Plan to Dismantle Bevatron Stirs Debate

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Correction Appended

Berkeley residents and representatives of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory clashed Tuesday night at the Berkeley City Council meeting over the prospect of dismantling a particle accelerator at the lab.

The council heard from community members who are concerned about potential health risks and threats to the environment associated with the demolition of the Bevatron, the lab's first-ever particle accelerator.

Council members voted to draft a letter to Lawrence lab, requesting the lab to provide an environmental impact statement and compensation to offset the damage to city streets that could result from the thousands of truck trips required to remove the hazardous material.

A proposal from the lab calls for potentially hazardous materials to be shipped off-site by truck. The proposed route has trucks skirting the north and west sides of the campus, on Hearst Avenue and Oxford Street, before taking University Avenue to Interstate 80. The laboratory estimates that it will require about 4,700 one-way trips to move all of the material.

A Berkeley resident known as Redwood Mary voiced apprehensions shared by other community members during the hearing.

"Mistakes happen more often than not and we cannot afford one single mistake with radioactive material," she said. "Keep it sealed, do not bring that through the streets-it's insane."

Built in 1954, the Bevatron operated for 39 years and produced research that won four Nobel Prizes. It was decommissioned in 1993 and the Lawrence lab, now working within the U.S. Department of Energy and managed by security group Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC, says that both the Bevatron and the building which houses it have fallen into disrepair and need to be demolished in order to make room for new buildings.

Low levels of radiation have accumulated in the Bevatron throughout its years of operation, in addition to other potentially hazardous materials which are common in buildings of that age, such as lead, asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.

"There is some hazardous material associated with the Bevatron and I think the best thing for the health and safety of Berkeley is to actually get it out of Berkeley and put it in a safe place," said Councilmember Gordon Wozniak.

Correction: Monday, July 28, 2008
Thursday's article, "Plan to Dismantle Bevatron Stirs Debate," incorrectly stated that Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is managed by security group Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC, of which the University of California is a part. In fact, the lab is managed solely by the University of California.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Contact Tessa Stuart at [email protected]

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