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Casey wants nuke cleanup investigated |

Casey wants nuke cleanup investigated

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey is calling for an investigation of the federal government’s handling of the cleanup of the Parks Township nuclear waste dump along Route 66.

Casey is asking Hubert T. Bell, inspector general of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), to investigate the work stoppage at the nuclear waste dump last fall and whether all the federal agencies are working together to finish the job, according to John Rizzo, Casey’s press secretary.

In his letter to Bell, sent Wednesday, Casey said, “I want to ensure that the NRC is cooperating fully, properly and in a timely manner with (the Army Corps of Engineers), particularly because NRC previously oversaw decommissioning of the site.”

Casey is requesting the investigation from the NRC inspector general because it’s an independent office that investigates Nuclear Regulatory Commission programs and operations.

“That inspector general has basic authority on nuclear issues,” Rizzo said.

The waste dump, known as the Shallow Land Disposal Area, is owned by BWX Technologies.

More than a decade ago, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and BWX Technologies proposed not cleaning up the nuclear waste dump, instead keeping the radioactive waste on site next to the village of Kiskimere, the Parks Bend industrial park, Route 66 and the Kiski River.

Disgusted with the prospect of no cleanup and fueled by public outcry, the late U.S. Rep. John Murtha convinced Congress to move jurisdiction of the cleanup from the NRC to the Army Corps of Engineers.

Then last year, digging at the waste dump stopped six weeks into the 10-year excavation project when an Army Corps contractor allegedly mishandled some nuclear waste and greater than expected amounts of “complex” nuclear material was found at the 44-acre site.

After digging up an estimated 10 percent of the waste from the site and finding greater amounts of “complex” nuclear materials, the corps revised its scope of work and budget to increase from $170 million to a range of $250 million to $500 million.

The corps put the project on hold as the brass at its Washington headquarters decide if their agency and cleanup program will finish the job.

About 150 residents attended a public meeting held by corps on Tuesday night to give comments.

Most of the residents and local government officials said they wanted to keep the corps at the helm to complete the cleanup.

“We want to make sure that all of the federal agencies are working together in concert to come up with a game plan to clean up the site,” Rizzo said.

Casey’s letter to the inspector general focuses on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s current role and history at the Parks waste dump and asked questions including:

• Is NRC fully complying with a 2001 memorandum of understanding between the NRC and the Army Corps of Engineers on the cleanup?

• Has the NRC properly evaluated the Army Corps’ work plans to determine if they are meeting regulatory requirements?

Rizzo said that he hopes to hear from the general inspector soon.

“Senator Casey is hopeful that the inspector general will heed the call and do a full investigation,” Rizzo said.

“The senator believes there is an urgency in this and it needs to take place as quickly as possible,” he said.

About the Shallow Land Disposal Area

The waste dump along Route 66, owned by BWX Technologies (Babcock & Wilcox), was active from about 1960 to the early 1970s.

It received radioactive and chemical waste from the former Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp. (NUMEC) in Apollo and Parks, which produced nuclear fuel for submarines and a range of nuclear products for the federal government and private industry.

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