Rep. King: Feds should look elsewhere to store mercury

By GARY HARMON
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The U.S. Department of Energy should look elsewhere for a place to store the nation’s mercury, said state Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction.

King’s 54th District includes one of the seven sites being considered by the agency for the storage of as much as 17,000 tons of the liquid metal.

Whether the site below Grand Mesa and atop a 700-foot-deep layer of impervious Mancos shale would make for a suitable location for mercury encased in heavy steel flasks is beside the point, King said.

The Energy Department gave its word that the Grand Junction Disposal Site would be used only for uranium mill tailings, King said.

“The Energy Department should go to other sites where they haven’t made these promises,”
King said Wednesday after attending a scoping meeting conducted by the Energy Department at Two Rivers Convention Center.

“It goes back to the Code of the West,” he said. 

Former Mesa County commissioners Kathy Hall and Jim Spehar have said they relied on promises by the Energy Department when approving plans for the disposal of uranium mill tailings in the disposal cell.

The 1996 memorandum of understanding between the county and federal agency calls for the disposal cell to be used “almost exclusively” for radioactive materials taken from Mesa County as part of the mill-tailings removal program.

“If the promise was made, then we need to be true to our word, even if it was made to a different generation of Mesa County residents,” King said.

The Energy Department has until January to designate a site from among the seven possible locations it’s studying and is to have a storage center in operation by 2013.

Other locations are the Idaho National Laboratory, the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state, Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada, the Kansas City Plant in Missouri, the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, and Waste Control Specialists in Andrews, Texas.


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