Depleted Uranium Removed From Oklahoma Facility

Tuesday, February 13th 2007, 10:53 am
By: News On 6

The U.S. Army is beginning the dangerous task of transporting uranium here in Oklahoma. They’re removing roughly one million pounds of depleted uranium from the Sequoyah Fuels Corporation. The uranium is being taken from the company's eastern Oklahoma facility in Gore to Nevada, where it will be disposed of. News on Six reporter Chris Wright reports on the cleanup.

"It's moving along finally, we can see the end."

John Ellis says the removal of one million pounds of uranium from his Sequoyah Fuels Corporation has been a long time coming. The facility used to enrich uranium for the nuclear power plants, but it closed in 1993. The depleted uranium has remained there ever since, sealed in 55-gallon drums. As the result of an act of Congress earlier this year, the Army is now required to remove all the radioactive material.

Most of the uranium was loaded into trucks, last week. The depleted uranium then made the trek from Gore to a Nevada testing site near Las Vegas. There are several truckloads worth of uranium that still needs to be transported, but Ellis says it is a relief to see most of it gone.

"It's important because there is uranium contamination, radioactive material on the site which could, if someone was to ingest it or get to close, cause problems," Ellis said.

Uranium removal is just part of the ongoing cleanup at the facility. Once the uranium is gone, Sequoyah will then begin to dispose other contaminated materials at its facility. The company will also begin work on cleaning up its groundwater. Officials say it will take several more years to finish the cleanup, at a cost of $30 million. While there is a lot of work to be done, Sequoyah Fuels says getting rid of the uranium is at least a step in the right direction.

"I'll be glad to get it done before I retire,” said Ellis. “It's been a long process."

The uranium transportation has not gone smoothly. One truck went off the road near the Texas border, but no uranium leaked.

The facility in Gore also has a checkered past. It used to be owned by Kerr-McGee, and was connected to the mysterious death of Karen Silkwood in 1974. The 1983 movie “Silkwood” was based on her death.