Time: 02-12-2011 21:44 User: mstollhaus

PubDate: 02-13-2011 Zone: KY Edition: 1 Page Name: A 8

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SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2011 | THE COURIER-JOURNAL

FROM PAGE ONE & NATION |

courier-journal.com

KY-

PADUCAH | Short-term pollution measures weren’t intended to be permanent
Continued from A1
while workers have taken stop-gap steps to reduce pollution threats, only a full cleanup will protect people and the environment over the long term. The EPA has identified nearly 50 serious contaminants on or near the plant, including pollutants that can cause liver, lung, thyroid and kidney damage, as well as cancer. The short-term measures, such as taking a limited number of people off their water wells and posting warning signs near a polluted stream, were never intended to be a permanent solution, said Ed Winner, who oversees the cleanup for the Kentucky Division of Waste Management. “Problems deferred are problems expanded — exPhotos by Michael Clevenger, The Courier-Journal panded in terms of impact on the environment, risk to “As I project out in time, my certainty that the public will be protected drops significantly,” said Ed Winner, who coordinates the the public and costs to the cleanup of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant for the Kentucky Division of Waste Management. taxpayer,” Winner said. “As I project out in time, my certhat the government retainty that the public will be placed his wells with treated protected drops significantdrinking water and have Issue Completed Remaining ly.” posted warning signs near Environmental 15 square miles and 11,000 Continues into future the creek that flows through monitoring sampled locations Change in purpose his farm. Buried waste Interim capping on three burial Estimated 600,000 cubic yards of Uranium was enriched A former community adareas buried materials under 72 acres for nuclear weapons at the visory board member, Lamb plant from the early 1950s said more delays aren’t a surDecontamination and 22 inactive facilities 2.6 to 4.0 million cubic yards of until the mid-1960s, when prise. “It can be expected demolition of buildings, (200,000 square feet) building materials the government decided it when you waited too long to industrial facilities had accumulated enough admit your problems, and Contaminated creeks, 36,000 cubic yards removed Remove contaminated material for the weapons ditches and other surface sediments from five to six miles of then let the treasury dry up,” program, said Reinhard M. he said. water. creeks Knerr, the Energy DepartOthers question whether Contaminated soil 2,700 cubic yards removed Remove 100,000 to 200,000 ment’s site leader at Paduthe federal government has cubic yards of contaminated soils spent money wisely on the cah. In the late 1970s and early1980s, the plant was upproject. Energy Department Contaminated Treated 2.5 billion gallons water 5.9 billion gallons contaminated graded to produce a higher officials said they have spent groundwater treated with 15 tons TCE removed ground water grade material for commerabout $2.1 billion since 1988 Contaminated scrap metal 33,500 tons removed Complete cial reactors, he said. and are about 45 percent Other waste 600,000 cubic feet removed Ongoing as wastes are identified Today, while the governthrough their 2019 commitment owns the property, it Source: Kentucky Division of Waste Management The Courier-Journal ments. leases operations in a large “They have spent so part of the plant to United much money,” said Mark States Enrichment Corp. Donham, a southeastern IlliPADUCAH PLANT The cleanup is in inactive nois resident who lives 16 Only functioning uraniumparts of the plant. miles from the plant and is a enrichment facility in the U.S. While the company can former advisory committee with active operations. continue to make fuel for as chairman. “(But) the biggest Owned by U.S. Department long as it wants, it isn’t clear problems are yet to be adof Energy; leased to United how long it will. Its contract dressed. I don’t know what States Enrichment Corp. for massive amounts of electhe answer is, but I am not Located on 3,400 acres tricity from the Tennessee about 10 miles west of Paducah sure that throwing a bunch Valley Authority expires in more money is the answer.” Began operations in 1952 May 2012. The company anDonham said he’s espeHas produced enriched nounced in January that it cially worried about conuranium for military and comwas taking steps to extend mercial purposes. The enriching