To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Proposed Production of Plutonium-238 for Use in Advanced Radioisotope Power Systems for Future Space Missions (DOE/EIS-299). DOE intends to prepare an EIS to assess the potential environmental impacts of establishing a domestic capability to produce Pu-238 including the storage of neptunium-237 (Np-237), fabrication of Np-237 targets, irradiation of targets to produce Pu-238, and the processing of these targets to isolate the Pu-238 and recycle the Np-237. The Pu-238 would be used in advanced radioisotope power systems for potential future space missions. Without a long-term supply of Pu-238, DOE would not be able to provide the radioisotope power systems that may be required for these potential future space missions, and the Department would not fulfill the intended space nuclear power role assigned to the Department in the National Space Policy statement issued on 19 September 1996.

This assigned role of maintaining the space nuclear capability is also consistent with the Department's charter under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended. Alternatives to be analyzed for the fabrication of Np-237 targets and for processing the irradiated targets include the use of the Radiochemical Engineering Development Center in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the Fuels and Materials Examination Facility at the Hanford Site near Richland, Washington.

Alternative facilities for the irradiation of targets for Pu-238 production include the Advanced Test Reactor near Idaho Falls, Idaho, the Fast Flux Test Facility at the Hanford Site, Washington, and the High Flux Isotope Reactor in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

The public scoping period begins with the publication of this Notice of Intent and will continue until 4 November 1998 (note: this has been extended until January 4, 1999). Public scoping meetings will be announced as soon as determined but at least 15 days prior to the date of the meetings.


Colette Brown,
Office of Nuclear Energy,
Science and Technology (NE-50),
U.S. Department of Energy,
19901 Germantown Road,
Germantown, Maryland 20874,
tele. 301.903.6924, fax: 301.903.1510,
E-mail: Colette.Brown@HQ.DOE.GOV

Requests to speak at scoping hearings, scoping comments, and requests for documents should be submitted to the above contact. [For detailed information, see 63 FR 53398, 5 October 1998.]

A toll free telephone number has been established to receive public comments. Interested parties may call 1-877-562-4593 and leave a detailed message with their comments.

Letter by Bruce K. Gagnon, Coordinator Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space to the Department of Energy concerning use of plutonium for space missions in the near future:

(Mon, 26 Oct 1998 19:38:33)

TO:  Colette Brown
     Office of Nuclear Energy
     Science & Technology (NE-50)
     Department of Energy
     19901 Germantown Road
     Germantown, Md 20874

Dear Ms. Brown:

This letter on behalf of the membership of the Global Network Against
Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space is written in order to express our deep
concern about NASA & DoE plants to expand the use of plutonium for space
missions in the near future.  It is our understanding that NASA & DoE now
have concrete plans for at least eight (8) more plutonium space missions.

The use of nuclear generated power sources (RTG's) for space missions is
extremely dangerous.  Launch pad failures happen often enough to give us
ample reason for concern.  Reentry accidents (like the Russian Mars '96
mission that carried plutonium on-board and fell back to earth burning up
over Chile and Bolivia) also reveals the grave danger of such an expansion
of the use of nuclear power in space.

In addition, it is very clear to us that communities across the U.S. will be
in danger as DoE weapons laboratories begin to increase their processing of
nuclear materials for space missions.  We know that at least Livermore Labs
(California); Los Alamos Labs (New Mexico); Savannah River Plant (South
Carolina); Oakridge Labs (Tennessee); INEL (Idaho) and Pantex (Texas) are
all expected to be involved in future plutonium space missions preparation.
The increase of worker and community contamination will occur if this
nuclear processing expansion is allowed.

Our organization requests being advised of any/all correspondence/documents
concerning scoping hearings and the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)

We hereby lodge our strong disapproval of any NASA & DoE plans for RTG
development, nuclear power plants for moon and Mars mining colonies, and
nuclear powered rockets to Mars.

We urge the DoE to instead expand its research and development into space
solar power.

In peace,

Bruce K. Gagnon
Originally posted: October 29, 1998. Updated: 11/3/98 7:54:15 AM