Centrus Part 4: The massive clean up in Paducah

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The clean up in Paducah has been going on now for around three decades. The clean up will keep going for at least two more decades. As stated before, this site and the contamination was spread out to 3,556 acres. The even scarier part for the residents of the Kentucky community is that the members of Congress have to continuously argue to make sure the clean up is getting full funding. At the same time, the full funding is in the billions of dollars. The Congressional testimony showing the Department of Energy hid information is bad enough, but the timeline of the clean up is made much worse when knowing that they knew how bad what they were doing early on in the program.

Timeline of the site by year

The years of the site.

1950: The Atomic Energy Commission chooses the Kentucky Ordnance Works as one of three sites in the nation for enriching uranium. It was chosen for access to workers and the TVA. EEI builds a power plant in Joppa, Illinois to start supplying power.

1951: Construction starts to transform the site into what is needed.

1952: Site begins enriching uranium. The Shawnee Fossil Plant is built by the TVA to make sure the Paducah site has enough power.

1957: The plant starts doing work for NASA, DOD, and several other customers. This is when it is known that the contamination began.

1958: The plant begins sending the discharge from the plant to a ditch.

1962: Empty drums started being piled onto the five acre property that became known as Drum Mountain. There was no cover and the rainwater washed all the contaminants into the ground.

1965: The West End Smelter started operating.

1971: The plant is upgraded, which results in 30,500 tons of scrap. Much of this was contaminated.

1975: Treatment options are started to be looked at for land contaminated by waste oils that had uranium and PCBs in them.

1977: The Feed Plant is shut down and prepared for demolition. The 250,000 had to be decontaminated before the demolition took place.

1979: Tests ran at the site lead to the soil becoming contaminated with trichloroethylene(TCE). The TCE eventually made it into the groundwater.

1986: The sewer was excavated at the center of the plant. The TCE leak was discovered at this time.

1988: TCE is discovered in home water wells in the area. The DOE provides water for all those affected, gets the city to run water lines to the homes, and pays the water bills for the affected homes.

1991: Warning signs are posted alerting people to contaminated areas.

1994: Discharge from the plant is put into a series of pipes instead of the ditch.

1995: A technology called Lasagna is developed to start cleaning the TCE from the soil. It proves effective.

1997: Construction begins on concrete pads to store cylinders containing depleted uranium hexafluoride.

2000: Removal begins on the five acre site of Drum Mountain.

2002: Contaminated soil is excavated and replaced with clean soil.

2003: The beginning of the clean up of 160 storage areas start. Eighteen of the areas are outdoor sites.

2004: As they will no longer be used, the site starts rapid removal of certain facilities.

2005: The facility continues with removal of unused areas.

2006: Lime House is fully demolished.

2007: The removal of 30.500 tons of scrap metal is done.

2008: Construction begins on the treatment system for TCE removal. The investigation of sixty acres of waste burial sites is completed.

2013: Site is completely shut down and site is turned over for complete decontamination and demolition.

Here is part of the testimony done during the 2000 Senate hearing on the site.

“We do know this: In 1990 the Department of Energy sent a so-called tiger team to investigate reports of environmental problems at the plant. What they found was an area devastated by years of unsafe dumping, with possible radioactive wastes seeping into the drinking water supply and workers inadequately trained and protected from radioactive waste.
That tiger team report must have been rather toothless, because now, nearly 10 years later, the Department of Energy phase one investigation reports that there is still radioactive waste seeping into the water supply, that the workers are still not being provided with adequate amounts of training andequipment, and that we still do not know where all the waste might be buried.
Ten years have gone by, $400 million has been spent, and nothing has changed. Not one contaminated drum has been removed. Not one ounce of spent uranium has been converted. And the plume of contaminated waste that includes PCB’s continues to flow toward the Ohio River.
Mr. Chairman, something needs to change. We cannot wait another day to do it. The workers in this plant have been betrayed. The community which supported this facility has been betrayed. They trusted the U.S. Government. It is time to provide the resources to clean up this mess, to provide health care benefits to those who need it, and to correct the environmental damage that has been done.
Some experts estimate that it will cost nearly $1 billion to clean up the Paducah site. I know this is a large sum of money, but after touring the plant and seeing the mountains of contaminated drums, the acres of canisters filled with dangerous spent uranium, and following the plume of waste that is spreading in the area’s drinking water and the Ohio River, it is time to deliver.”

If a person goes to the Department of Energy site on this, it states that there has been $2.5 billion already spent. There was a contract awarded in 2017 that will cover ten years for another $1.5 billion. There is still a need to carry on until 2040 and possibly beyond.

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