May 20, 1997

Jeff Sherwood, 202/586-5806

Department of Energy Seeks Public Comments on Plans to Site Plutonium Disposition Facilities

The Department of Energy seeks public involvement in the preparation of an environmental impact statement (IS) on the siting of disposition activities for the Nation's surplus weapons plutonium. The department will use the IS, along with other information, to help decide where to construct and operate the facilities required for disposing of up to 50 metric tons of plutonium. Public meetings will be held in Idaho, South Carolina, Texas and Washington in June.

This environmental review follows a programmatic EIS in December 1996, and a Record of Decision on January 14, 1997, that established a hybrid approach for disposing of surplus plutonium. The first technology is immobilization -- encasement in glass or ceramic material -- and the second is burning the plutonium as Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel in commercial reactors. Consistent with U.S. nonproliferation policy, residual plutonium would not be reprocessed or extracted from the spent fuel.

The preferred alternative for immobilization involves the department's Savannah River Site near Aiken, SC, which has an existing operational high-level waste vitrification capability. The Hanford Site (Richland, WA) has plans for such a capability and, therefore, will also be considered. The Hanford Site, Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (Idaho Falls, ID), Pantex Plant (Amarillo, TX) and Savannah River Site were selected as potential plutonium pit disassembly/conversion and MOX fuel fabrication sites.

DOE will hold public meetings to help determine the scope of the environmental analyses, significant environmental issues and alternatives that should be considered in the EIS. The meetings will be held to provide information, discuss that information, and receive scoping comments. These meetings will be held in Richland, WA, on July 1, 1997; Idaho Falls, ID, on June 10, 1997; Amarillo, TX, on June 12, 1997 and North Augusta, SC, on June 19, 1997.

A Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare the EIS will be issued in the Federal Register this week. The NOI will be sent to a number of congressional, state and local officials, tribal officials andmembers of the public. Copies of the notice are also available at DOE reading rooms, and the Office of Fissile Materials Disposition web site at

DOE requests public comments on the proposed scope of the EIS by July 18, 1997. Written comments can be submitted to U.S. Department of Energy, P. O. Box 23786, Washington, DC 20026-3786. Comments may also be submitted electronically to the Office of Fissile Materials Disposition web site.

The locations and dates for the public meetings are shown below. All meetings will consist of two sessions (1:00 pm to 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm). Advance registration for the meetings is requested, but not required. Individuals may call 1-800-820-5134 to leave their name and location of the meeting they plan to attend.

Hanford Site:

July 1, 1997
Shilo Inn
50 Comstock
Richland, WA

Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory:

June 10, 1997
Shilo Inn
780 Lindsay Boulevard
Idaho Fall, ID

Pantex Plant:

June 12, 1997
Radisson Inn Airport
7909 I-40 East at Lakeside
Amarillo, TX

Savannah River Site:

June 19, 1997
North Augusta Community Center
495 Brookside Avenue
North Augusta, SC