The U.S. Department of Energy has apparently decided to disregard commitments made to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control as well as to the taxpaying public with its poorly reasoned and unwise choice to shut down operations at the Consolidated Incinerator Facility at the Savannah River Site.
DOE is touting this decision as a way to save money and use it in other "priority" projects at the site. DOE has not only decided to stop operations at the incinerator facility but also to take money from other environmental restoration projects currently working at the site. One of those is DOE's self-proclaimed complex jewel, the Defense Waste Processing Facility.
The incinerator facility presently operates under a permit issued to it by SCDHEC. There have been years of work, revisions, testing, etc. to fine tune this permit where all participants (DOE, SRS, SCDHEC, and the public) would remain winners with the incinerator facility's continued operation. It is the only facility at the Savannah River Site that actually reduces the amount of legacy waste, not just repackaging it for further storage.
DOE's plan calls for shutting down the incinerator until 2005, when it will resume operations. CIF's annual budget is a modest amount when compared to other facilities and the overall site. DOE plans to use this money to clean up projects in the processing canyons that they have let languish.
While this seems to be a noble cause, shutting down the incinerator where one could walk away from it, is a radiological and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act "clean" condition which could, some estimate, costing tens of millions. DOE has already walked away from one Incinerator at the Savannah River Site without de-inventorying or decommissioning it leaving behind legacy waste. DOE is currently being fined for failure to de-inventory and decommission said Incinerator.
Do we want another occurrence as this? SCDHEC would also terminate CIF's operating permit and may not be inclined to approve another permit in the future in light of DOE's reneging on its current commitment. It should also be noted that being granted a new operating permit by SCDHEC by 2005 might not be possible due to time restraints.
CIF's operators possess some of the most specialized skills developed on this site and millions have been spent on their training and qualifications. To restart CIF in 2005, new operators would have to start training as early as 2002 to attempt to gain the expertise and skills currently possessed by the incumbent operators...
Chuck Clark, Evans