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Matheson Questions Energy Secretary

Location: Washington, DC

Matheson Questions Energy Secretary

Congressman Jim Matheson today pressed Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel Bodman concerning plans to remove the 16 million ton Atlas Tailings pile near Moab and the proposed "Divine Strake" explosives test at the Nevada Test Site. Matheson is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which Thursday held a hearing on DOE's spending plans for the coming fiscal year.

Matheson asked Secretary Bodman why-after committing to moving the radioactive tailings pile away from where it currently sits above the Colorado River near Moab-the request for contractors identifies movement of only 2.5 million tons of waste, over 5 years. Matheson noted that conflicts with the DOE's earlier announced schedule of completing the project in 7-10 years. Secretary Bodman's response was that the clean up won't be completed before the year 2028.

"This is news to me. DOE has been telling us that the pile would be cleaned up within a decade and the Secretary now seems to think that 20 years is an acceptable timeframe," said Matheson.

"I continue to get evasive, incomplete information from DOE regarding the need to remove the health and safety threat posed by this pile. I will press this issue with the Secretary until I get satisfactory answers about the project timeline and the budget," said Matheson.

Matheson also asked about DOE funding for the proposed 700-ton conventional explosives test-dubbed Divine Strake-that would be detonated at the Nevada Test Site, which is managed by DOE. Matheson asked for a breakdown of the cost being assumed by DOE and by the Department of Defense.

Matheson, commenting on the draft Environmental Assessment prepared by DOE on Divine Strake, has asked why alternative locations -such as the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico-weren't evaluated by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the National Nuclear Security Administration.

"I question the logic of blowing up a hypothetical conventional bomb atop ground that is contaminated by radiation from hundreds of nuclear weapons tests. Why go down that path and once again put Utahns downwind of any danger?" said Matheson

Matheson opposes the blast, citing concerns about potential health and safety risks from airborne radioactive debris and that it is a precursor to the development and testing of new nuclear weapons.

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