Paducah, Kentucky

Expert Witness and Litigation Support Services at Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant

Pre-Litigation Support for Orphan Uranium Mine Contamination 2

First Environment conducted historical research, document and database management, and litigation support services concerning a lawsuit involving the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PGDP), a large uranium enrichment facility owned by DOE. The lawsuit stemmed from a 1999 whistleblower case involving environmental claims relating to alleged mismanagement of hazardous and radioactive mixed wastes at the site.

First Environment was brought into the early stages of document discovery to categorize documents, engineering drawings, and numerous site plans. Our team of environmental and litigation experts reviewed thousands of documents to determine their technical relevance and created a database of critical documents that could be accessed quickly and easily by attorneys and technical experts. For example, the facility employed a number of refrigeration techniques at the site to capture and contain uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas within cylinders for shipping and storage. Our engineers identified the location of the facility by reviewing hundreds of site plans and engineering drawings, and ascertained the impact on overall groundwater contamination on and off the site.

In addition, we identified and categorized documents detailing uranium processing operations which involved a vast series of electric compressors, converters, and heat exchanger unit cells piped in arrays. First Environment staff traced uranium enrichment operations at PGDP back to 1952, during the time the plant operated under the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and when AEC modernized its gaseous diffusion technology. The project team distinguished the “Cold War” operations of PGDP from modern day operations where the plant continues to produce low-assay enriched uranium for nuclear reactor fuel. We produced a Microsoft Access database to categorize environmental, process, waste, analytical, regulatory, permitting, and enforcement documents relating to the operations of PGDP.

First Environment was then called on to act as an expert witness in the area of historical industrial and waste management operations to detail the source of the major industrial pollutants at the site, tie each pollutant to a specific industrial process, and provide details on how the material was managed or released into the environment. For example, First Environment provided the operational and waste management details of how vapor degreasers were employed at the facility including the types and sources of potential air, water, vapor and soil contamination and the environmental fate and transport of those materials which included chlorinated solvents such as trichloroethylene. First Environment generated an expert report and rebuttal report detailing the historical industrial processes at the plant and the environmental fate and transport of the contamination associated with those processes.