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Group wants proof of public safety from lab

By Mike Dinoffria, Special to the Daily Planet
Wednesday July 10, 2002

Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory is moving radioactive
material from research site to landfill in Nevada


Officials from the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and a Berkeley citizens group but heads Tuesday over the removal of an enormous, obsolete machine called the Bevatron.  

The particle accelerator that contains radioactive material is being removed from the laboratory in the Berkeley hills. 

The group, the Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste, is concerned that the lab is not doing enough to ensure that no health risk is involved with the moving of radioactive material.  

At a City Council meeting Tuesday, they came to support Councilmember Donna Springs’ calling for a temporary cessation of the project until an environmental impact report is done. 

The lab contends that the project meets state and federal environmental standards and can proceed without an impact report. 

"[We] comply with the laws," said Robin Wendt of the laboratory’s Environmental, Health and Safety Division.  

Representatives from Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory have said no health risks are associated with the shipments of metal and concrete – some of which is radioactive – beyond normal risks associated with moving traffic.  

"The level of radiation contained in the concrete and metal pieces will not rise to a level where the Department of Transportation is concerned," Wendt said.  

The Bevatron was first used in 1954. It was instrumental in many important discoveries in the field of particle physics, primarily the discovery of nuclear antimatter. The building that houses the Bevatron takes up 10 percent of the land area of the lab, and is larger than Zellerbach Hall on the UC Berkeley campus. In 1993 the Bevatron was decommissioned. Trucks started hauling away material this year. The process to transport all of the concrete and metal that once made up the machine will take roughly 10 years. 

The City Council is expected to continue discussions at its next meeting.