In what could be a major victory for anti-nuclear weapons activists, the Environmental Protection Agency said April 26 that it might put a Kansas City nuclear weapons plan on a priority list for cleanup.
Local Catholic Worker activists and others have been demanding the site be cleaned up before a proposed replacement site in Kansas City is built.
Two decades ago, the EPA left the Kansas City site (called the Bannister Plant) off the special Superfund list, but now it says it will reassess that decision.
The activists have raised serious concerns in the local media that the property on which the current plant is located would be abandoned and become a toxic blight on the neighborhood, even as plans go forward to build more nuclear weapons parts in the replacement plant.
Current and former plant workers are also worried about what they say is an unusually high rate of cancer among them.
The two federal agencies that oversee the site had previously said the property would be sold “as is” if possible.
New nuclear weapons projects are planned at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee and in Kansas City, Missouri.
Each city’s weapons facility creates parts for U.S. nuclear weapons.
Since the 1950s, non-nuclear parts for nuclear weapons have been manufactured at the Bannister site. The federal government owns the property, and the General Services Administration is the landlord.
The National Nuclear Security Administration has a contract with Honeywell to operate the manufacturing side, which takes up more than half the complex.
The GSA oversees the other side, where several government agencies and a day care are located. The IRS was at the site but moved downtown a few years ago.
PCBs, depleted uranium, trichloroethylene, asbestos and almost 800 other chemicals have been used at the plant. Environmental officials have said large plumes of pollution run underground.
The complex was firs
t assessed in 1987. At that time, 15 areas on the property were identified as Superfund sites, but they did not rank high enough on a hazard scale to qualify for the national priorities list.
Ann Suellentrop with Physicians for Social Responsibility said the EPA’s announcement is a “great first step.”
But after everything that has gone on, “we don’t have any trust,” Suellentrop said. “They have blown their trust.”