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Mr. Ross Mrs. Tatum Ms. Lewis convinced that taking students to visit nuclear plants is a safe practice. In 1993, in San Luis Obispo, California, teacher Kathy DiPeri repeatedly refused to lead groups of school children on tours of the marine lab exhibit at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. DiPeri, who was teaching environmental education for the county school system, was fired for her stand. “I did some research and found that unplanned radiation releases regularly take place at Diablo Canyon,” says DiPeri. “No way was I going to lead these kids anywhere near there.” After she was fired, DiPeri filed suit and won, forcing the county to reinstate her. The Authority’s Deputy General Manager Lee Mathews doesn’t think students from Sierra Blanca were ever put in any danger. “We obviously are not taking the students into areas where there would be a real risk,” says Mathews. “You can get around barrels of low-level waste with no particular hazard.” aul Gunter of the Washington, D.C.-based Nuclear Informa tion and Resource Service doesn’t agree, and says that there are real risks involved in touring any nuclear plant. “We’re concerned that visiting a plant could result in contamination, so we always take a Geiger counter,” says Gunter. “Contamination can occur even outside of the plant, and it occurs all too frequently.” Gunter has been closely following a lawsuit brought by a group of University of Maine students who were contaminated by radioactivity during a visit to the Maine Yankee nuclear power plant. An Associated Press article published in the Bangor Daily News on November 10, 1996 reported, “Five chemistry students who were reportedly exposed to radioactive gas during a tour of the Maine Yankee nuclear power plant sued the plant’s operators Thursday in federal court.” According to the article, “The lawsuit that seeks $5.5 million in damages contends that Maine Yankee officials knew before the tour that work was going to be undertaken that could lead to releases of radioactive gas. It also contends that Maine Yankee officials tried to cover up the severity of the exposure, and that a plant consultant told students afterward that radiation “may be necessary and good for you … like a vitamin.” Maine Yankee has since shut down the plant, which will be dismantled and might be buried a few miles east of downtown Sierra Blanca if the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission approves the Authority’s permit application and Congress approves the Texas-Maine-Vermont nuclear waste compact. Waste from Comanche Peak will also be buried on what had been the Faskin Ranch at Sierra Blanca, so it’s no surprise that the Texas Utilities nuclear plant is a regular stop for the Authority’s school bus. Sierra Blanca School’s most recent tour of Comanche Peak took place in March 1997. Thirteen juniors and seniors from Winnie Tatum’s chemistry class and one seventh grader made the trip. Adult chaperones were Tatum, Superintendent Lewis Rogers, history teacher Charles Mustain, parent Billie Dell French, and teacher/football coach Leo Caraveo. French, parent of the lone seventh grader on the trip, previously edited the now-defunct Southwest Sun News in Sierra Blanca, which supported the nuclear dump. \(The paper, which began publishing in 1994, was owned in part by Bill Love, who as County Judge was such an advocate of the Merco sewage sludge dump that some of his own constituents began to refer to him as Judge ponent of the dump, and according to reports by Houston’s KHOU-TV, receives funding from ARDT. Eddie Selig of ARDT again went on the tour, as did Adriana Rhames and another Authority employee. Rhames’ post-trip memo \(February tivities. “The Sierra Blanca School group and the two Authority employees were transported by chartered bus to Comanche Peak where they were again met by Mr. Schmitt [of Texas Utilities] and Mr. Selig. The tour of Comanche Peak included a detailed film and slide presentation plus time for questions and answers, a tour of the low-level radioactive waste storage area, and lunch…. After the tour, the group returned to Dallas to check in at the hotel, then departed for dinner where they were again met by Mr. Selig and Mr. Schmitt.” Dinner was a major social outing for the kids: an evening at Medieval Times restaurant, which included a four-course dinner and a two-hour jousting tournament between six knights on JANUARY 30, 1998 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11