Reactions are coming in to the announcement from the Department of Energy that Piketon has been awarded one of 14 grants to study turning the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant into a nuclear “recycling” facility.
“This is just a first step in a long and thorough evaluation process,” Schmidt said in a statement, calling it a “win for Piketon.”
“The study money will go a long way toward future economic development opportunities and may bring thousands of jobs to the area,” Schmidt said.
From the same article DOE Assistant Secretary Dennis Spurgeon provides assurances that are in no way assuring:
“We would expect that anybody accepting fuel would be assured, and have good confidence, that there is a pathway out, for the product, of that facility,” Spurgeon said. “We anticipate that these facilities will be very environmentally friendly and one that communities will truly want to have.”
Expect?!! Good confidence?!! Folks, it’s not advised to simply “expect” things to go right with plutonium. You either know, or you don’t know. You’re either absolutely 110% sure or you don’t even try.
While the article says that “DOE Assistant Secretary Dennis Spurgeon sought Wednesday to reassure residents that the material would not remain at the site forever,” there’s absolutely no specifics on exactly how long Piketon residents can expect a significant portion of the worlds plutonium to reside in their community alongside the existing nuclear waste currently sitting there in rusty containers.
Not surprisingly, local residents were not pleased:
SONG Press Release:
Residents and Indians React to Piketon Waste Decision
For release: Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Contact: Geoffrey Sea at 740-289-2473 or 740-835-1508
Residents who live near the 3700-acre Department of Energy Reservation, and American Indians with ancestral ties to the land, reacted to news that DOE has chosen Piketon as one potential site for a massive high-level waste storage facility and nuclear reprocessing complex.
Today, DOE chose all fourteen applicants at eleven sites to receive award grants under the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership program. A total of $16 million will be distributed among the applicants to perform 90-day site characterizations toward the aim of choosing one location to receive and store commercial spent nuclear fuel from around the country and around the world, and perhaps a different site for the reprocessing of that waste.
The DOE announcement comes a month late. Hopeful contractors are up against the clock as their 90-day “study” period will now run well into March, giving the new Congress time to kill the entire GNEP program. Democratic leaders in the Senate and leaders of both parties in the House have already expressed profound skepticism about GNEP, if not outright opposition. The overall program has little chance of surviving past the spring.
Piketon, however, will be uniquely hurt by the award, because staggering cleanup costs may go unpaid as DOE considers the site for more waste.
The rush to choose a storage site follows the disintegration of plans to dispose of spent fuel at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, in the works for twenty years, delayed by revelations of scientific fraud, and now shelved by the rise of Nevada’s Harry Reid to Senate Majority Leader.
DOE had planned to avoid such a fiasco by steamrolling the process into a six-month period between program announcement and final site selection. Revelation of the secret plans to put the waste at Piketon created a public and media uproar in Ohio, however, as GNEP became a central issue in the congressional campaign in Ohio’s second district. Ted Strickland, the incoming governor, has taken a firm stand against spent fuel storage or reprocessing in Ohio.
The Department of Energy has still not specified how communities or state governments can object to or stop the selection of their site.
By awarding the grants to all applicants, DOE appears to want to avoid any charge of bias. It’s become common knowledge in the nuclear industry that Piketon is slated to receive the waste storage facility, while Savannah River in South Carolina is slated to get any future reprocessing complex.
Southern Ohio Neighbors Group formed among nearby residents and those with ancestral ties to the land, after revelation of the plans at Piketon. SONG has collected over one thousand signatures on a petition to stop the GNEP grant and any high-level waste importation to Ohio.
Statements of SONG founding members follow:
1. Geoffrey Sea, writer, resident of Sargents, Ohio, on the fence line of the DOE reservation:
“These grants were planned to give pre-election boosts to certain politicians. Once that cynical purpose passed, DOE should have had the integrity to cancel them altogether. To spend $16 million of federal funds on a sure dead-end is unpardonable.
Piketon is the last place on earth you would ever want to put spent nuclear fuel. The DOE reservation is surrounded by residences and wondrous historic and prehistoric sites. It sits atop the Teays aquifer, the most important underground river system in North America. The local environment is one of the most biologically rich in the state of Ohio. It’s an abomination to even consider this place as a fallback after sites in the western desert have been excluded on safety grounds.
Cleanup of past DOE blunders at Piketon is estimated to cost over $4.5 billion. By designating the site for high-level waste, DOE intends to shirk its cleanup responsibilities. Even if no spent fuel is ever brought to Piketon, we lose tremendously by the postponement or cancellation of cleanup. Billions of dollars in cleanup payments and hundreds of cleanup jobs could be delayed or forfeited.
