Waste takes long way home

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Story last updated at 11:23 a.m. on June 14, 2004

MAYOR: ‘I just have a terrible, terrible time understanding how they can justify appeasing Oak Ridge and bringing it the long way around through Oliver Springs.’

By: Paul Parson | Oak Ridger Staff
paul.parson@oakridger.com

When it comes to shipments of waste cylinders, Oak Ridge’s loss is apparently Oliver Springs’ and Clinton’s gain, according to at least one official.

Oliver Springs Mayor Ed Kelley confirmed that shipments of depleted uranium hexafluoride cylinders have been coming through his town, hitting Highway 61 to Clinton and ending up on Interstate 75 to Ohio. He also noted that one of the trucks hauling the material was involved in a minor traffic accident last month.

On the other hand, Clinton Mayor Wimp Shoopman said he was unaware that the waste was being shipped through his city.

The depleted uranium hexafluoride in question is a byproduct of an operation where uranium was ultimately processed into nuclear reactor fuel and weapons-grade material. Stored in cylinders at the Oak Ridge K-25 site, the material is being shipped to Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Ohio.

Transport of the waste cylinders was met with a little controversy last year when it appeared the material would be hauled through the city of Oak Ridge. Though DOE and its cleanup contractor, Bechtel Jacobs Co., have declined to disclose transport routes, some officials have suggested that Oak Ridge Turnpike was never considered for use in transporting the material to Clinton and I-75.

“I just have a terrible, terrible time understanding how they can justify appeasing Oak Ridge and bringing it the long way around through Oliver Springs,” said Kelley, who added the shipments come out of K-25 and hit Blair Road en route to Oliver Springs.

The Oliver Springs mayor said the early morning waste shipments stopped at least three times at the school crossing in front of Norwood schools. Kelley also said at least one of the transport trucks has been involved in a traffic accident.

A report filed by Oliver Springs Police Officer Tim Elmore indicates a vehicle ran into one of the trucks while it was preparing to turn onto Highway 61 to go to Clinton. The driver of the cylinder truck was not at fault, and neither the transport truck nor its load was reportedly damaged.

Kelley said DOE had a “screaming fit” because Oliver Springs officials released the truck involved in the accident so it could proceed to its destination.

“We didn’t have any idea what we were supposed to do,” Kelley said.

Both DOE spokesman Walter Perry and Bechtel Jacobs spokesman Dennis Hill said they were unaware of any other accidents involving the cylinder transport trucks. They also declined to confirm the transport route mention by Kelley or comment on whether multiple routes are being utilized.

Hill said more than 700 cylinders have been shipped to date, with about 5,200 remaining to be transported to Portsmouth. The goal is to have all of the cylinders out of Oak Ridge by the end of fiscal year 2005.

“The frequency and size of individual shipments is security sensitive information,” Hill said. “Because of that, we don’t want people to have enough information to calculate how many or how often cylinders are shipped.”

With more shipments ahead, Kelley has sent a letter to DOE requesting that the federal agency make some kind of payment to Oliver Springs because the “large and heavy trucks” will be using roads through the town. The mayor said the payments would be used to maintain and upgrade streets in addition to various other projects to improve the town.