Army Plans To Move Gore Uranium

Army Plans To Move Gore Uranium

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Army and a defunct Sequoyah County industry are expected to iron out details as early as next week on a plan to move more than 1 million pounds of depleted uranium away from the site near Gore.

About 1,200 sealed drums of processed uranium have sat on Sequoyah Fuels property since 1993, remnants of a project to manufacture anti-tank ammunition for the Army.

A provision in the 2007 defense authorization bill that Congress passed on Sept. 30 requires the Army to move the drums of toxic materials away from the uranium conversion facility by March 31. President Bush signed the bill into law two weeks ago.

An Army spokeswoman Thursday said initial plans for moving the uranium will be made next week. The actual move should take place in January or February, she said.

Sequoyah Fuels president John Ellis said his company just Wednesday notified the Army it agreed to waive any liability claims regarding transport of the materials, a requirement in the bill.

He now awaits word from the military.

”I’m assuming they will contact us and we will proceed to make arrangements to work with them or for them, but at this point in time I don’t know what that approach is going to be,” he said.

Sequoyah Fuels at its peak had 325 employees on a 700-acre site in western Sequoyah County. It has not been operational since 1993, after an incident a year earlier that contaminated parts of the property and damaged soil and groundwater in the area.

Ellis said the company now has six employees as it works with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to clean up the plant.

He said relocating the uranium is a small part of decommissioning the site. He expects federal approval within a year to tear down possibly hazardous buildings, remove potentially tainted soil and groundwater and place the materials into an underground storage cell.

That process will take up to five years. At that point, the company will transfer the site to the Department of Energy, Ellis said. He estimated moving the uranium will require about 50 truckloads and that the only possible locations for the waste are the Nevada Test Site and a location in Utah.

The test site, in rural Nevada, was the site of U.S. nuclear tests until 1992. The Utah location is a commercial radioactive waste disposal site near Salt Lake City.

The Army said the mode of transportation, whether rail or truck, and the site for relocation have not been determined.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, brokered an agreement to place a provision for moving the uranium in the defense bill.

A Boren spokesman said Thursday that the onus is on the Army and the industry to flesh out details of the transport.

Ellis said earlier this year he would recommend his company take care of the loading and preparation of the waste. He speculated that a private company would be hired to move the materials at the Army’s expense

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