Test site will continue to dispose of low-level waste


The following article from "Las Vegas Review-Journal", February 26, 2000, was brought to our attention by Devin Loving from Las Vegas, NV.


   Like it's been for more than 20 years, low-level radioactive waste from the nation's nuclear weapons complex will continue to be hauled to the Nevada Test Site for disposal, Energy Department officials said Friday.
   A decision by the agency after two years of review makes the test site, 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas, and the Hanford nuclear reservation in south-central Washington the two regional locations for disposing low-level radioactive waste from weapons facilities across the nation that don't have capacities to treat and bury the waste. Some of the waste is tainted with other hazardous materials.
   "Basically, it's business as usual," said test site spokesman Derek Scammell.
   Energy Department sites that already have low-level waste facilities -- the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, Oak Ridge, Tenn., and the Los Alamos, N.M., national laboratory -- will continue to hold wastes they generate.
   Much of the waste destined for the Nevada Test Site and Hanford reservation comes from dismantling Cold War weapons facilities.
   Over the past two decades, 20 million cubic feet of low-level radioactive waste collected from at least 17 sites in the nation's weapons complex has been disposed at the test site. The waste, primarily construction debris, reactor equipment and research gear, is buried in 22-foot-deep pits, each the length of three football fields, in Areas 5 and 3 at the test site. Most of the waste is disposed in Area 5, in the southeast part of the test site.
   The 560-square-mile Hanford nuclear reservation made plutonium for nuclear weapons from the 1940s until the 1980s. Today, it is the most contaminated nuclear site in the nation.
   Friday's decision allows the Energy Department "to move forward with the closure of former defense nuclear facilities like Rocky Flats, Colo., and redirect millions of dollars back into actual cleanup activities -- money now being spent on waste storage," officials said.
   Low-level radioactive waste is all nuclear waste that is not either highly radioactive, transuranic, spent nuclear fuel or uranium tailings.

By Keith Rogers, contributions from Associated Press
From "Las Vegas Review-Journal", February 26, 2000


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