FERNALD, OH: A former uranium processing plant which is being
slowly wound down celebrated its 50th anniversary last week by looking
back at the supporters and detractors that have been a part of its
history since the Cold War.
Fernald, which is managed by Fluor Fernald, is currently known as the
Fernald Environmental Management Project.
The PR team produced a video called First Link: A Story of Fernald
1951-2001. With clips from close to 100 interviews, the video includes
footage of area residents, former workers, community leaders and
regulators talking about the site's history.
'One of the interviewees is Pete Kelly, one of the first PR guys hired
here in 1983,' explained Jeffrey Wagner, Fernald's director of public
affairs. Kelly was hired following a major PR crisis in 1984 when
uranium oxide was released into the atmosphere. 'When they told Kelly
all the things that were going on here, he just said it can't get any
worse,' Wagner said.
The incident led to the formulation of a local grassroots activist group
called the Fernald Residents for Environmental Safety and Health (Fresh)
that same year, and to Kelly's appointment.
Fresh president Lisa Crawford is also interviewed on the video, as well
as Fresh member Edwa Yocum. Crawford told the story of how she had lived
next door to the site when her water was found to be contaminated with
uranium. The incident sparked the Fresh movement and a subsequent
The facility became ground zero for anti-nuclear protests. During the
crisis, Phil Donahue did a live broadcast from the site. The story was
featured nationally on all the news networks.
Through the establishment of a citizens advisory board and monthly
community updates on the clean-up, