The American Centrifuge Facility (The Piketon Atomic Plant): “Piketon’s New Nuclear Chapter” – Excerpt from the Scioto Valley Guardian
In the previous month, 96 U.S. Senators, cast their votes in favor of an amendment to the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment’s aim is to “mandate the Secretary of Energy to establish a Nuclear Fuel Security Program, expand the American Assured Fuel Supply, establish a HALEU for Advanced Nuclear Reactor Demonstration Projects Program, and submit a report on a civil nuclear credit program, and to enhance programs to build workforce capacity to meet critical mission needs of the Department of Energy…”
The current cleanup of the GDP has created a whirlwind of controversies since it began.
In 2019, Zahn’s Corner Middle School closed due to reported contamination within the school building. The Scioto Valley Local School District, at the time, informed the community of the discovery of Neptunium 237 (Np-237), a man-made radioactive element characterized by a 2.144-million-year half-life, in air samples at the school. Np-237 poses significant radioactivity and potential hazards to human health, manifesting in severe repercussions upon ingestion or inhalation, including cancer. The introduction of Np-237 into the environment can occur through the discharge of nuclear waste. Health impacts, experts say, are contingent on the level and mode of exposure, with short-term exposure leading to symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, and prolonged exposure heightening cancer risks. Its presence in the environment is also concerning, as its persistence can lead to contamination of soil, water, and air, along with its accumulation in plants and animals that enter the human food chain.
Private air monitoring stations have reported numerous radioactive isotopes in areas surrounding the plant, extending to Lucasville and Chillicothe.
In April 2019, Dr. Michael Ketterer, Professor Emeritus at Northern Arizona University, released a report following the identification of radioactive contamination within a Lucasville resident’s home. The report concluded that Neptunium and Plutonium found in homes and private air monitoring stations were directly linked to the “Atomic Plant.”
As per the Ohio Department of Health, Pike County’s cancer incidence rate between 2014 and 2018 exceeded the state average by 14% and the national average by 19%. The county predominantly sees cases of Lung and Bronchus cancer, along with elevated rates of Breast Cancer among female residents. A study led by Joseph J. Mangano, MHP, MPA, an epidemiologist and the executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project, further highlighted that Pike County boasts the highest cancer rates among Ohio’s 88 counties.
In 2020, former plant employees filed a lawsuit against contractors working for the U.S. Department of Energy at the time, alleging the creation of a hazardous environment for workers and nearby residents. The lawsuit, initially branding the contractors involved in “cleaning up the facility” a “criminal enterprise,” was linked to the release of dangerous “isotopes” and “radioactive material” over the years. An additional federal lawsuit was filed against Centrus and the previous site cleanup contractors alleging similar allegations of radioactive contamination in homes near the plant. That lawsuit is still ongoing in federal courts.
While the facility is viewed as a regional economic cornerstone, supplying numerous jobs, concerns about safety outweigh the financial benefits in the eyes of many community members. Vina Colley, a former employee of the GDP, is among those who have taken a stand against the facility. Colley, who has vocally decried rising cancer rates and linked radioactive contamination to the GDP clean-up efforts, appeals for a thorough examination of reports and facts before advocating for full-time operations at the neighboring Centrus facility. She calls upon current Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm to take action and to listen to those affected by the radioactive contamination.
Activist groups in the state continue to push for Ohioans, particularly those affected by the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion plant, to receive compensation under RECA due to potential radiation-related health concerns. The Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (“RECA”), established under 42 U.S.C. § 2210 note, offers compensation to individuals who suffered serious illnesses due to presumed radiation exposure during atmospheric nuclear tests or uranium industry work. Administered by the Attorney General, the program provides lump sum awards for three groups: Uranium Miners, Millers, and Ore Transporters; “Onsite Participants” in nuclear tests; and individuals who lived downwind of the Nevada Test Site (“Downwinders”).
The Department of Energy maintains that the new HALEU production is conducted within stringent safety parameters and is isolated from the surrounding environment. “We are committed to the highest standards of safety and security in our operations,” said a Centrus spokesperson. However, the glaring disparity between official assurances and the community’s lived experiences underscores the need for transparent oversight and accountability.
Despite a grace period for Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, federal regulators say no to resuming review of PG&E’s extension request.
It’s a hard road, even with a $1.4 billion inducement. Members of Mothers for Peace were joined in recent decades by the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability. The Alliance called the deal a financial “shell game,” and the Mothers said the safety issues were major: Functions like the control room, piping, and vibration detectors in cooling pumps had been babied along with spare parts or went uninspected in hard-to-reach spots, according to testimony before the Diablo Canyon Independent Safety Committee last May.
THE SAN LUIS OBISPO-BASED GROUP MOTHERS FOR PEACE has fought the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in Avila Beach, in San Luis Obispo County, since before it opened, arguing safety concerns over radioactive waste and nearby earthquake faults.
Protests did not prevent Pacific Gas & Electric Company from obtaining the necessary approvals and licenses to open the 2.2-gigawatt plant in 1985. The two units came to generate about 20 percent of the power in PG&E’s service area today, despite concerns about seismic safety that came into focus over the decades and broader concerns about nuclear power in general.
EM Senior Advisor William “Ike” White met with members of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA) on May 17 to discuss timely topics in the cleanup program, from DOE’s Justice40 Initiative and stakeholder involvement in EM’s Strategic Vision to waste disposal and deactivation & decommissioning (D&D) work around the complex.
