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Navy admits burning 600,000 gallons of radioactive fuel at S.F. shipyard

"I'm glad we found out," says Claire Trombadore, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's project manager for the shipyard site. "Our main concern is what is there now, and is there a risk to human health, or the environment, or both? In our minds, what needs to happen now is to survey that."

Navy officials did not respond before press time to questions about the possibility of additional radiation surveys in and around the shipyard. The Navy also did not answer questions about how, precisely, fuel inside the Operation Crossroads target ships had been contaminated.


Last year, the EPA surveyed parts of the Hunters Point Shipyard with its Scanner Van -- a vehicle that, as its name suggests, scans for radioactive contamination as it moves. But the equipment carried by the van is so delicate it cannot be used off-road, and areas surrounding at least one of the buildings where radioactive fuel was burned remain untested.

According to officials at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a federal agency that monitors environmental health threats, there is no way to determine how individuals exposed to the burning might have been harmed. Those officials say the only way to know what, if any, problems might exist now is to test the ground for radioactive contamination.

Community members may well be asking the Navy for such testing in the near future.

"My concern is that the radiological standards were lower then [in 1947], and when you're burning radioactive materials, including plutonium, that stuff went into the community," says Maurice Campbell, a member of the Hunters Point Shipyard Restoration Advisory Board. "They're trying to standardize this as a safe practice, when it wasn't."

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