S.O.N.G. Update on Piketon Nuke Plant Cleanup & more | February 14, 2008

Update from SONG [Southern Ohio Neighbors Group]

Snowy Salutations!


We hope this finds you all warm and well! It has been awhile since our last message, so we’d like to take this opportunity to update you on some of the recent news pertinent to what is happening surrounding issues involving the Piketon, Ohio Department of Energy site. There have been several recent publications of interest which are included at the end of this message. (Unfortunately, our website is not currently updated, but hopefully it soon will be and we can direct you to links to these sorts of things instead of sending such lengthy messages.)


The first article warrants some background information to avoid confusion for those that are not following the local issues closely. The article addresses issues surrounding the formation of a citizens group to facilitate public involvement in decisions made regarding clean-up and future use of the Gaseous Diffusion Plant.


Of all the major DOE sites across the nation that are under order for an environmental cleanup of toxic hazards, Piketon (Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant) is the only site that has never had a Citizens Advisory Board (CAB). Finally, this issue is being addressed, however DOE is pressuring the Piketon community to abandon its right to an official Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA)-chartered CAB, and to accept instead an informal Stakeholders Advisory Committee.

At least two environmental laws applicable at the site mandate that there be a citizens advisory committee in place at Piketon[1][1]. However, the DOE has ignored or maneuvered around these two laws and now nearly 19 years after a cleanup was ordered by the EPA and nearly 7 years after the shut-down of the uranium enrichment plant, Piketon is still without a Citizens Advisory Board. While it is true that Citizens Advisory Boards do not have to be chartered under the FACA law, it is clear that in the case of Piketon, it will only be with the protections of FACA that the community will have so much as a fighting chance to get an authentic cleanup of the radiological and chemical contaminants and to have some say-so over what happens next at the site. And even under FACA, it will be a battle that the community may never win, but at least there could be a fighting chance.

DOE manager Bill Murphie has publicly stated that Piketon doesn’t need a FACA-chartered CAB; Bill Murphie says that a simple informal committee that works with him and isn’t hampered by all the rules and regulations of FACA should do just fine for Piketon. What Bill Murphie does not disclose is that behind closed doors the DOE and its brainchild, private development corporation, SODI, have already put together their own version of a “Stakeholder Advisory Committee” hand-picked to include only DOE and nuclear industry-friendly members; a committee that can be counted upon to rubberstamp whatever the DOE and its contractors have already planned for Piketon. Of course, their “Stakeholder Advisory Committee” is of the “informal” variety (not chartered under FACA and not requiring open meetings, or restricti ons against conflicts of interests, or public disclosure of records or any of the other protections needed by the community). In comments to the media SODI claims to have the full support of the community for its proposed, informal, stakeholder committee. But, except for the specially-invited guests to SODI’s private meetings, the community has not even seen the SODI proposal nor has the DOE met with the public to explain itself.


[1] CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act) commonly known as Superfund is especially applied to the cleanup of contaminated sites at Federal facilities like Piketon. This law triggers the call for a Citizens Advisory Board.

RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act) directs the EPA to protect our health and environment by regulating hazardous wastes from the point where the hazardous waste is created to the point of final disposal. This law requires public input at Piketon.


The other two articles include the story of three Oak Ridge, TN workers that were exposed to low-level radioactive materials from a mislabeled, leaking container that originated at the Piketon site, and a recent press release from Sherrod Brown’s office, objecting to cuts in funding for cleanup the Portsmouth, Ohio, Paducah, Kentucky, and Oak Ridge, Tennessee Gaseous Diffusion Plants proposed in the Bush Administration’s Fiscal Year 2009 budget.



We will be in touch again soon regarding several upcoming events being planned that we would like to encourage you to attend, as well as some simple actions we would be grateful for your help with. Thanks so much for your continued support!



Best regards,

The Southern Ohio Neighbors’ Group





Citizens Advisory Board faces uphill climb – published in The Pike County News Watchman, 1-30-2008

The process by which community members, groups and local officials can officially provide input through a Citizens Advisory Board (CAB) to the Department of Energy concerning environmental issues at the Piketon plant just got a little farther down the road.

A proposal prepared by the Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative (SODI) to form a stakeholders advisory board, was recently evaluated by The Perspectives Group, a consulting firm in Cincinnati, and declared the “DOE is operating in a situation of extremely low trust with many local stakeholders.” The consulting company met with residents of Bristol Village, members of the chamber of commerce, DOE senior management, Ohio EPA, LATA Parallax staff, members of the Portsmouth/Piketon Residents for Environmental Safety and Security (PRESS), members of SODI and members of the Southern Ohio Neighbors Group (SONG).The SODI proposal was prepared in relation to an offer from DOE at an open meeting in the summer to state what kind of CAB was wanted and needed.

As different as the views of those involved are, they all agree on one thing – a Citizens Advisory Board would be beneficial for all. But that is where the similarities end.

SODI Executive Director Greg Simonton said the proposal incorporated all of the key figures in the local area to make the board effective. The SODI proposal called for the seating of 25 members, including county commissioners from Pike, Ross, Scioto and Jackson counties, a designee from SONG, a designee from PRESS, a representative from the economic development communities for Pike, Ross, Scioto and Jackson counties, a labor organization representative for the DOE site workers, a designee from the Shawnee Labor Council, a SODI board member, two individuals who reside with two miles of the site, two selected designees from Scioto and Seal townships, designees from Piketon, Waverly and Beaver, and a designee from Portsmouth’s Episcopal Church’s Site Study Group. There would also be six ex officio (non-voting) members, including the governor, congress persons, state senators and the Executive Director of SODI.