taminated or radioactive operations beyond that, but process increases the proportion dust blowing into neighborcompany spokesman Paul ing communities when of uranium atoms that can be Jacobson also has said its buildings are demolished. “split” by fission to release ability to keep running deThe Energy Departenergy — usually in the form of pends on securing a benefiment’s most recent annual heat — that can be used to cial deal. Some 1,100 comreport for the site describes produce electricity. pany jobs are at stake. Process can use as much as only minimal pollution risks The cleanup at the Padu3,000 megawatts of electricity, to the public. “There has cah plant began in 1988 after been a lot of progress in the enough to power more than 2 radioactivity and other conlast several years,” Murphie million homes. tamination was found in the said. drinking water wells of resiEven so, state officials say dences near the facility. perdome. Disposal options they can understand the For years, residents, the range from putting it in a frustration with the pace of Energy Department and possible mountainous land- progress. The project is so state regulators fought over fill on plant property, to the massive, and mountains of the extent of the contaminamore expensive choice of preliminary work needed to tion and what to do about it, shipping it out of state for be done, they said. In fact, reaching an accord in 1998. disposal. the project’s documents Kentucky and the Energy housed in Frankfort would Residents’ concerns Department followed with fill a small moving van. an “expedited” agreement in The reactions from near“It took years to charac2003 that established the “It took years to characterize the contamination and develop by residents range from terize the contamination and 2019 cleanup deadline. develop remediation plans,” remediation plans,” said Tony Hatton, director of the Kentucky alarm to resignation. But with the national Division of Waste Management, who is shown with files on the “We are very concerned said Tony Hatton, director of debt becoming an increasing nuclear fuel factory. “Now we’re starting to do the work.” we are going to lose all the the Kentucky Division of focus in Washington, Kenmomentum and all the pro- Waste Management. “Now tucky regulators have been commissioning Fund, creat- tection. Also slowed would gress we have made over the we’re starting to do the told that promised budget ed by Congress in 1992 to be the cleanup of two, three- last couple of years,” said work.” increases for the cleanup are help pay for cleanups at Pa- mile-long groundwater pol- Ralph Young, a retired engiSo far, that’s included unlikely for the foreseeable ducah and two other sites, lution plumes that have like- neer and member of the demolition of an incinerator future. expired in 2007. That means ly reached the Ohio River, plant’s community advisory and smelter, removal of The debt, which has utilities have stopped paying and the further decontami- board who lives in Paducah. 30,500 cubic yards of contopped $14 trillion, “is a huge into it, leaving Congress to nation and demolition of “When you start going out taminated scrap metal, deissue for the country, and we fill its coffers. The Paducah some other idle buildings 20 more years from today, contamination of two large are not going to be exempt,” cleanup has received an av- and facilities. that’s, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ You buildings, demolition of sevsaid William E. Murphie, the erage of $107 million a year And the tighter budgets hate to pass this along to eral small buildings, installaPaducah project manager from the fund since 2005. also might limit choices in your children and grandchil- tion of a system that heats for the Energy Department, Winner said flat federal the future, officials acknowl- dren.” groundwater to vaporize during a recent tour of the funding specifically threat- edged. Lamb said he fears the de- and extract solvents, and plant. ens cleanup of radioactive For example, the plant lay will lead to more illness cleaning drainage ditches Adding to the project’s waste, oil and other polluted might have as much as 4 mil- among people who live near that Winner said “were mabudget problems is the fact materials that were dumped lion cubic yards of contami- the plant. jor flow paths for contamithat a Uranium Enrichment in the ground decades ago nated waste — enough to alAlthough “you can’t nation leaving the site.” Decontamination and De- with no environmental pro- most fill the Louisiana Su- prove anything,” he noted

