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Nuclear garbage in Galveston Todd Shipyards Corporation’s misleadingly titled Research and Technical Division in Galveston, since 1968 the state’s largest temporary storage facility for low-level nuclear garbage, has been widely criticized in recent months. Governor Clements, not widely known for his concern with radioactive materials safety, called conditions at the site “deplorable.” Local officials compared the site to a “pigpen” and demanded immediate cleanup. But Todd’s operation has not been criticized by officials of the Texas Department of Health, which is responsible, through its Radiation Control Branch, for monitoring Todd’s discharges into Galveston’s air and waters. That’s because conditions became “deplorable” at Todd Shipyards while TDH officials weren’t looking. Galvestonians are concerned about the safety of low-level waste treatment on their doorstep. The future may bring something considerably more hazardous. The U.S. Department of Energy announced recently that it was considering storing up to 170 metric tons of lethally radioactive spent fuel rods, from foreign nuclear reactors, at the Todd site, less than 2,000 yards from downtown Galveston. Dr. Robert Bernstein, commissioner of TDH, toured the Galveston facility on January 11 and held a press conference before flying back to Austin. He pronounced himself “content” with the safety of the operation, and “content,” as well, with his agency’s monitoring procedures. Bernstein also announced, among concessions that he had wrung from Todd’s management, a moratorium on shipments of nuclear waste to the site. The moratorium lasted only six days. Then it was back to business as usual. Todd’s inventory of radioactive leftoversmost of it 55-gallon drums of low-level waste from medical facilities, which must be reprocessed before it will be accepted at permanent storage siteshas almost doubled since last summer, to about 13,000 barrels. The barrels are stored outdoors, on pallets, exposed to wind and weather. Todd personnel repackage the material in the barrels, compacting some of it and evaporating some of it, before shipping it to permanent burial sites like those in Beatty, Nevada, and Barnwell, South Carolina. “We want to make sure that drums don’t stay on the lot long enough to begin deteriorating and leaking radiation,” Richard Ratliff, of the TDH Radiation Control Branch, said recently. “One of the conditions of Todd’s license is that they keep no one barrel for more than a year.” In September, the company’s division manager told a reporter for In Between magazine in Galveston that the facility has stored waste materials for up to three years. Permanent burial sites charge Todd for accepting its material according to how radioactive it is: since the radioactivity of the stored substances decreases by spontaneous nuclear decay as time passes, Todd saves money by holding materials in Galveston as long as possible. There is only one TDH radiation control inspector in a 13-county area including Harris and Galveston counties. He is SEQUEL…_ a busy man. Since last October, this inspector has been visiting Todd every two weeks, checking the company’s records and taking a look at the barrels stored on the site. Only two formal inspections, with radiation checks of the area and stored materials, have been made since 1977. TDH officials say lack of money forces them to “take licensees at their word.” A TDH inspector did cite Todd for three violations in May of 1979, the most serious of which was a spill of radioactive cooling water from a California nuclear reactor onto an area which “drains directly into the bay.” \(Todd has over 300,000 gallons of such water; not all wastes on the site are from “nuclear Ratliff said recently that company officials assured him the contaminated soil was removed, but he says his office has taken no further soil samples. Sampling is planned for this month, he says. The company’s division manager revealed recently that Todd is also storing 32 grams of plutoniumwhich it has had since 1968. Ratliff said that he doesn’t know what building this material is stored in or how it is shielded to prevent radiation leaks. He added that, to his knowledge, no TDH inspector has ever tested the plutonium’s container to make sure it is safely sealed. On the two recent occasions when Todd tried to ship wastes on to a perma nent dump site, its shipments have been rejected because the materials were in unacceptable condition. In July of 1979, operators of the permanent low-level dump at Beatty, Nevada, turned back a THE COS PRICE WOO LIMO TO OMNI= THAT TO MOP OVOIM801011 SATOH, Texas 0. Farmers E Union OO LAKE AIR DC WACO, TEXAS 76710 817 772-7220 –1411 S. 15 “1 1,:fgft,rtattAILG -*—:\\ THE BRAZOS BOOK SHOP 803 Red River Austin, Texas 474-9428 gRocIEBY Literature and the Fine Arts new and used books Monday through Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Featuring Local Presses and Authors: Including Thorp Springs Press, Prickly Pear Press. Texas Circuit. Encino Press. Shoal Creek Publishers, Jenkins Publishing. Place of Herons Press, and many others 1000 West Lynn, Austin, Texas 478-3001 Store hours: Mon-Sat 9:30-7, Sun 12-6 WOODY HILLS Food for People, Not for Profit A VEGETARIAN FOOD CO-OP —-S. 1st Aust in, I exas Personal Service Quality Insurance ALICE ANDERSON AGENCY INSURANCE & REAL ESTATE 808A E. 46th, Austin, Texas 459-6577 Postmaster: If undeliverable, send Form 3579 to The Texas Observer, 600 W. 7th, Austin, Texas 78701 16 FEBRUARY 15, 1980