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- FLASHBACK: Transcripts Reveal Technetium, Neptunium and Plutonium at Huntington Pilot Plant Concern Over Parking Lot Radiation Expressed
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Wall Street Journal Lists Huntington’s Former Uranium Processing Plant in “Wasteland” Series; Threat Can’t Be Ruled Out
The Journal compilation covered over 500 sites in the online database. Cole Street and Altizer Avenue is listed as the location for the facility that utilized nuclear materials.
Specifically, the Journal citing a Report on Residual Radioactive and Beryllium Contamination at Atomic Weapons Employer Facilities and Beryllium Vendor Facilities places the undesignated Reduction Pilot Plant (a.k.a. Huntington Pilot Plant) in a gray area: “The designation does not mean a health threat exists. It merely means that based on the evidence, a threat (to public health) cannot be ruled out.”
Inconclusive? Yes, other facilities with the SAME non-listing gray determinations are: Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant, Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, Savannah River Swamp, and the Mound Laboratory (Miamisburg, Ohio). Similarly, these locations were “considered but eliminated” from the DOE’s Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program.
The Journal compilation places the Huntington Alloys, Inc. (formerly International Nickel Company, now Special Metals) in the category despite previously referenced documents from 1981, 1987, and 1994 that based on available evidence at that time, the location was deemed remediated following the removal of the structure and its 1978-1979 burial on the grounds of the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant. http://projects.wsj.com/waste-lands/site/390-reduction-pilot-plant/
Where has radioactive residue been found? Thirty six states have contaminated locations ranging from floors and ceilings of public buildings, hiking trails, vacant lots, and groundwater. The WSJ noted that medical studies have not pinpointed an “exact” relationship to low-level radiation and cancer. But many former workers at the sites have been or are asking for federal compensation for illness, including cancer.
As the forgotten sites article begins, the reporters point to a small room in UC Berkeley Gilman Hall (Room 307) where plutonium was isolated prior to the nation’s entrance into World War II. The university had to rip out an adjacent room in 1957 and 25 years later a dozen rooms were found contaminated.
“We will never know” the exposure levels before the 80s cleanup, reported Carolyn MacKenzie , the UC Berkeley radiation safety officer.
Although federal officials maintain “adequate measures to protect the public health and that the sites do not pose a threat to anyone living or working nearby,” but the WSJ Investigation raises record tracking issues, even at sites that underwent expensive cleanups.
- At least 20 sites initially declared SAFE have required additional cleanups, sometimes more than once;
- The government does not have exact addresses for dozens of facilities, including one uranium handling facility for which the state of its location cannot be determined;
- Spotty record keeping from Department of Energy documentation has left “several dozen sites” where it cannot be decided “whether a cleanup is needed or not.”
Four million people live within a mile of the 300 “forgotten” sites. 260 public schools and 600 public parks are within a half mile, the WSJ stated.
The Department of Energy wrote, in part, to the WSJ about residual radioactive contamination.
“Cleanup does not imply that all hazards will be removed from a given site,” the WSJ reported. On some sites the federal government imposed “institutional controls,” restricting use of the properties for “centuries , or , in some cases, millennia.”
For instance, two dismantled nuclear reactors used in World War II were dumped and buried in a ditch. Radioactive tritium turned up in ground water in Cook County, and concrete rubble and pipes were exposed in the 1990s. Erosion from bicycle trail use has elevated radiation levels.
Winter visitors to the Forest Preserve District of Cook County walk past oak and maple trees. But, James Phillips, a biologist, told the Journal, that visitors have stated snow does not gather in that plot. That’s been relegated to urban legend status. There’s a similar statement about radioactive heat at the former Huntington site, too. http://projects.wsj.com/waste-lands/