2004 CPEO Military List Archive

From: CPEO Moderator <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: 12 Mar 2004 17:36:43 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: IEER Press Release
Environmental Research (IEER)

For use after 9:30am EST, Thursday, March 11, 2004

For further information contact:
Arjun Makhijani, IEER: 301-270-5500
Bob Schaeffer: 239-395-6773

                      P R E S S   R E L E A S E


  Standards for Drinking Water Contaminated with Radioactive Tritium
  Need to be Tightened to Protect Pregnant Women, Developing Fetuses

    Department of Energy Appears on Course to Abandon Environmental
        Commitments to Communities, States, Future Generations

Washington, D.C. March 11, 2004:  Current waste management practices
at the Savannah River Site (SRS) nuclear weapons plant, near Aiken,
South Carolina, threaten to make the watershed of one of the most
important rivers in the southeastern United States into a high-level
nuclear waste dump, according to a report issued today by the
Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER).

The new report, Nuclear Dumps by the Riverside: Threats to the
Savannah River from Radioactive Contamination at the Savannah River
Site (SRS), also details tritium contamination of the Savannah River
and the environmental injustice caused by SRS-related contamination to
those who subsist on fish from its waters.

The Savannah River Site in South Carolina produced more than one-third
of the plutonium for U.S. nuclear bombs, almost all of the tritium,
and other nuclear materials for the U.S. weapons program.  Past waste
dumping and mismanagement and a failure to implement a sound cleanup
plan have created extensive water pollution beneath SRS as well as
serious risks for water resources in the region.

"Current cleanup policies at SRS will very likely leave a million or
more curies of radioactivity in high-level waste on the Savannah River
Site," said Dr. Arjun Makhijani, IEER president and principal author
of the report.  "The DOE is turning SRS into a de facto high-level
radioactive waste dump."

"We are going to work in a bi-partisan way in the State of Georgia to
hold the federal government's feet to the fire," said State
Representative Nan Orrock, Majority Whip (D) of the Georgia House of
Representatives.  "The Department of Energy simply must not be allowed
to put our most precious natural resource - water - at risk in this
appalling way."

"All that we want is a bi-partisan measure to put back into funding
the testing for tritium and other radioactive products in the river,"
stated Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah, Georgia). "My constituents drink
this water."

"There are serious problems that need to be dealt with in an
expeditious manner, properly and correctly," said State Senator Regina
Thomas (D-Savannah/Chatham, Georgia).  "There are contaminants in our
water supply and the Department of Energy should create a cleanup plan
so as to eliminate pollution of our water."

Tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, is the most common water
pollutant at SRS.  "While it is well within federal safe drinking
water standards, recent research indicates that tritium standards may
not be adequate to protect pregnant women and developing fetuses from
adverse health effects," explained Dr. Makhijani. "Tritium can produce
multigenerational risks.  The federal government needs to recover the
buried wastes dumped decades ago that are still polluting the Savannah
River, and to tighten tritium standards to protect those most at

The IEER report finds that African Americans who rely on the Savannah
River as a primary source of protein - that is, subsistence fishermen
- are disproportionately affected by the consumption of
radioactively-contaminated fish downstream of SRS.  They consume about
four times more fish than the maximum limit set by the South Carolina
Department of Health and Environmental Control.

"We know that people are eating more fish than what is safe-people of
color in particular," said Rev. Charles Utley, Central Savannah River
Area campaign director for Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League in
Augusta, Georgia. "People whose diets depend on river fish caught
downstream of SRS need to be told about the risks of fish consumption.
And DOE needs to act to reduce the pollution of the river."

Despite the radioactive threats, the Energy Department has denied a
request from the state of Georgia to continue funding radiation
monitoring along the Savannah River, calling the state's program
"redundant" because South Carolina also has a monitoring program.
Unfunded, Georgia's program is set to end April 30, 2004.

"It's simply unacceptable that DOE has cut off environmental
monitoring funds for the State of Georgia," said Sara Barczak, Safe
Energy Director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy in Savannah,
Georgia.  "The DOE has created risks for the people of Georgia and put
a burden on the state and it should step up to the plate and assume
its responsibilities by restoring the funds rather than tossing the
problem into the laps of communities and state taxpayers."

The IEER report focuses on the daunting problem of managing and
implementing a clean-up program for Cold War-era wastes; it does not
examine the contamination that will result from new and proposed
nuclear weapons or nuclear fuel production programs at SRS, including
a tritium separation facility being built there, a proposed plant to
make plutonium fuel for reactors, and a proposed plant to
mass-manufacture plutonium bomb cores.

"It is unconscionable that this administration is pursuing unneeded,
provocative nuclear weapons programs at SRS even before it has cleaned
up the mess it created during the Cold War," said Ms. Bobbie Paul,
Executive Director of Atlanta Women's Action for New Directions and
board member of Georgia Center for Law in the Public Interest. "Worse,
the DOE is taking actions that are making the site into a huge,
essentially permanent, radioactive waste dump.  It should clean up its
act and not even think about new bomb plants that would add to the
burdens it has already created."

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