Jake Armstrong / Stockton Record – 2007-04-14 23:07:30
Livermore Lab Says Bigger Blasts
Would Send Depleted Uranium into Air
Jake Armstrong / Stockton Record
TRACY (April 12, 2007) — Bigger outdoor blasts proposed at an explosives test range southwest of Tracy could release up to 453 pounds of depleted uranium into the air a year, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory officials told air pollution regulators in an application last week.
Lab officials did not disclose that information in a November request to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to more than triple the amount of explosives used in detonations at its test range, Site 300. The district initially granted the lab permission, but revoked the permit in March after learning the blasts would contain radioactive materials.
Depleted uranium is less radioactive than naturally occurring uranium, and when detonated, it would be carried by wind, said Gretchen Gallegos, of the lab’s Operations and Regulatory Affairs Division. The lab has not found radiation levels above federal thresholds at its monitoring stations, she said.
“All of our activities are well within any health measure, and there’s nothing to be concerned about,” Gallegos said.
The public will be able to give input on this new explosives request at public meetings the dates of which are yet to be determined, said Jaime Holt, the district’s public information administrator.
District staff approved the lab’s permit without any public scrutiny in November, causing a public outcry. This time, the district will perform a risk assessment on the blasts and review the request according to the California Environmental Quality Act, Holt said, adding the district just began reviewing the application and does not yet have a time line for completion.
Lab officials want to increase the amount of explosives used in blasts from 100 pounds to 350 pounds for government tests performed at the site, which is owned by the U.S. Department of Energy and operated by the University of California. The explosions would be capped at 8,000 pounds a year; lab officials said they plan only three tests per year at the 350-pound level.
Meanwhile, U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials will tour Site 300 Monday to further evaluate the University of California’s proposal to locate there the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, which would research incurable diseases that harm humans, animals and plants. The visit is part of a nationwide tour of 18 sites vying for the federal laboratory. DHS officials will then shorten the list of proposals, conduct environmental reviews of the finalists, and decide on a site in October 2008.
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