To the Editor:
For years, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12 have steered their workers to live in surrounding counties. This has boosted those economies—while lowering our home values, financially burdening our schools, and limiting our retail growth.
Now, the U.S. Department of Energy wants to store more of its nuclear waste here.
In the last four years, our two counties (Anderson and Roane) lost 20 percent of their resident DOE workers, costing us an estimated $93 million in annual DOE payroll.
DOE’s economic favoritism is environmentally unfair and politically dumb. It works against the long-term interests of DOE’s important nuclear programs—which need a strong local political base of support to successfully operate.
In light of this, I suggest the City Council and the two county commissions do two things:
- Step 1: Initiate public fact-finding. Invite the DOE, ORNL, Y-12, and UPF managers to appear before the Council and Commissions to address this question: “Does DOE need local residency for the success of its nuclear missions in Oak Ridge? (This includes Y-12 operation, High Flux Isotope Reactor operation, Uranium Processing Facility operation, and waste storage.)”
These discussions should be held during routine Council and Commission meetings rather than at special work sessions. It’s important that DOE address residency in public and on camera.
- Step 2: Refuse to expand waste storage (on economic and environmental justice grounds) and begin talks on removing DOE waste from the Oak Ridge Reservation.
If local DOE residency continues to decline, the department needs to lift the economic burden of waste storage from the Oak Ridge area—and that means relocating all of the nuclear waste it has stored here.