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Plutonium storage site safe in South Carolina, feds say

Thursday, June 20, 2002

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Federal documents released following a lawsuit by The Associated Press and other media organizations show the Savannah River Site for long-term plutonium storage is structurally sound and can withstand an earthquake.

The media companies sued the Energy Department after the agency said documents should be sealed under a federal law limiting the release of nuclear information.

Media attorney Jay Bender argued the materials failed to meet the standard for being kept secret. The two sides reached an agreement to seal only a few of the documents the DOE considered sensitive.

Even though photographs showed cracks in at least five areas of the K Reactor building, a 2000 study concluded the present condition of the building "is acceptable without further evaluation or testing."

Westinghouse Inc., which operates SRS for the Energy Department, conducted the survey and recommended a follow-up in 2005.

Cracks and pieces of loose and fallen concrete found in other areas of the K Reactor complex, "were not active cracks, since readings taken about nine months apart showed no movement," Westinghouse said.

A 1992 study of whether the reactor could withstand an earthquake concluded the building "will not suffer gross structural failure."

Gov. Jim Hodges filed a lawsuit last month in an attempt to block the shipments of bomb-grade plutonium from the Rocky Flats weapons plant in Colorado to the Savannah River Site.


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