferred final site-
wide cleanup alternative, i.e. Alternative No. 2 of the legitimate
draft Environmental Impact Statement process which DOE
"suspended" three years ago in favor of the ongoing illegitimate
"interim actions," all four contaminated Linde buildings were to
be demolished at a cost of approximately $1.5 million dollars
(lines 2a, 2b, and 2c on page G-19 of the Tonawanda Site
Feasibility Study).  The Town of Tonawanda tax office
currently lists Building 14 to be assessed at a full value of
$322,000.  In view of DOE's claim that cleanup funds are
very scarce and with more than 325,000 cubic yards of
contaminated soils yet to be cleaned up site-wide, DOE's
determination to spend an additional $6 million of public
cleanup money in a second attempt to decontaminate
(using improper, inadequate decontamination criteria) this
presumably fully-depreciated building seems to be fiscally
indefenible.

In view of the Building 38 revelation, F.A.C.T.S. now speculates
that so-called "clean" material from the decontamination of
another Linde building may have been "disposed" in local solid
waste landfills, or burned at the Am-Refuel "waste to energy"
incinerator in Niagara Falls.  Building 31, the subject of the first
"interim action," was reported to have been successfully
decontaminated last summer.  It is not known if the applicable,
fifty-fold-more-stringent NRC radium decontamination criteria
were met.

These illegal actions by DOE are most disturbing and call for an
immediate response by all who support a lawful, health-based
cleanup of the Tonawanda Site.  F.A.C.T.S. immediately
informed the CANiT politicians (Gorski/Tobe, John LaFalce, Carl
Calabrese, Chuck Swanick, and Alice Roth) by letter of both the
improper decontamination work that DOE continues to do and
the illegal disposal of radioactive materials resulting from the
"interim actions."  According to Mr. Tobe's assistant, Mike Raab,
CANiT was unaware of these DOE improprieties.  There has
been no word yet from the CANiT politicians about what they
intend to do about these clearly unacceptable developments.

Reprinted from Buffalo Alternative Press March 21 - April
		6, 1997

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