FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE November 20, 1997

NEWS MEDIA CONTACTS:
Michael Holland, 516/344-3552
Jeff Sherwood, 202/586-5806

 

ENERGY DEPARTMENT BEGINS
FORMAL ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW
OF BROOKHAVEN REACTOR

First Public Meeting on December 10

 

The Department of Energy today took the first step toward conducting a formal environmental review of the High Flux Beam Reactor at the department's Brookhaven National Laboratory by issuing a Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for public review and comment. The review, which will take approximately one year to complete, will define the environmental and public health impacts of various alternatives for the future of the reactor which is used for advanced research in solid state physics, nuclear physics, materials technology, structural biology, medicine and chemistry.

"An environmental impact statement will provide a thorough assessment of environmental and public health effects of the different alternatives for the future of the High Flux Beam Reactor, which has been a valuable U.S. scientific research facility for many years. Most importantly, this process will include public meetings and comment periods so that the local community and anyone who is interested has the opportunity to express their views on this important decision," said Secretary of Energy Federico F. Peña.

An Environmental Impact Statement is a comprehensive evaluation of environmental impacts of major government programs or projects, pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. The Congress, in its Fiscal Year 1998 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act conference report, also directed the department to undertake an Environmental Impact Statement. The purpose of the Notice of Intent is to solicit public comment on the proposed scope and content of the document, and to encourage public involvement. This process will analyze the following alternatives:

The department will conduct public meetings in the vicinity of Brookhaven National Laboratory to solicit public comments on the scope of the Environmental Impact Statement, including the environmental issues to be addressed. The first meeting will be held on December 10 from 4-9 p.m. at the Mastic Beach Property Owners Association, 31 Neighborhood Road, Mastic Beach, NY.

Requests to speak at the meeting should be made to Michael Holland at the Brookhaven Group at 516/344-3552, telefax 516/344-1377 or by electronic mail to mholland@bnl.gov.

There will be another public meeting in January. The time and place will be announced. Opportunities to provide oral and written comments will continue through January 23, 1998. In addition to providing guidance for the scope of the Environmental Impact Statement, these comments will contribute to Secretary Peña's decision on a "preferred alternative" for the reactor's future to be included in the draft Environmental Impact Statement. His decision will likely be made in the first quarter of 1998.

Key steps in the Environmental Impact Statement are:

In December 1996, the reactor was shut down for routine maintenance. In early January 1997, monitoring indicated that a plume of tritiated water was contaminating the groundwater south of the facility. The Department of Energy, in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, New York State Department of Conservation, and Suffolk County, immediately initiated activities to identify and eliminate the source of the plume. Data collection and analysis subsequently identified the High Flux Beam Reactor spent fuel pool as the likely source of the plume. A groundwater extraction system was installed in May 1997 to assure that the contaminated water does not leave the Brookhaven Laboratory site.

Consistent with the conference report accompanying the Fiscal Year 1998 Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act, the Environmental Impact Statement will provide an analysis of the tritium leak and any other contamination associated with the High Flux Beam Reactor and the detailed plan for remediation.

The Notice of Intent is available on the World Wide Web at: http://tis.eh.doe.gov/nepa/ and will be published in the November 24, 1997 Federal Register.

Copies are also available from the department's Brookhaven Group at 516/344-3424.

 

-DOE-