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Environment

DOE Takes Steps To Protect Groundwater

August 20, 2007 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 85, ISSUE 34

The Department of Energy has agreed to take additional steps to help prevent radioactive waste from former production of nuclear weapons at its Savannah River Site, near Aiken, S.C., from contaminating groundwater. The settlement ends a dispute between DOE and environmental activists over a radioactive waste disposal permit granted by the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control for the Saltstone Disposal Facility, which processes waste stored in tanks at Savannah River. "This agreement moves the ball forward, but unfortunately, it's still unclear whether the people of South Carolina or the environment will be protected over the long term," says Geoffrey Fettus, an attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Under the agreement, the radioactive waste will be disposed of in "a substantially improved and safer facility than the original design for the site," according to NRDC. The primary disposal site for much of the waste is being redesigned, liners will be placed beneath the waste disposal cells to protect the groundwater, and an early leak detection system will be installed. DOE will also be required to launch a publicly accessible website that details the radioactive and chemical composition of the waste that will be disposed of on-site.

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