“A creeping Chernobyl” at Portsmouth


This week on Nuclear Hotseat: The Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PORTS) in Piketon, Ohio, was the site of uranium enrichment for the US nuclear weapons program. It operated from 1954 to 2001. The Department of Energy (DOE) has been conducting “cleanup” at the site since 1989. Plant operations generated hazardous, radioactive, mixed (hazardous and radioactive), and nonchemical (sanitary) wastes. Past operations also resulted in soil and groundwater contamination at areas located within plant boundaries.

So, how good a job is the DOE doing? How contaminated is the site still – and how far has that radioactive contamination spread?

In September 2020, a lawsuit, since dismissed, was filed on behalf of former nuclear employees and their families accusing the DOE contractors of “poisoning workers and the people, land, air and water for miles”. The plaintiffs said that actions by the DOE contractors, “have created a situation akin to a creeping Chernobyl”.

To learn more, Nuclear Hotseat host, Libbe HaLevy, spoke recently with Michael Ketterer, professor emeritus of chemistry and biochemistry at Northern Arizona University. A former Ohio resident, he studies the sources and behavior of radioisotopes in the environment.

Headline photo by DOE shows a pile of scrap metal at the PORTS cleanup site.


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