May 5, 2005
Concerned Citizens of Milford Township (CCMT) is thrilled to learn that CFC Logistics has announced that irradiation operations have ceased at their cold storage warehouse on AM Drive and the company will dismantle the cobalt-60 food irradiator constructed there in early 2003.
The news follows protracted legal and public relations battles with citizens from this community and awareness campaigns by Public Citizen and other consumer and environmental organizations.
CCMT was formed in June 2003 to support two dozen "Petitioners" in their request for an official hearing before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel (ASLBP), the judicial arm of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
Company officials initially declared that they anticipated becoming one of the largest irradiation facilities in the United States. As part of these plans CFC would seek USDA approval to irradiate ground beef for the National School Lunch Program. Jim Wood, CFC president, has now stated that the market for irradiated foods never materialized. He says that it no longer makes sense financially to operate the irradiator, the first of several originally planned for the site.
CCMT has maintained from the beginning that the nuclear technology employed at CFC’s irradiation plant in Milford Township is unnecessary and dangerous, an attempt to compensate for a filthy, polluting and inhumane meat production industry. Citing design flaws and unwarranted nuclear security and environmental risks, CCMT fought NRC licensure for 18 months during extended prehearing legal filings and proceedings.
While ASLB Presiding Officer Michael C. Farrar granted permission to hold an evidentiary hearing, the full hearing was never held because a settlement agreement was reached beforehand between the company and two of the original petitioners, Tom and Kelly Helt of Spinnerstown.
The settlement team included us, two other leaders of CCMT, one of the admitted Petitioners and technical advisor Dr. Marvin Resnikoff of Radioactive Waste Management Associates. CCMT’s discussions with CFC Logistics extended over several months and were guided by a settlement judge, Dr. Paul B. Abramson.
The agreement reached between CFC Logistics and the Petitioners, inked in the summer of 2004, reinforces our claims that the irradiator was (at least) less-than-perfect. A warning device now adds visual and sound alarms should cobalt-60 shipping casks accidentally pass over radioactive rods in the irradiation tank; a backup generator ensures the flow of cooling air across the radioactive cobalt during extended power outages.
There are no easy knock-out punches when fighting the irradiation industry. Regulations governing plant design are weak and heavily influenced by industry lobbyists. ASLB judges must assess compliance with guidelines as written, not as citizens would like them to be.
Legal challenges are essential because they ensure press coverage, focus the attention of politicians, and provide a public record of potential plant problems and inadequate licensing requirements. They also clearly differentiate the outlook of the mass-production food industry and citizens who would prefer that their food be safe, nutritious and wholesome without the quick and dangerous fixes of contraptions or processes such as this one.
Although the irradiator has ceased commercial operations, the work of CCMT is not over. Other irradiation facilities have a horrendous record when it comes to decommissioning. There are irradiators in our own backyard – from central Pennsylvania to northern New Jersey – whose corporate owners have gone belly-up or fled, leaving sites contaminated and radioactive sources unsecured against vandals or terrorists. The surrounding communities and the state and federal governments have been left with the cleanup mess and the bills.
CCMT will continue its vigilance until the last radioactive cobalt-60 pencil is safely removed, the pit is filled with concrete and we are assured by NRC that the area is free from any contamination.
We thank the community for its patience and support during these difficult times.