Morning Briefing - June 11, 2019
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June 11, 2019

Portsmouth Advisory Board Won’t Seek to Reopen Decision on Waste Cell

By ExchangeMonitor

For the second time in a year, an advisory board to the Department of Energy has rejected a member’s request to urge the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to reopen its decision on the On-Site Waste Disposal Cell being built at the the Portsmouth Site in Ohio

During a meeting Thursday, the Portsmouth Site Specific Advisory Board voted against a recommendation by member Dennis Foreman to call upon Ohio EPA to reopen its 2015 record of decision, which cleared the way for construction of the $900 million disposal facility at the former gaseous diffusion plant.

Foreman’s motion to urge the state to reopen the decision was first rejected by the advisory board in May 2018.

The latest vote followed the early closure last month of a local middle school, 2 miles from the site, following findings of potential radioactive contamination. Zahn’s Corner Middle School will remain shuttered for the 2019-2020 academic year.

The facility, expected to open in 2021, will store 2 million cubic yards of contaminated waste resulting from demolition of buildings once used for uranium enrichment.

“The decision not to recommend opening the ROD was disappointing,” Pike County Health Commissioner Matt Brewster said in a Monday evening email. Studies in the past year by Northern Arizona University and the Energy Department have turned up evidence of some contamination near the school – although DOE says its annual review found only trace amounts of neptunium-237 far below posing a health risk to people.

Evidence suggests “there are not adequate controls in place,” Brewster said. “It is reasonable for the public to expect and leaders to demand that DOE do the responsible thing and stop any act that could be causing the off-site contamination.”

The Pike County General Health District wants Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) to urge the Energy Department to halt construction of the cell until third-party sampling and analysis is conducted on contamination levels near the Portsmouth Site.