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US ups estimate of plutonium waste - NY Times

US ups estimate of plutonium waste - NY Times
NEW YORK - The Energy Department has increased by 10 times its estimate of how much plutonium and other man-made radioactive material has been released in the ground or buried in poorly built containers, the New York Times said on Saturday. The Times said that the department for years had stated that more than 97 percent of plutonium and related waste generated by the first four decades of nuclear weapons production was in "retrievable" storage awaiting burial at a new depository. Only about 3 percent had been placed in soil or buried, it said. Energy Department officials now say there is 10 times the amount of such wastes in the soil and in inadequate containers than previously estimated, the Times said. The new estimate was said to come three years after an environmental group called the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research said the governments data was inconsistent and contradictory. Dr. Arjun Makhijani, president of the group, told the Times that the government was doing little to address the problem of wastes in the dirt and in rusty, leaking barrels. The Times cited a July letter to Makhijani from Carolyn Huntoon, assistant secretary for environmental management at the Energy Department, saying the department would not change the way it was managing the buried wastes. The departments policy is to gather information on them and review them on a case-by-case basis, it said. In a statement to the newspaper on Friday, Huntoon said the department would ask the National Academy of Sciences to review the Energy Departments strategies. Huntoon added that the National Academy of Sciences backs the departments policies toward the wastes. The Times said it was unclear how much material had leached into the ground at dump sites around the country. REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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