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Ohio Closure Projects Ceremony

January 19, 2007 - 9:59am


Remarks for Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman

Thank you, Alan Boeckmann for that kind introduction. It is a privilege to be with you today. 

I am pleased to be joined by my cabinet colleague Stephen Johnson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. 

It's also good to see Sen. George Voinovich.  Senator, thank you for your leadership on so many issues critical to America's energy security and for all you've done to make today a reality.

I'd also like to recognize the thousands of dedicated people, many of whom are with us today, involved in the cleanup projects here at Fernald and in Ashtabula and Columbus. 

If not for your tireless efforts, as well as the support of many, federal, state and local elected officials, this celebration today would not be possible. 

As I toured the Fernald site this morning, I had the opportunity to see first hand the fruits of your labor. wetlands and plains where warehouses, storage tanks and industrial facilities once stood. 

At each stop I saw photos of the "before" and then witnessed the "after."  The juxtaposition of the two is truly remarkable. 

These accomplishments are based on a critical part of the Department of Energy's mission: to provide a responsible resolution to the environmental legacy of nuclear weapons production. 

Restoring the sites where this work was conducted is our duty. to you, to the surrounding communities and to future generations.    

During the Cold War era, Columbus, Ashtabula, and Fernald were critical parts of America's national security infrastructure and our nuclear weapons program. 

At Columbus, the Battelle National Institute conducted important R &D work in areas including nuclear fuel fabrication, reactor development and nuclear propulsion technologies to use in our Navy's submarines. 

The Fernald site produced high purity uranium metal products for use throughout the nuclear weapons complex.

And at Ashtabula, the Department of Energy and its predecessor agencies processed uranium products from Fernald for use at weapons production sites. 

We should not understate the contribution of these sites to our national security.  The strength of America's nuclear weapons capability served as an effective deterrent to the threat of major confrontation and ultimately helped bring the Cold War to an end. 

The men and women who worked here at Fernald and at Columbus and Ashtabula during that time made a vital contribution to the security of the United States.  We should all be grateful to them for their service and dedication. 

Unfortunately, though, the nearly 38 years of work conducted at these sites left the soil, groundwater and site structures contaminated.  So, even as the Cold War ended, our work at Fernald, Columbus and Ashtabula did not.

The restoration and clean up of these sites was a monumental undertaking, and it would require a new brand of innovation, scientific advancement and commitment to complete it.    
In the late 1980s, cleanup work began in Columbus.  We demolished contaminated buildings and shipped nearly 1.7 million metric tons of waste out of Ohio.  Today the 31 acres once used for atomic energy research and development is ready for commercial reuse by Battelle.
In Ashtabula, over the past ten years, we have safely transported over 1.1 million metric tons of waste to off-site commercial facilities. 

The 42 acres that the Department cleaned up at Ashtabula will be available for commercial use by the owner, Reactive Materials Incorporated.

At Fernald, over the past 15 years, our contractors have cleaned up the contents of six waste pits ranging in size from a baseball diamond to a football field. 

We have reduced contamination in the soil and groundwater, demolished over 300 buildings, and brought about the ecological restoration of 900 acres of the site to be used as a future nature reserve. 
All this work at Fernald was done 12 years faster and for almost $8 billion less than originally estimated. 

While principal clean up operations have come to an end in Fernald, our commitment to its long term protection continues. 

The Department of Energy will monitor and test samples of surface water and on-site wells at Fernald for decades to come. 

Here at Fernald, we will also operate a groundwater treatment plant that will safely pump and treat the water in the Great Miami Aquifer.

Later this year, our Office of Legacy Management will open a center for education here that will offer visitors a place to learn about the rich history of this site.  

The closure of Fernald, Ashtabula and Columbus are part of the Department's ongoing commitment to safely cleanup our Cold War legacy. 

Since the Department was founded in 1977, we have restored 84 sites that played a role in Cold War era production across the nation.  

In the past two years alone, we have completed nine sites and we are on track to close five more sites by the time President Bush leaves office. 

Before I close, I want to add a note of personal thanks and congratulations to all the people and organizations in this community, as well as in Ashtabula and Columbus, who worked long and hard so that today could become a reality. 

In particular, Lisa Crawford, the former vice chairman of the Fernald Citizens' Advisory Board, provided valuable advice and recommendations on DOE's environmental restoration and waste management activities at the Fernald site. 

Last year she was recognized with the President's Volunteer Service Award for the hundreds of hours she dedicated to Fernald. 

On behalf of the President, of the entire Department of Energy and the country, I want to extend our deepest thanks and appreciation for all you have done to make this day possible.

Today we honor the rich past of these sites and also celebrate the work done to restore their environmental health without erasing their past.  Here - in Ohio - we have returned the land as a living tribute to all that has occurred here.  This is a legacy of which we can be proud.

Thank you.

Location: Crosby Township, Ohio

Media contact(s): Megan Barnett, (202) 586-4940