Since late last month, Village of Piketon officials once more have been arguing with the federal Department of Energy, this time over what the federal government may or may not be allowing in the permanent on-site disposal facility planned for the Portsmouth gaseous Diffusion Plant situated in Piketon.
City officials claim DOE and other bureaucracies involved in planning for the disposal site are doing so without any input from local officials or citizens. Piketon leaders along with numerous village and city councils from around the area already have passed resolutions opposing what DOE calls an on-site disposal facility but opponents routinely refer to as a “radioactive waste dump.”
According to a press release from Piketon Mayor Billy Spencer, the disposal facility, now under construction, is set to contain about 1.5 million cubic yards of nuclear, hazardous and toxic waste generated by ongoing decontamination and decommissioning efforts at the mammoth, defunct diffusion plant, once used to increase the radioactivity of nuclear materials.
“It is unacceptable the DOE and the Ohio EPA have developed a plan for what waste will go into the nuclear dump without community involvement,” Spencer said. “The people of Pike County deserve to know what is going into the ground and they have a right to have a say in what is going to be left in Pike County forever if the nuclear dump is built. For DOE and Ohio EPA to work behind closed doors and then announce their decision is unacceptable.”
“Once again, the Village of Piketon has been bypassed as the WACIP (waste acceptance criteria implementation plan) and Natural Resources Damages Assessment decisions are moving forward without our input,” said Piketon Village Councilman Dennis Foreman, a vocal opponent of the waste disposal plan.
Foreman has been pushing for some time for DOE to reopen the record of decision which allows construction of the on-site disposal facility. A DOE spokesperson has stated reopening the ROD is the only way to stop the process at this point but that same person said such reopening is highly unlikely.
As an example of DOE’s alleged disrespect of the village, Foreman said Pike County Commissioners received copies of a work plan for the Piketon site, but no such plan was given to the village.
DOE spokesperson Yvette Cantrell denied Piketon has been frozen out of the ongoing decision process.
“During the CERCLA ( Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, often referred to as the Superfund Act) process for waste disposal alternatives, the DOE used multiple outreach pathways to invite public input to the decision process,” Cantrell said in an email.
“After the decision was finalized in 2015, DOE moved forward to develop project documents necessary to implement the decision. The WACIP is one of those documents.”
Cantrell promised details as to how the plan, along with other upcoming documents, fit into the overall cleanup of the Piketon site will be part of an upcoming or ongoing series of public information sessions.
“The next set of public information sessions is scheduled for mid-November,” Cantrell said.
“DOE and Ohio EPA have sidestepped siting requirements, they have sidestepped federal law outlined in the Toxic Substances Control Act and they lied about the fractures in the bedrock beneath the landfill,” Spencer contends, referring in part to one of the favorite arguments used by landfill opponents.
Those opponents long have argued the location of the landfill sits on fractured bedrock in violation of various regulations. DOE has disputed that claim several times.
“This is common sense,” Spencer continued. “Who in their right mind doesn’t believe the public should know what kind and how much radioactive and hazardous wastes are being put into their community?”
An online copy of the ROD talks in general about items prohibited from the disposal site, acceptable radiation levels and so on. The ROD states the final “WAC (waste acceptance criteria) will need approvals once the final waste disposal site design is completed.”
Cantrell did not immediately not return a phone call asking for a copy of the current WAC.
In June, DOE and the private contractor handling the dismantling of the plant and construction of the waste disposal facility, Fluor BWXT, played up turning over 80 acres of former plant property for potential commercial reuse. Foreman describes that property as “useless,” contending no one is going to make a big investment near what is left of a radioactive plant and a future radioactive waste dump.
“I’m not very optimistic about any company coming out there,” Spencer said in June, echoing Foreman’s opinion.
Prior to that June event, Spencer took his arguments, via letter, to Anne Marie White, the assistant secretary of energy for environmental management, DOE. White was in Piketon to help mark the transfer of the 80 acres. According to Foreman, White agreed to meet privately with village officials and discuss their concerns. He recently stated while White seemed willing to listen, nothing concrete has resulted from that discussion.