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Radioactive waste processors in Oak Ridge

 
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Ellen
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Location: Oak Ridge, Tennessee

PostPosted: Sun Apr 24, 2005 11:19 pm    Post subject: Radioactive waste processors in Oak Ridge Reply with quote

Periodically the news reminds us that there are several private-sector radioactive-waste processing businesses in our city. For example, recently there have been news stories about Toxco, which operates a facility on Flint Road. (See
Local resident requests more info on TOXCO facility, April 13, 2005, and Toxco meets with EQAB on safety issues, October 8, 2004.) Other local radwaste processors include Duratek (operations are on west Bear Creek Road near the ETTP and in Roane County on Gallaher Rd/Hwy 58 near I-40), Manufacturing Sciences (on South Illinois Avenue near Union Valley Road), Diversified Scientific Services, Inc. (owned by Perma-Fix; also on Gallaher Rd in Roane County), Materials & Energy Corporation (also owned by Perma-Fix, at ETTP), Philotechnics, and others -- it's hard to keep up with the industry, which employs hundreds of Oak Ridge and area residents. This is a genuine "private sector industry" that the city has successfully built up -- DOE is just a side business for most of the local companies that process radioactive waste; their work is mainly for the commercial nuclear power industry.

Oak Ridge as a community has a lot of experience and familiarity with radioactive work, and therefore is generally accepting of an industry that many communities would be scared of. This doesn't mean that all residents are comfortable with this industry, though. One of EQAB's continuing assignments has been to keep track of the local private-sector radwaste
businesses. Our role is strictly advisory. Zoning power is the only real authority that cities and counties have this industry, and that power can only be fully exercised before a facility is sited. The radwaste facilities currently in town were all deemed to conform with city zoning rules before they were established, and the ones on federal property at ETTP (K-25) aren't subject to municipal zoning. The state of Tennessee Division of Radiological Health (part of TDEC) regulates their operations under a Nuclear Regulatory Commission agreement that gives the state authority over the private-sector use and possession of nuclear materials in the state. For myriad reasons, the businesses themselves typically are pretty secretive about their operations, and TDEC Radiological Health also is pretty quiet about its regulatory activities.

Within the past few months, EQAB has heard presentations from Toxco and Duratek. On Saturday, April 16, several of our members and several Hendrix Creek neighborhood residents were given a tour of the Toxco facility (by facility staff).


Last edited by Ellen on Sun Jun 05, 2005 9:38 am; edited 1 time in total
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Ellen
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Location: Oak Ridge, Tennessee

PostPosted: Thu Apr 28, 2005 11:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I didn't finish my thought here. Oops

Residents who wish that these companies would leave town are not being realistic. Land-use law does not allow a municipality to change its mind about a land use when a zoning change would affect an existing user of a property. That's a good thing -- nobody would be able to invest in homes or commercial/industrial facilities if we didn't have assurance that they could continue to use them. Also, there is a big need for the waste-reduction and recycling services these companies provide, and a city with extensive experience in radiological work is well-positioned to help fill that need (with the help of state regulators, of course). Radiological work requires exacting attention to details and procedures, but these companies are not working with highly radioactive material, and with appropriate work practices the risk to the public truly is negligible.

I personally appreciate the willingness of these companies to voluntarily discuss their businesses with EQAB and the community, to work with the fire department to ensure that emergency responders have the knowledge they need to respond to emergencies at these sites, and to open their doors for tours (as Toxco did recently for EQAB and nearby residents). Direct knowledge of a situation often goes a long way toward making people more comfortable with it. Smile


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Ellen
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 28, 2005 11:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are, however, two things I'd like to see done differently in the future:
  • The city needs to be consistent in its enactment and enforcement of zoning, so as to ensure compatibility of adjacent land uses. As an EQAB member, I was proud to contribute to an innovative revision of Oak Ridge's industrial zoning ordinance that resulted in an ordinance that explicitly defines light, moderate, and heavy industry in terms of their potential to create nuisances and risks for nearby uses. For example, in a light industrial zone, facilities now must be enclosed, and noise, smoke, dust, vibration, fumes, environmental contamination, etc., must be confined to the lot upon which the facility is located. In the future, this will help ensure true compatibility of land uses, but the city needs to be firm and not allow zoning changes that allow residences to be built next to heavy industry, or vice versa.

  • TDEC's Division of Radiological Health should give the public notice of proposed major permitting actions. TDEC environmental regulations provide for the public to be notified of permit applications for air and water emissions, hazardous waste storage, modifications to a stream or wetland, etc. -- essentially every type of environmental permit except for radiological permits, which are handled pretty much "in the dark." This isn't right -- communities and their residents should have a right to be informed, ask questions, and express concerns about proposals for radioactive facilities, too. The Tennessee General Assembly is (with support from the City of Oak Ridge) considering a couple of bills that would require public notification on major radiological permits, and I hope they pass.
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Ellen
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PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2005 12:18 pm    Post subject: More radioactive processors moving to Roane County? Reply with quote

The Roane County News reports that Roane County may be rezoning the Roane Regional Business and Technology Park to allow Philotechnics to move its corporate headquarters from Oak Ridge to the industrial park. The county planning commission has approved a rezoning measure that would allow handling of low-level radioactive waste there, but as of the date of the article the proposal had not been acted upon by the Roane County Commission. See http://www.roanecounty.com/articles/2005/05/13/news/news07.txt.

What do you think about this?
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2005 9:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Roane County Commission turned down Philotechnics' request (see http://www.roanecounty.com/articles/2005/06/03/news/news03.txt), and the company is now seeking a site in Oak Ridge, in either the Horizon Center or the Bethel Valley Industrial Park.

On Thursday, June 2, the Oak Ridge Industrial Development Board unanimously approved the company's request to buy land in the Bethel Valley Industrial Park, which the IDB owns. (See News-Sentinel article.) The IDB also stated its support for a location in the Horizon Center, if the company prefers that site.

In its presentation at the IDB meeting (which I attended), Philotechnics focused on its business in decontamination and decommissioning of medical and research facilities that have used radioactive materials. Their representative explained that their main objective in Oak Ridge is to establish a corporate headquarters here, with "ancillary" activities including storage and maintenance of the equipment (vacuum cleaners, etc.) they use at customer locations, as well as consolidation of shipments of related packaged wastes. They consider themselves to be waste "brokers," not necessarily waste processors. The company says it does not do any work for commercial nuclear power plants, it does not consider waste processors such as Duratek to be its competitors, and that it works primarily with low-energy or very short-lived beta-emitting radionuclides, such as C-14, tritium, iodine-131, and phosphorus-32, with no RCRA mixed waste. This description is not consistent with the company website's homepage, which emphasizes "radioactive and mixed waste management,"Confused but other pages on the website tell pretty much the same story that was presented to the IDB.

EQAB discussed the proposal informally at its meeting that same evening. Several concerns were raised, primarily about policy issues of locating new 'dirty" industry on greenfield sites (i.e., clean land) while the city has a large inventory of vacant "brownfields" (i.e., former industrial sites with some contamination or possibility of contamination) available for development. I will provide notes on EQAB's discussion to various city officials.

The next government-review step for Philotechnics' proposal will be a review by the city Board of Zoning Appeals, which must decide whether to allow this facility as a "special use" under the IND-2 industrial zoning rules. The BZA meeting on this topic probably will be Tuesday, July 12. EQAB meets the preceding Thursday and will make formal recommendations.
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 06, 2005 5:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Today's Oak Ridger has an article about the IDB action, including a quotation from me: http://www.oakridger.com/stories/060605/new_20050606008.shtml
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