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MEETINGS ON PROJECT ATTRACT THIN CROWD

Fewer than 100 people attended all four public information sessions held this week on the completion of the West Valley Demonstration Project and long-term management or closure of the Western New York Nuclear Service Center.

In fact, Thomas H. Attridge, a senior project manager for New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, said attendance at Friday's session at the Ashford Office Complex on Route 219 -- the hearing closest to the demonstration project -- barely surpassed Wednesday's attendance of about 25 people at the McKinley Park Inn in Hamburg. Two sessions for the Seneca Nation in Irving and Salamanca attracted just a handful of people, he said.

Under study is how the radioactive materials, structure and land can be neutralized and managed at least until the year 2026. Costs of four alternatives range from $400 million for leaving everything in place to $8.3 billion for an almost total removal.

Attridge said reactions to the alternatives varied.

Some people were sold on the idea of Alternative I, or removal of the waste, soil and high-tech treatment despite its $8.3 billion cost. But others said that alternative was too costly.

"Others asked, 'Can we bring more waste in?' " Attridge said.

"We hope for people to gain an awareness of what happened at the site and to whatever degree they feel impacted to be able to share information with the federal government and the Department of Energy," Attridge said. "Now is the time. We're in a public comment period."

About 400 copies of a draft environmental impact statement or a summary have been mailed by authorities, and the public is invited to attend a hearing Aug. 6 in Ashford and submit comments over the next six months.

James E. Hammelman of Science Applications International Corporation, the company that wrote the draft, said he would advise people to point out errors.

"Beyond that, the important thing is to make your preferred alternative known in comments to the Department of Energy and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. If you can find a way to work with them and find a solution would be helpful," Hammelman said.

Both men encouraged as many people as possible to comment in writing, in person at the hearing, by calling an 800 telephone number or via fax. And both encouraged people to notifying their elected representatives about their preferred alternatives as a way of promoting a solution to the government bodies.

"The DOE and (energy authority) don't want to make their decision in a vacuum," Attridge said. "They want to make their decision based on technical data and also what the public wants."

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