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COURTESY COLORADO GOVERNOR’S OFFICE Plutonium processing facility at Rocky Flats, Colorado Each cited inadequate information about the environmental impact of the expansion as grounds for their decisions. “Unless we can get reassurances that expanding that plant [Pantex] will be safe, the board does not wish to support it,” Panhandle Superintendent Ronnie Teichelman told the Daily News. Teichelman also complained that legislators and others who saw the list of supporters were not informed of qualifying amendments his school district had added to the standard resolution distributed by the task force. Other cities are having second thoughts about the expansion as well. On May 20, the Canadian City Council withdrew its support of the project in favor of a resolution demanding full disclosure of the activities that will be conducted at Pantex. The new resolution also calls for an independent study of the potential environmental impact of the proposed expansion. The City of Channing is also considering, revoking its support. The City Council has placed the matter on its agenda for further discussion. Madden insists that the recent rash of defections does not represent dwindling support for the project but simply an interest in obtaining more information, which he says the task force will provide. “They actually misread the resolution we submitted to them,” Madden said. “Our ultimate goals are compatible. No one wants a facility out here that is arguably unsafe.” More questions are being raised about the endorsements, however. Two of the entries on the task force’s list of supporters, First National Bank of Amarillo and the Amarillo College board of directors, have not actually endorsed the expansion. First National Bank President Don Powell, who is a member of the task force, and Amarillo College Chairman John Huffaker both told the Amarillo Daily News that their boards of directors had not discussed the expansion or passed any resolution on the matter. Amarillo Chamber of Commerce President Tom Patterson, who also serves on the task force, told the Daily News that “they won’t be on the list if we don’t have a signed resolution from their board members.” Rumblings of Discontent While some groups are only now question ing their support for the proposed expansion, others have opposed the project from the be ginning. On April 27, for example, the Pan handle Groundwater Conservation District unanimously approved a resolution opposing Pantex expansion. Groundwater district board members expressed concern that moving Rocky Flats operations to Pantex could pollute the Ogallala Aquifer, a huge underground water system that supplies drinking and irrigation water to Amarillo and surrounding areas. “We’ve learned that most of these facilities have a great deal of contamination of the groundwater,” said Philip Smith, a groundwater district board member and farmer whose property borders Pantex. “We can’t, in this area, risk contaminating our groundwater.” To combat the proposed expansion, Smith and his wife Doris formed an organization known as Panhandle Area Neighbors and fiat facts have occurred … [to] keep the public from knowing just how really had the site is.” Even after Rocky Flats was shut down, new probletns emerged. An October 1989 DOE report indicated that the plant lacked adequate safeguards against dangerous build-ups of plutonium in filenough to kill workers but not had enough to cause a nuclear explosion. Several months later EG&G Inc., DOE’s new contractor at the facility, discovered 62 pounds of plutonium lodged in the plant’s ductwork enough to build seven nuclear bombs. In March, Congress approved $283 million for cleanup of Rocky Flats. Officials now estimate the total cost of restarting the idled facility will exceed $1.1 billion by 1993. Over the past 18 months, DOE and Rocky Flats officials have repeatedly stated that the plant would, not reopen until major upgrades were finished and a new climate of safety was established. “We are not going to resume plutonium operations until it’s safe to do so,” Energy Undersecretary John Tuck told the Denver Post earlier this year. Under pressure from the military to renew production of plutonium triggers, however, DOE has begun cutting corners. In March, EG&G< announced that Rocky Flats would resume plutonium operations on a limited basis later this summer. The following month, the Associated Press reported that Rocky Flats managers were moving ahead with plans to restart operations in some buildings despite warnings from engineers that the structures were unsafe. One source told AP that a laboratory at the plant had a faulty filtration system that could introduce plutonium-contaminated air into offices and work areas in, an emergency. A memo written by consulting engineers hired to evaluate safety at the plant stated that airborne radioactivity "may present a serious consequence to the workers and the public." The AP story also cites a 1992 DOE, budget request that contains numerous additional warnings. The most serious of these include charges that the plant's afrborne radioactivity testers do not meet state or federal standards and are present in insufficient numbers; the outdated, overloaded and deteriorated fire alarm system creates "dangerous delays" in alerting fire fighters; and a public address system, designed to alert workers during emergencies, failed on 30 separate occasions during testing. DOE Assistant Director of Operations Vic Stello acknovvledged that the department would not meet all federal guidelines before resuming operations at the plant. He told AP that DOE would seek waivers for any regulations it could not meet until the problem was solved. -D.A. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11