LANL Proposing To Store 1,000 Shielded Drums of Commercial Radioactive Waste Indefinitely at its Area G Dump Site

State of Idaho Misrepresents Contaminants Released in INEEL Fire

Debate Over Missile Plan Deepens in Washington

*Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is proposing to bring 1,000 shielded drums of commercial transuranic radioactive waste from private industries to Area G, LANL's nuclear dump-site located on one of the finger-like mesas on LANL property. These drums will contain approximately 21,000 sealed sources of radiation from various industries, government laboratories and universities. The drums contain radioactive materials, including plutonium-238, plutonium-239, and amercium-241, and hazardous waste such as beryllium. Since this waste is not from military projects, but from commercial projects it can not be sent to WIPP, yet bringing these drums to LANL is called interim storage. John Themelis, acting assistant manager for environmental operations at DOE in Albuquerque, claims that LANL is only a temporary storage spot.

Currently, about 60,000 drums of contaminated materials from the nation's weapons work are stored above-ground in plastic-domed tents at Area G. During the Cerro Grande fire, the flames came to within several hundred yards of Area G.

Activists express grave concerns that Area G is becoming another WIPP site and that New Mexico is fast becoming a nuclear sacrifice zone and a key player in DOE's nuclear waste shell game.

Don Hancock, director of the nuclear-safety program at Southwest Research and Information Center based in Albuquerque said, "At the same time they're making a big deal about accelerating sending that stuff to WIPP, they're doing the opposite here." He opposes bringing in private nuclear waste pointing to the fact that "the DOE doesn't have a good record of handling its own waste."

"In fact, the commercial industry has a better safety record. So the industry that handles it better sends stuff to DOE - this is not a plus for the health and security (of the public)."

*Chuck Broscious, of the Environmental Defense Institute, and Mary Woollen Mitchell, with Keep Yellowstone Nuclear Free, sent out a press release stating that the "State of Idaho grossly misrepresents its own INEEL fire monitoring data" and that "the environmental community has an obligation to tell the truth about the INEEL fire even when the State of Idaho's INEEL Oversight Program conspires with the Department of Energy to trivialize the health and safety impact of the July 26-29 fire." INEEL is the acronym for Idaho National Environmental and Engineering Laboratory.

The State of Idaho issued a News Release on August 22 that acknowledged a small increase "consistent with historical background levels, [and that] Oversight scientists expected increased levels would be detected after the fire due to the release of naturally occurring radiation."

But according to the Director of the Environmental Defense Institute, Chuck Broscious, "the State failed to mention that its own monitoring data show about an 870% increase in gross alpha and a 600% increase in gross beta radiation during the INEEL fire period. Any increase in radiation exposure brings increased health risks. Even the smallest inhaled particle of plutonium in the lung can cause cancer. Plutonium is an alpha emitting radionuclide and cesium is a beta/gamma emitting radionuclide."

*Officials at the Pentagon and the State Department are at odds over how far work on a limited national missile defense system could go before the United States government would be required to give formal notice to Russia that it was in violation of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. The Russians have stood vehemently against any changes in the Treaty to permit elaborate new radar installations. The concern is that changes in the Treaty will lead to a larger system that would undermine Russia's strategic nuclear force.

Last month Defense Secretary William Cohen said that there was agreement for building a radar station in Alaska. He had said this effort could continue until 2002 before the United States would violate the treaty. Now information has come out that this point of view represents just one of three interpretations drafted by Clinton administration lawyers. Officials from the Pentagon and the State Department said that Mr. Cohen was wrong when he told the Senate Armed Services Committee last month that administration lawyers had reached agreement. Senior policy makers at the State Department and the National Security Council contend that it would be overly aggressive and unilateral to go ahead building new radar installations, and would anger Russians and European allies.


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