After finding a more “complex” nuclear material than expected, armed guards from the Department of Homeland Security are now patrolling a former western Pennsylvania nuclear waste dump and officials are rethinking their cleanup plans.
Neither the Army Corps of Engineers, which is managing the cleanup, nor the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) would say exactly what the complex material was they found at the site in Vandergrift, PA.
A homeland security spokesman said the elevated security measures went into place at the Corps’ request and not because there is any specific threat in the area.
The dump along Route 66 stores nuclear and chemical waste from the former Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corp. in Apollo and Parks townships from about 1960 to the early 1970s.
Before the Corps started prepping the 44-acre site several years ago, a chain-link fence and nuclear warning placards were the only visible barriers between the public and the contaminated site. Within the last nine months, a stone wall has gone up behind the site’s material handling building and near the site entrance.
“We believe it is best not to discuss security measures at our sites,” said Candice Walters, a spokeswoman at Corps’ headquarters in Washington.
Such tight security implies that cleanup crews may have discovered classified nuclear materials in the disposal trenches, nuclear energy and waste activists said.