Portsmouth "Classified" Materials Adequately Protected, but Incident Reporting Issues Found at Former Atomic Plant

Updated 11 years ago by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
(file photo)
(file photo)

A 2012 Department of Energy Heath Safety & Security report evaluated security procedures at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

One of the recommendations indicated the need for more timely tracking and reporting of incidents related to classified materials.

John S. Boulden III, director, Office of Enforcement and Oversight Office of Health , Safety and Security revealed that WEMS (Wastren-EnergyX Mission Support, LLC) had not yet “completed the process of fully integrating classified information security activities into its existing regulatory compliance program.”

One recommendation related to  IOSC (Incidents of Security Concern)  and “other non-compliance related to the protection and control of classified [cyber] information.” On the other hand, the assessment concluded "classified documents and materials appear adequately protected and controlled according to Department of Energy guidelines."

Still, Vina Colley, president of PRESS, the Portsmouth/Piketon Residents for Environmental Safety and Security, and co-founder of National Nuclear Workers for Justice, has previously asserted and continued to stress, disparities of classified and unclassified inventories have been ongoing. As for the  community, Colley, who formerly worked as a welder at the “A Plant,” recalled that the operators of the A plant have “never sent out an alarm to the community the whole time [the plant] has been there, unless it was a drill.”  The former employee knows of “incidents out there” that have not been reported by media or detailed to the community.

Although the plant in the past and in future proposals has provided high paying jobs, some residents, like Colley, feel “they will do what they want to do,” by not conveying the full story to the community.

This distrust partially  emanates from the plant’s environmental legacy, which has revealed seepage  of contamination both in and outside the plant perimeters, including soil and water. It also stems from having workers like herself labor in locations that caused many to become seriously ill.

Now, four surrounding  counties ( such as Pike, Scioto, Adams, ) are being asked to each allow new 100 acre lined and capped landfills for waste.

“If it gets a split, all this radioactive stuff will wind up in our aquifer,” Colley told HNN, adding that radioactive matter has previously been found in the Piketon and Portsmouth water tables.

Currently, Colley sees “every night an all  white [glow] lights up in the sky until 5:30 a.m.  There something there ...”

Colley’s apprehensions relate to inventories of radiated minerals, such as plutonium and uranium. Since the end of the Cold War, the plant has purchased contaminated weapons grade Russian warheads and down sized the concentration to suitable uses  in nuclear power plants.

Among the waste materials stored/buried in Piketon, Ohio are the still classified debris from the dismantling/demolition of the Huntington Pilot Plant (Reduction Pilot Plant), which in the 1950s and 1960s provided uranium and nickel processing (and recycling of fuels) from the country’s gaseous diffusion plants in Piketon, Ohio, Paducah, Ky., and Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Though the gaseous diffusion mission has been folding into decommissioning and decontamination, the property can only be released for industrial uses. Work related activities assume exposures to contaminants over an eight hour day and 40 hour week. According to Groundwater Movement at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant compiled by Radioactive Waste Management Associates in 2002, the area does not and will not be suitable at any future time for residences:

“The key problem of the site and the reason for the lack of environmental data is that DOE made up the rules as the situations arose. Radionuclides and hazardous chemicals were initially released to the environment with no containment. Over time, monitoring and containment was added, but considerable damage had already been done. Now it is a problem of costly catch-up and remediation. 

“Because of significant contamination of the site, residential use of the premises is not being considered for the foreseeable future. Industrial use of the site is possible only because industrial occupants are not expected to live in subsistence on the site and therefore do not ingest groundwater and locally grown crops. However, it is impossible to predict where people will live in several hundreds or thousands of years, long after DOE loses institutional control of the site. For this reason, any risk assessment should consider the residential farmer scenario."

(A grant for the report came from Citizen’s Monitoring and Technical Assessment Fund from the John Merck Fund. © 2002 Yggdrasil. PRESS founded by Ms. Colley and the Uranium Enrichment Project requested the report.)