Activists Charge INEEL is Violating Clean Air Act

Paducah Workers Test Positive for Exposure to Beryllium

* Activist organizations in Idaho and Wyoming released a statement recently claiming that the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (or INEEL) is exceeding federally regulated air emissions standards under the Clean Air Act. According to the statement, INEEL is releasing 20 times the amount of total toxic organic chemical emissions and 70 times the hourly emission limit for hazardous waste allowed by the Clean Air Act. Emissions include plutonium, iodine-129, dioxin and mercury.

The organizations learned of the excessive emissions from documents received through the Freedom of Information Act. These documents showed that the Department of Energy (or DOE) and INEEL were underreporting air emissions to the state and federal agencies that are responsible for overseeing INEEL. Chuck Broscious, of the Environmental Defense Institute, said, "The DOE is keeping one set of reports and then showing the regulators something different. DOE underreporting keeps state and federal regulators blind to the actual volume of emissions from INEEL."

The organizations include the Environmental Defense Institute and Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free. They are requesting that the Environmental Protection Agency (or EPA), who oversees compliance with the Clean Air Act, immediately require DOE to install emission controls, investigate DOE¹s reporting practices, and reopen INEEL's Clean Air Act permit for public comment and hearing.

Due to the groups¹ efforts, EPA recently found major deficiencies in INEEL's air operating permit and is forcing DOE to resubmit a permit application to the state of Idaho.

The groups claim that DOE's poor reporting practices have led to the lack of oversight at INEEL. Broscious said, "If regulators saw the true statistics, they would require INEEL to install emission controls required by the Clean Air Act to protect public health and safety. The DOE has processed over 8 million gallons of this deadly radioactive and toxic waste at INEEL without installing necessary emission control equipment which could protect the public."

* Forty-four workers at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Kentucky have tested positive for exposure to beryllium, a metal known to cause severe lung problems if inhaled. Of those, five workers have been diagnosed with chronic beryllium disease.

For over 50 years, Paducah has produced fuel for nuclear weapons, recovered and smelted uranium metal and operated a machine and fabrication shop that did classified work for the federal government, which is where the majority of the beryllium was used. Beryllium is lighter than aluminum and stronger than steel, and is used in the triggers of nuclear weapons.

Workers were not aware of the dangers of beryllium until 1999, when the federal government began testing for exposure. Beryllium now joins a host of other environmental and public health dangers that DOE has acknowledged, including releases of plutonium and neptunium, and solvent leaks that have contaminated 10 billion gallons of groundwater beneath the plant. Wayne O'Keefe, a Paducah employee said, "I had never heard the word until I found out it was in my blood. There's a lot of mental stress, not knowing what's around the corner."

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