Officials clash with Department of Energy on uranium plant

PIKETON, Ohio (AP) — Officials in an Ohio village are at odds with the U.S. Department of Energy over the agency’s plans to store contaminated waste from the cleanup of a Cold War-era uranium plant.

Piketon officials met with a representative from the state Environmental Protection Agency last month to discuss a new plan to create an on-site disposal facility for low-level contaminated at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in southern Ohio. An environmental report commissioned by the village said that there is cracked bedrock underneath the area where the Department of Energy has proposed the waste disposal facility be located, The Chillicothe Gazette has reported.

The disposal facility has been touted by federal officials as a cost-saving measure for cleanup of low-level waste produced at the plant. Waste with higher levels of contamination would still be sent elsewhere for disposal.

The village’s review said the fractured bedrock could undermine the structural integrity of the proposed landfill. Piketon Mayor Billy Spencer said the review shows problems with the process that led to the proposal and accused the Department of Energy of lying to residents.

The manager of the project office for the Department of Energy, Robert Edwards III, wrote a response to Spencer saying officials remain confident in the accuracy of earlier analyses that the project plans are safe and will have “long-term protectiveness of human health and the environment.” He said the department would offer a follow-up briefing to go over the response and answer questions, if needed.

Spencer said that opposition to the creation of the disposal cell has been consistent from the village, the Site Specific Advisory Board, two townships and two school districts in the Piketon area. He also said that money already spent on the project should not be considered as having gone to waste if work was stopped, as it has contributed to the economic development of the area.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry was scheduled to visit July 31, but postponed. In a statement, Perry said he had to be at a Cabinet meet in Washington but hoped to reschedule the visit.

Ohio’s U.S. senators, Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Sherrod Brown, have urged Perry to get a firsthand look at the cleanup work and its role in the region’s economy.


Information from: Chillicothe Gazette,