“I think there are some things that are right and some things that are way off-base,” said Simonton. “(The consulting group) was done too quickly and met with too few groups to make a thorough analysis. We had support and representation from a broad-based constituency that was very open and accessible. I thought some of their opinions were biased, frankly.”

When asked where the proposal goes from here, Simonton said: “There will be (a CAB), but as to what form it takes I don’t know. We came together to present a proposal – but whatever happens, we need to make sure that the site remains as a valuable resource for our community, our state and our country. DOE hasn’t made a ruling on the consultants’ recommendation yet. They have a choice to make. Ultimately, clean-ups are locally defined, and the site will someday be given back to the community. So it is going to be up to us to determine what that site will look like.”

On the opposite side, the inclusion of SODI’s influence drove the Bristol Residents for Peace and SONG to oppose the proposal.

“As rightfully put (in the finding of the consultants), there is significant distrust in SODI and DOE and their intentions,” said Otto Zingg, co-chair of the Bristol Residents for Peace. “It is important to have people on the board who don’t have a business interest there.”

SONG’s Geoffrey Sea said the proposal from SODI was actually a Stakeholders Advisory Board, not a Citizens Advisory Board (CAB), which provides conflict-of interest provisions, that make the company ineligible to vote in the meetings. The findings of the consultants also mentioned that fact, stating: “The SODI effort to convene and environmental advisory group will not meet DOE’s needs. SODI has done a lot of research and is approaching the formation of the board in the right ways, however it is not in the position of community-wide trust and creditability necessary for this effort to succeed and be useful to DOE Their strong involvement with the GNEP proposal makes it difficult for them to provide the independent leadership needed for such an effort to succeed.”

“It is now up to the community itself to form a CAB for Piketon and force the government representatives to put it into effect,” said Sea.



Three workers exposed in spill: Low-level radioactive waste came from Piketon plant – published in The Pike County News Watchman, 2-3-2008


Three workers in an Oak Ridge, Tenn. plant have been exposed to low-level radioactive waste after a container they were unpacking was discovered to have breached an internal container. The workers were attempting to repack the powdered product out of a five gallon container, so it could be shipped to a disposal site in Barnwell, S.C.

“There was no exposure to the environment, but there was some exposure to the workers, who have turned out to be OK,” said USEC Spokesperson Elizabeth Stuckle.

The container was shipped from the Piketon USEC site to the Oak Ridge site, where the breach occurred. The container was mislabeled, according to Stuckle.

“There are still some questions yet to be answered as to the labeling and why the internal container was breached,” said Stuckle. “We will continue to work with Energy Solutions to investigate the details related to this event. We will know a lot more after we investigate.” According to Stuckle, the material inside was inherited by USEC in 1993, when they took over for the Department of Energy.

Lung tests on the three exposed workers have come back negative, but samples were taken to determine if the workers were contaminated internally.

According to the website for Energy Solutions, the company provides disposal services for contaminated metal and debris cleanup projects, operational and decommissioning waste, and remediation efforts involving low-level radioactive waste.

The DOE Environmental Management Waste Management Facility in Oak Ridge is described by prime contractor Bechtel Jacobs as the “cornerstone of the Oak Ridge cleanup program.”

Energy Solutions designed, constructed, and has operated the site for the DOE since 2002.



For Immediate Release

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Contact: Bethany Lesser

(202) 224-3978


Washington, DC – The Bush Administration’s Fiscal Year 2009 budget, released yesterday, calls for deep cuts in the funding needed to cleanup the Portsmouth, Ohio, Paducah, Kentucky, and Oak Ridge, Tennessee Gaseous Diffusion Plants. The budget proposal cuts funding by $147 million, from $627 million last year to $480 million this year. U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today blasted the administration’s decision, calling the practice of cutting vital cleanup funds indefensible. The Decontamination and Decommissioning (D&D) account funds projects to decontaminate, decommission, and remediate the facilities at U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) sites.

“The people of southern Ohio have been neglected for too long,” Brown said. “This cut is just another blow to DOE legacy communities like Piketon. It’s proof positive that we need to reauthorize the D&D fund. This administration cannot simply sweep nuclear waste under a rug. These waste sites need to be cleaned up. It’s a matter of public health, public safety, and government accountability.”

In 1992, Congress created the D&D fund. The program was to clean up the old gaseous diffusion enrichment plants in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio. The fund was designed as a partnership between the nuclear industry and the federal government. The commercial nuclear power industry has long benefited from its partnership with the federal government. The government transferred domestic nuclear technology it had invented to private companies for domestic electricity production. As part of this partnership, the nuclear industry has and continues to purchase enriched uranium from the old enrichment plants.

The administration’s cuts come at a particularly crucial time for the Piketon site that will soon transition from cold storage to full D & D activities.

In October, Brown introduced the D&D Reauthorization Bill (S.2203), which would extend the fund for ten years and raise the cap on the maximum amount of money the fund can collect in a year. Brown’s legislation would also require DOE to study the best way to handle the remaining depleted uranium currently located at the Piketon and Paducah sites. The Senate Energy Committee held a hearing on Brown’s legislation in November. Estimates for cleanup of the sites currently range from $12 billion to $24 billion.




S.O.N.G can be contacted @ southern.ohio.neighbors.group@gmail.com

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