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State Makes Progress on Low-Level Waste License

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RALEIGH (AP) — June 3, 1996 - 3:01 p.m. EDTBy ESTES THOMPSON,Associated Press Writer

There's no guarantee of a license for a multi-state dump for low-level radiative waste, but state agencies involved have broken an impasse on how to seek the document.

Officials of the state Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Authority and the Radiation Protection Division meet Tuesday to finalize an agreement intended to get the dump site licensed by the year 2000, authority director John MacMillan said Monday.

The landfill was supposed to open in 1993 to replace one in Barnwell, S.C. But the project has been delayed for years by the process of choosing and then testing a site and, most recently, over getting that site licensed. All those delays also mean the dump will cost millions more than early estimates.

The dispute over how to proceed with licensing talks was resolved by getting policy people out of the talks, said Dayne Brown, director of the state Division of Radiation Protection.

``The greatest progress occurred when we agreed to have a small number of technical people sit down,'' Brown said. ``My view is technical people are geared to technical debate and reaching technical agreements.''

The authority is charged with developing and running a disposal site and the Radiation Protection Division grants the license to operate the site.

Brown said there remains no guarantee that the proposed site near the Wake-Chatham line will be approved when it's all over. The agreement being discussed only establishes a work plan for the licensing process.

And it will be even more costly. MacMillan estimates it will cost an additional $27 million on top of about $90 million spent to date to get a license from the Radiation Protection Division.

Making the seemingly minor amount of progress is essential if the state is to get additional funds for the project from the federal Southeast Compact Commission, which oversees the project.

The delays have forced the plant in Barnwell to remain open, but it no longer handles North Carolina's waste. That was banned by South Carolina officials angered over the slow progress toward getting a new landfill open. Other states are welcome at the South Carolina facility.

Officials from the Radiation Protection Division have expressed concerns about water flowing through the site and about the authority's contractor, Chem-Nuclear Systems Inc., plan to deal with it.

MacMillan said the authority now has only enough money to pay Chem-Nuclear to close down the site.

Low-level radioactive wastes can range from protective clothing worn by nuclear plant workers to equipment used to change fuel rods at nuclear power plants.

North Carolina is a member of the commission with Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia.

Copyright ©1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or distributed.

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