Energy secretary wants more money to clean up radioactive contamination

Posted by on Feb 17, 2014 in Articles | Comments Off on Energy secretary wants more money to clean up radioactive contamination

Friday, February 1, 2002
By JOHN NOLAN Associated Press writer

CINCINNATI — U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham on Thursday said more money is needed each year to speed cleanup of radioactive contamination at Energy Department sites nationwide.

Abraham proposed that $800 million annually go toward expediting cleanup of the 111 sites, of which only 30 are open. His proposal is part of the Energy Department’s $6.7 billion request for basic site cleanup. More details were to be released Monday with the department’s entire 2003 budget request.

Abraham said that while quicker cleanup at first will cost taxpayers more money, they eventually will save billions of dollars.

“Even if it means more money, let’s get it done,” he said at the 1,050-acre Fernald site, which for nearly 40 years processed uranium for the nation’s nuclear weapons.

The plant, 18 miles northwest of Cincinnati, closed in 1989 and now receives about $300 million annually for cleanup. That amount could go up to $324 million annually under the program Abraham proposed.

The extra money is needed to meet the goal of cleaning up the site by 2006, Abraham said.

“I know your goal is to finish this project in 2006, that’s our goal as well,” he told Fernald site employees.

Site managers would have to agree to specific, realistic cleanup deadlines that meet Washington’s approval, Abraham said.

Abraham also talked about the need to clean up the Rocky Flats site near Denver, saying officials have predicted the work could take 65 years and cost $36 billion. He said the proposed plan could allow Rocky Flats to be cleaned up as soon as 2006 at a cost of $7 billion.

Fernald served as an important component of America’s nuclear weapons-making industry for 37 years, starting in 1951. Thousands of workers processed raw uranium ore into metal sent to other sites to be used in the production of plutonium for atomic bombs.

Government officials later conceded that the plant polluted the environment and increased health risks for workers and neighbors.