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Great Lakes Article:

Unclear nuclear policy threatens Wisconsin
By Curt Andersen
Green Bay News-Chronicle
09/17/03


An Aug. 20 story by Josh Gelina of The Augusta Chronicle tells the disturbing story about the potential disposal of liquid nuclear waste that might spell bad news for Wisconsin.

Following the decision by a federal judge to remove radioactive waste from the Savannah River Site, South Carolina state health officials sent a letter to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham asking him to follow federal laws on the handling of nuclear waste at the Savannah River Site.

Currently, the federal government must consult with states before disposing of nuclear waste from states that house it. Officials from the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory and Washington State's Hanford Nuclear Reservation signed onto the letter.

Abraham wrote a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert asking him to rewrite the Nuclear Waste Policy of 1982, changing the status of the waste to low level instead of high level, allowing it to be mixed with grout and buried in the state, claiming it to be "environmentally safe."

According to the report, the stockpile of waste at the Savannah River Site contains a radioactive reading of 400 million curies. The Department of Energy's plans to leave some of the waste buried at the site would leave about 20 million curies.

David Wilson, the chief of the department's Bureau of Land and Waste Management, said, "One curie could certainly cause a significant amount of problems to a human being."

This is an issue for people in Wisconsin because of the Wolf River Batholith, a geological feature covering more than 1,000 square miles in Northeast Wisconsin, which was proposed by the energy department as a potential site for large-scale nuclear waste disposal. Additionally, the Bush administration is pushing for more nuclear power and new plants.

Creating more radioactive waste increases the chance that Wisconsin will be fingered to host thousands of tons of it from all over the country.

A change in what constitutes low-level or high-level waste might allow Wisconsin nuclear plants to bury their "low-level" waste either at the nuclear plant, or perhaps in one or more of the Crandon Mine's shafts, or in one of the many mines planned in the Batholith area of Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Claire Schmidt, local issues coordinator for Clean Wisconsin, said, "Wisconsin may be asked to host the second permanent nuclear waste facility in the country, even though studies have shown that storing nuclear waste in the Batholith could expose our groundwater and Great Lakes to contamination."

This says nothing about property values and tourism.

Wisconsin initially faced the threat of a nuclear repository in the Wolf River Batholith in the 1980s, when the site passed the energy department's screening criteria for acceptable sites.

Clean Wisconsin's report, however, shows that the Batholith contains many of the screening factors that should have disqualified the site. These factors include proximity to populated areas in Shawano, Clintonville and Waupaca and their rivers, streams, wetlands and protected areas, such as the Nicolet National Forest and the Wolf National Wild and Scenic River.

Now we have another reason to be concerned about the Bush administration and the coalition of mining and nuclear power corporations that might profit from a mine in Northeast Wisconsin. There were enough reasons before this lunacy.

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