Cleaning up Paducah's uranium enrichment plant (Part Three)

Apr 28, 2010

Paducah, KY – It's been 60 years since the Atomic Energy Commission announced Paducah would become the site of the Nation's second uranium enrichment plant. Today, in the third of this week's five part series, Paducah Remediation Services Communication Manager Joe Tarentino takes a brief look at the environmental laws that control the cleanup process and the agencies tasked with applying those laws.

There are a number of environmental laws that DOE must comply with, but the two major laws are called RCRA (pronounced rekra) and CERCLA (pronounced serkla).

RCRA is the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, passed in 1976. This law governs chemical hazardous waste management. The Commonwealth of KY has received authorization from EPA to regulate hazardous waste under the RCRA program.

The second law is called CERCLA, or the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. It is more commonly known as the Superfund. It was passed by Congress in 1980 and controls how contaminated sites are cleaned up.

In 1998 DOE, EPA, and KY entered into an agreement known as the Federal Facility Agreement or the FFA. The FFA defines how the requirements of both major environmental laws will be met and also details the process that a cleanup project must follow to ensure it meets the law.

The FFA also ensures that the public is given a chance to provide input on clean up decisions as they are developed.

All of these steps are documented and available at the DOE Environmental Information Center in Paducah. The Center is located at 115 Memorial Drive, across U.S. 62 from West Kentucky Community and Technical College.

Although a complicated and often lengthy process, the goal of RCRA, CERCLA, and the Federal Facility Agreement is to ensure an environmental cleanup using accepted scientific and engineering processes that follows all applicable federal and state laws, and keeps the public informed at each step along the way.

Joe Tarentino is the Communication Manager for Paducah Remediation Services.