Worst of all, there is no effective formal way for a community to oppose this program. It’s undemocratic, it’s unAmerican. ePIFNI and SONIC, the companies who plan to bring the waste to Piketon, pursued this scheme in total secrecy for more than a year. In fact, today was the first time that the name ePIFNI, the named recipient of the grant, has been publicly mentioned. Over that year, ePIFNI and SONIC have already lined up their subcontractors — AREVA, Battelle and Washington Group International. DOE has started making infrastructure changes to the site — all before fence-line residents like me were told a word.
Now they say they will conduct a single public hearing, but SONIC and ePIFNI will report the results of that hearing. It’s a public process that appears to have been designed by Kim Jong Il.
They think they can do this in Piketon because we’re a poor Appalachian community. They think no one is watching. But the community has organized and we’re set to prove them wrong.”
2.Tressie Hall, Wakefield, Ohio (just south of the DOE site):
“I just had to put my dog to sleep from cancer. I have had so many loved ones and friends die from cancer, and i know that it has been caused by pollution from the DOE site. Some elected officials wrote letters speaking for the residents of pike county saying we want this study and want a reprocessing plant. We don’t. We don`t want the grant, We don`t want any more waste at piketon.”
Here are two American Indian reactions about the SONIC proposal. These were drafted before the election, so focus on Congresswoman Jean Schmidt’s support of the plan:
3. Douglas McIlwain (Clearwater), Ohio Shawnee, attorney at law, West Union OH:
“As an Ohio Shawnee descendant and a member of the Blue Creek Remnant Band of the Great Shawnee Nation I wish to make known that the idea of bringing spent fuel rods to Piketon is offensive to right thinking Native Americans. Yes Federal Agencies can and have contacted some tribes with regard to a uranium enrichment facility but none has been consulted regarding the bait and switch spent fuel dump which Congresswoman Schmidt now proposes. I am a keeper of a sacred bundle and it has been to the remains of the holy earthworks there, and I know for a fact that both fullbloods and descendants continue to pilgrimage to the area as well as other places in Ohio where we find spirtual sustenance. Be certain that Schmidt’s alleged community support for the “site study” at Piketon does not and never has included Native Americans, who would oppose it.”
4. Leah R. Kyaio, M.Ed., Blackfeet/Lakota, Peebles, Ohio
“The American Government has spent centuries breeching treaties and contracts with Native American Indian people. Our land has been confiscated and desecrated without thought of the impact on We as a People, our history, heritage, culture and tradition. There have never been amends, restitution or remuneration. Instead what we see is the action of organizations like SONIC who currently has declared war on our sacred land in Pike County, OH, turning our burial ground into a battlefield (Over 400 artifacts of this site are held in the Ohio State Museum as part of the Clay Barns collection validating its Native American Indian history and pre-history). The enemy war party includes those who would desecrate one more revered Native American location because it is now useful to the government as a storage location for toxic trash. Such an enemy is Jean Schmidt, an active force in the covert confusion of mistruths and missing information. The governmental safeguard process was coerced and breeched by the enemy, caught only in the final legs to be challenged by community organizations like SONG and political figures like Victoria Wulsin. Such abominable and demeaning behavior, long accepted and approved by the politics and policy of the American Government must come to an end. Are we, the Native Peoples of this state of Ohio, not worth your consideration? It is the responsibility of all honorable political agents to prevent the improper appropriation of this sacred space for destructive, harmful, government purposes and allow it to continue as it has been held by my Native brothers and sisters in Pike County. It is to this end that I write this letter. I am a Native American woman who makes my home and livelihood in the Scioto Valley. My Ancestors hold the horror of the unclaimed holocaust of centuries past. I hold the horrors of the unclaimed holocaust of today. The American Government and society at large have historically turned their head, paid no heed and given no press to the oppression that continues today in such activities as have been playing out in Pike County, OH these last many months. I pay taxes to the same government. I abide by the laws of that government. Yet my rights and beliefs are historically not honored. Isn’t time for that to change?
What can YOU do to make such atrocities a thing of the past? I want my voice and the voice of My People to be heard. What say you?”
More information about the SONIC proposal and the sacred sites of Piketon is available at the SONG website. Contact us for further information.
SONG: Southern Ohio Neighbors Group
P.O. Box 161, Piketon, OH 45661