Herrington Slates Nuclear Waste Meeting With Governors
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The governors of Colorado, Idaho and New Mexico will meet with top aides to Energy Secretary John S. Herrington to find a way of disposing of radioactive wastes from weapons facilities, state and federal officials said Tuesday.
Waste disposal is one of many problems that have beset the department’s nuclear weapons complex, forcing four facilities to partially close and virtually halting the production of atomic arms.
Herrington asked the three governors to meet in Salt Lake City, Utah, with a team headed by Deputy Energy Secretary Joseph Salgado on Nov. 16 to discuss how to dispose of defense wastes until the department can open its planned Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M.
Govs. Cecil Andrus of Idaho, Roy Romer of Colorado and Garrey Carruthers of New Mexico said they would attend, although the date might shift.
″It’s important to New Mexico to get this thing resolved,″ Carruthers said through a spokesman, Don Caviness.
Romer said through his press secretary, Cindy Parmenter, that he would take part, but described the Nov. 16 date as tentative.
The situation became critical last month when Andrus turned away a steel- lined boxcar loaded with low-level radioactive waste. He declared the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory off-limits for further waste storage and said that if Energy Department officials ″can’t handle the waste, they shouldn’t be generating it.″
The rail car, loaded with 140 55-gallon drums of waste, ended up at a siding at the department’s Rocky Flats Plant near Denver.
The Colorado governor allowed the boxcar to park at Rocky Flats, but asked department officials not to unload it and turned down their request to expand waste storage facilities there.
Andrus said Tuesday that because he ″turned up the heat,″ his state was no longer being asked to shoulder the burden alone, and that he would ask federal officials ″for concrete evidence they are moving forward.″
″Now we are getting support from sources that might have been content to sit back in the past and let Idaho take the heat,″ Andrus told reporters in Boise.
The government had planned to open the New Mexico facility last month, but was delayed because Congress failed to pass legislation to transfer the land from the Bureau of Land Management to the Energy Department.
Low-level radioactive material would be buried 2,000 feet underground in salt deposits at the New Mexico site.
Rocky Flats, the Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago and the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., have been shipping radioactive rags, machine parts, gloves, liquids and other debris to the Idaho site, where an estimated 2 million cubic feet of the waste is stored below ground and 2.4 million cubic feet above ground in steel barrels.