Bulk of work awaits
Still, officials acknowledge that most of the work lies ahead and that there may be more contamination they don’t know about. Among the work yet to be done: Decontamination and demolition of hundreds of structures, including four massive buildings that cover more than 100 acres and are still used by United States Enrichment Corp. Winner has described some as among the largest buildings in the world, and the Energy Department said in 2007 that their removal and cleanup would extend to 2040. Officials say the cost could be about $8.9 billion. Stabilization, disposal or recycling of some 39,000, 14-ton containers of depleted uranium hexafluoride that blanket 700 acres on the site — a stockpile started when the plant began operation in 1952. That effort recently passed a milestone with construction of a factory that will extract an acid for sale and prepare the uranium for disposal as low-level radioactive waste. That work has a price tag of $1.4 billion and may involve three crew shifts, working 24 hours a day for 25 years, Knerr said. “There’s 50 years of material out there,” he said. Murphie, the Energy Department project manager, asked for patience, and suggested that federal funding may still come through. “The Earth isn’t coming to an end here,” he said. “We can’t predict what next year will bring. Congress may fix this problem.” Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-1st District, said he wasn’t aware that federal officials were counting on spending increases this decade to meet their commitments in Paducah. “There is no easy answer to this,” he said, noting that every step of the cleanup has “taken much longer than anyone originally said it would take. … There has always been what I could call a shortage of funds.” Robert Steurer, spokesman for Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, said his boss has helped secure about $1.2 billion for the cleanup since 2000 and believes “the federal government has a responsibility to the people of McCracken County.” “Senator McConnell remains committed to ensuring DOE keeps its focus on cleaning up the facility,” Steurer said. One option that McConnell and Whitfield are looking into is whether some of the depleted uranium could be reprocessed, raising money for the government to help pay for cleanup. A 2008 Government Accountability Office report estimated the value of depleted uranium at Paducah and a sister facility in Portsmouth, Ohio, at $7.6 billion, but it said Congress may need to pass a law allowing its sale. Sen. Rand Paul, who campaigned for a balanced federal budget in one year, which would require hundreds of billion dollars worth of cuts, is calling for elimination of the Energy Department, among other federal agencies. His press office declined to answer questions about the future of the Paducah plant cleanup.
Reporter James Bruggers can be reached at (502) 582-4645.

Cleanup status at the plant

Reports on ’07 zoo attack say tiger likely provoked
By Jason Dearen and Marcus Wohlsen
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — A female Siberian tiger killed in a hail of police gunfire after mauling a man to death at the San Francisco Zoo on Christmas Day 2007 likely was provoked into leaping and clawing out of its enclosure, a federal investigator said in documents obtained

by The Associated Press. The tiger, named Tatiana, killed 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr. and injured his friends, brothers Paul and Kulbir Dhaliwal, leaving claw marks etched in the asphalt and claw fragments in the bushes outside its pen. Claw marks were also found near the top of the enclosure wall, which was lower than federal safety standards dictate, showing that

the big cat was able to get enough leverage to pull itself out. “It appears the tiger was able to jump from the bottom of the dry moat to the top of the wall and gain enough purchase over the top to pull herself out over the moat wall,” wrote Laurie Gage, a tiger expert who investigated the scene for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant

Health Inspection Service, which oversees the nation’s zoos. “With my knowledge of tiger behavior I cannot imagine a tiger trying to jump out of its enclosure unless it was provoked,” Gage wrote in the Dec. 27, 2007, draft of her report. That statement was stricken from the final version of the report because it was “irrelevant from an Ani-

mal Welfare Act enforcement standpoint,” said David Sacks, a spokesman for APHIS. Whether the tiger was provoked has long been a point of contention. After sitting with its prey for a short time, Gage wrote that Tatiana likely followed the Dhaliwals’ blood trail for about 300 yards to where it resumed attacks. Photographs show blood-

smeared asphalt where the tiger apparently dragged Sousa’s body. “After a kill, I find it interesting the tiger would leave a kill to go after something else unless there were a compelling reason,” Gage wrote. “The tiger passed exhibits with warthogs, which it ignored as it followed (the blood trail?) of the two brothers to the Terrace Cafe outside the dining area.”

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