Critics Call Nuke Waste Transmutation Project a "Shell Game

Rocky Flats "Cleanup" Continues to Put Workers At Risk

Canadian Professor Speaks Out Against "Star Wars"

* Republican Senator Domenici of New Mexico secured $34 million to fund a new program called Advanced Accelerator Applications at Los Alamos National Laboratory to study the possibility of developing technology that could transform radioactive nuclear waste into less lethal forms. Critics call the plan a "shell game," saying it will cost more and generate more new waste than it's worth.

Pete Lyons, Domenici's science adviser, said the program is an experiment and may prove too expensive and too environmentally harmful to work, but they still plan to begin the program.

Some scientists and environmentalists feel this plan is not the answer. Hisham Zerriffi, a consulting senior scientist for the Institute of Energy and Environmental Research in Takoma Park, Maryland, said the technology doesn't actually "reduce" nuclear waste at all. "It's a loophole," Zerriffi said, leaving uranium that can then be buried in less secure landfills although it will still be as radioactive as some of the waste buried at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. "This is going to create more dangers than it's proposed to solve. There's not a clear argument for transmutation," he said.

* Kaiser-Hill, the contractor hired by the Department of Energy (or DOE) to "cleanup" the Rocky Flats nuclear plant near Denver, Colorado received an unusually severe letter from DOE about their safety deficiencies for a recent string of safety and criticality violations.

In a January 5 letter obtained by The Energy Daily, DOE wrote that the continuing safety deficiencies "raise the potential that Kaiser-Hill may not be fully complying with certain sections of the contract." Last year, fines imposed on Kaiser-Hill for safety violations totalled $410,000.

DOE Rocky Flats Manager Barbara Mazurowski said the last straw occurred when workers in one of Rocky Flats' buildings violated criticality safety limits twice last month by packing waste in drums over the criticality safety limits for the containers. Mazurowski said there was a steady increase of similar incidents over the last year. She told Kaiser-Hill President, Robert Card, "[DOE] is concerned that Kaiser-Hill workers, especially those engaged in critical activities involving the handling of materials, do not understand their roles and responsibilities. This applies to both supervisors and workers."

In response, Jennifer Thompson, a spokesperson for Kaiser-Hill said the company agreed that the frequency of safety and criticality incidents had increased, but their safety record had improved over the number of incidents in 1999.

* John Valleau, professor emeritus at the University of Toronto in Canada and the executive director of Science for Peace wrote in a recent commentary that, "[I]t is urgent that the Canadian government speak out now" in opposing the United States missile defense project. His concerns are based on a little-known five-year-old U.S. document he uncovered that explains the U.S. plan to dominate and colonize outer space. The United States Space Command's document called, "Vision for 2020," describes its role as "dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect U.S. interests and investment [and] integrating Space Forces into war-fighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict."

Professor Valleau wrote, "[t]he U.S. states the purpose of the Missile Defense Project is to intercept, in space, a small number of missiles launched against the United States, [but] the controversial plan may be more sinister than we could imagine, and Canada must make every effort to stop it." Valleau points out that "This is a clear plan to militarize space with U.S. weapons, and to seek the ability to deny others the use of space."

So while the U.S. signed the Outer Space Treaty, which is aimed at preventing the weaponization of outer space, according to this U.S. Space Command document, it appears obvious that the U.S. does not plan to honor yet another treaty.

Valleau said, "at first, it is hard to believe that this horrifying plan is really U.S. policy, but there has been no repudiation of the published intentions by the U.S. administration, and the Space Command continues to be handsomely financed."

The Professor points out that to "put the Space Command plans in place, the U.S. will have to ignore the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and probably the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as well, while violating at least the spirit of the Outer Space Treaty and the Environmental Modification Techniques protocol."

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