“I really appreciate the opportunity to hear from all of you on your different perspectives and where the cleanup program should be and where it should go in the future,” White said to the members of the grassroots network of 34 community organizations focused on health, cleanup and weapons issues at EM sites.
White and other EM senior managers met with the alliance in a virtual meeting during the ANA DC Days event in which ANA members convene with congressional and administration officials on nuclear issues. For over 30 years, EM management has met with the ANA for the annual event. DC Days normally takes place in person but has shifted to a virtual format in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The original cleanup was done “on the cheap,” says Bob Schaeffer, consultant to the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability. It “needs serious cleanup….Instead, the feds decided to just bury what they could and walk away and declare it a wildlife refuge so people wouldn’t be living on it.”
The Cold War never erupted into the nuclear nightmare that the world feared for decades. But the legacy of the never-used nuclear weapons remains a ticking time bomb that could endanger countless people and lead to environmental catastrophe any time.
In the United States, there are more than 150 sites that have to be managed for nuclear waste for centuries or millennia. But, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, the US Department of Energy (DoE) — which is charged with managing dangerous, radioactive waste and contaminated soil and water leftover from weapon construction — appears to lacks the capacity for the task.
DoE’s Office of Legacy Management (LM) manages 100 nuclear waste dumps with 51 or 52 more sites expected to fall under its jurisdiction by 2050 (one site remains in question). The sites range all over the country, from Amchitka in the western Aleutians to El Verde on the east side of Puerto Rico. The Legacy Management office takes over maintenance of dangerous sites after other managers — including DoE’s Office of Environmental Management, US Army Corps of Engineers, and private licensees — have cleaned them up.
The GAO report, “Environmental Liabilities: DoE Needs to Better Plan for Post-Cleanup Challenges Facing Sites” (pdf), issued earlier this year, found, among other things, that the DoE doesn’t have a plan for how to address challenges at some sites that may require new cleanup work that is not in the scope of LM’s expertise.
Nor, says the report, does it have a strategy in place to assess and mitigate the effects of climate change on these sites, that need to be safeguarded against increasingly frequent and severe rainfall, tornadoes, hurricanes and accompanying flooding and forest fires. It foresees that the DoE will need yet-to-be-developed technology and untold billions of dollars to keep the stored nuclear waste from contaminating air, soil and water.
East Bay Time Letter to the Editor on Hiroshima Anniversary “Hiroshima anniversary a time to reflect, act”
Militarization, violence and assault weapons permeate our culture.
Sitting at the apex of violence are nuclear weapons of mass destruction. How can we promote a civilian life of compassion, inclusion and nonviolence while our government spends billions on new, “more usable” nuclear warheads?
Nuclear weapons pose a threat to our existence and could destroy most of life on earth in the span of an afternoon. Whether by design, accident or miscalculation, human error may cause mass human extinction.
This week marks the 75th anniversary of the start of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki nuclear holocausts. Beginning today, online programs will feature remembrances, history, survivor stories and the current threat of nuclear buildup.
Good news includes the U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and nonprofits like our national Alliance for Nuclear Accountability and local Tri-Valley CAREs.
Patricia Moore Livermore
Proposed Plutonium Bomb Plant at SRS in South Carolina Draws Criticism from Public; NNSA’s Nuclear War Plans Challenged
DOE’s NNSA Quietly Plans for All-Out Nuclear War as Coronavirus Rages and Peace and Justice Demonstrations Grow; Plutonium Pit Production to Stimulate Arms Race
“Savannah River Site Watch, Nuclear Watch New Mexico and Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment, all members of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA), are pondering a lawsuit on the pit proposal for violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).”
Given the escalating federal deficit and reorientation of national security due to the coronavirus, we will continue to vigorously challenge the funding and authorization for the Plutonium Bomb Plant.”
COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA, US, June 3, 2020 /EINPresswire.com/ — Numerous public interest groups and individuals have submitted comments critical of the U.S. Department of Energy’s unjustified proposal to expand production of plutonium “pits” – the core of nuclear weapons – to DOE’s Savannah River Site near Aiken, South Carolina. A flurry of comments were submitted on the proposed SRS Plutonium Bomb Plant (PBP) as the comment period ended on June 2.
Comments were formally submitted on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s “Draft Environmental Impact Statement on Plutonium Pit Production at Savannah River Site; Aiken, South Carolina,” which was released on April 3. Various groups submitted their own hard-hitting comments and solicited comments to be submitted by their supporters.
Commenters uniformly opposed plans to expand plutonium pit production into the terminated plutonium fuel (MOX) building at SRS, to produce 50 or more pits by 2030, called for preparation of an overarching Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) to review the need for pit-production expansion and impacts at a host of DOE sites. They also challenged the need for new pits for new nuclear weapons and for pit replacement in all active and reserve U.S. warheads. Additionally, groups questioned disposal of pit transuranic (plutonium) waste in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico.
Questions were raised about the intent of pit-production expansion at both SRS and Los Alamos National Lab (LANL), which appears to be to hold on to a massive nuclear stockpile of about 4000 nuclear weapons, undermining national security and in violation of disbarment obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Commenters questioned why NNSA is not reviewing reuse of pits, of which there are over 15,000 in storage at DOE’s Pantex site in Texas and why NNSA has been dragging its feet on congressionally required plutonium-aging studies. According to a 2007 report by the JASON group of experts, “Most primary types have credible minimum lifetimes in excess of 100 years as regards aging of plutonium.”