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More on nuclear Leak in Southern Illinois

{ Submitted by wesler1 on Fri, 2014-11-21 17:29 }

More on the recent nuclear release in Metropolis Illinois, previously reported by the North Side Greens. Metropolis, which is host to a nuclear fuel processing plant, is located on the Ohio River, in southern Illinois. Yellowcake, an oxide of uranium, is converted to highly toxic uranium hexafluoride, a gas. The hex is then pumped through a pipeline under the Ohio river to an enrichment plant in Paducah, KY.

A number of people were reported to have been injured by exposure to the highly toxic uranium hexafluoride. Honeywell and the NRC dispute this, and deny also that college students were being used as replacements for locked-out union employees. They also deny that the leak occurred, but the Northside greens have posted a report which includes a link to a Youtube video showing what appears to be uranium hexafluoride leaving the plant. The replacement workers were reported to be "winging it," according to locals.

The Paducah enrichment plant fed by Metroplis is a Superfund Site. Among the problems which earned Superfund status for the Paducah plant were "Groundwater contaminated with VOCs, Technetium-99, and uranium. Uranium, thorium, plutonium, and neptunium have been detected in off-site sediments and surfacewater. TCE and PCBs have been found in site soils." $823 million in public funds has so far been spent on cleanup of this privately operated plant. The Metropolis plant feeds the enrichment site in Paducah via a pipeline which passes under the Ohio River. The Northside Greens would like to know whether similar contamination might obtain on the Illinois side of the river.

The plant is located less than a mile from residential areas. Schools and parks with playgrounds are located near the plant, raising the question of exposure of children. The consequences of exposure to uranium can be severe, especially for children. Concern for children is not overblown, given that at least 69 adults had employed in the plant had contracted cancer. Most of these have have died. Honeywell had acted to reduce pension and retiree health benefits, a move opposed by the union.

Honeywell, which operates the plant, says there was no release of uranium outside the building where the leak occurred. There have been three previous releases of uranium reported at the Honewell plant.

The greens are also concerned about uranium getting in the food chain. No one seems to be monitoring for contamination of crops. There seems to be considerable variation in uranium uptake from the soil. The amount of uranium entering the food chain seems to be a function of both soil treatment and crop species.

No one in government, at either state or Federal level, are willing to acknowledge that raw uranium hexaflouride may have spread to midwest farmland. If they did, they would have to begin monitoring. If contamination were to be found, authorities would have to undertake a series of remedial steps.

They won't do this because to do so might raise alarms, possibly closing foreign markets to US corn and corn based products, including beef and pork.