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Final Transuranic Waste Shipment Leaves Rocky Flats

April 19, 2005 - 12:23pm

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Cleanup Ahead of Schedule, On Track to Save Taxpayers Billions

GOLDEN, CO. – A major environmental victory was achieved at the Rocky Flats Site in Golden, Colo., today when the final remaining shipment of radioactive, transuranic (TRU) waste left the property on a truck bound for an underground waste repository in New Mexico. This major milestone is another step toward the final conversion of the site to a National Wildlife Refuge managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"This is great news for all of Colorado, and would not have been possible without hand-in-glove cooperation between the Department of Energy, the Colorado Congressional delegation, local communities and regulators," Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman said. "Through these efforts, we’re taking an industrial facility and turning it into a place where animals and other wildlife can flourish. A project of this magnitude and complexity has never before been attempted anywhere in the world. It’s truly remarkable what can be accomplished by hard work, cooperation and innovation."

During the Cold War, components for nuclear weapons were made at the Rocky Flats site using radioactive and hazardous materials including plutonium, uranium and beryllium. In fact, every nuclear weapon in the field today has a part or component that was produced at the Rocky Flats facility.

When operations ceased in the early 1990’s, large amounts of radioactive waste and other hazardous materials, such as the TRU removed today, remained behind. The materials shipped today consist of disposable items contaminated with radioactivity, such as clothing, tools and rags generated during nuclear production and deactivation.

Since cleanup commenced ten years ago, workers faced tremendous challenges in the removal of over 12 metric tons of plutonium, the demolition of hundreds of aging and contaminated buildings, and the disposal of tons of radioactive and hazardous waste materials. The project, despite initial estimates predicting a cost of $37 billion over 60 years, is on track to be completed a year earlier than planned, at the end of 2005, at a total cost of about $7 billion.

"As late as 1999, there were people who thought what we’ve achieved today would be impossible," Secretary Bodman said. "The workers on site were true innovators and problem solvers throughout this project, repeatedly coming up with solutions to the technical challenges they faced."

At Rocky Flats today, workers looked on as the last of the site’s TRU waste left for final disposal at DOE’s Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) in Carlsbad, N. Mex. Trucks from Rocky Flats have traveled safely nearly 1.5 million miles since 1999, carrying over 15,000 cubic meters of transuranic/transuranic mixed waste to WIPP.

MEDIA INFORMATION:

Deputy Secretary of Energy Clay Sell will host a call with reporters TODAY, APRIL 19, 2005 at 3:40 EST to discuss the final shipment of TRU from Rocky Flats. Deputy Secretary Sell is number two at the Department of Energy, serving as Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the $23 billion agency.

Reporters wishing to participate should call:

TIME: 3:40 PM (EDT)
PHONE: 301-903-6496

Media:
Mike Waldron, DOE HQ, 202/586-4940
Karen Lutz, Rocky Flats, 303/966-4546

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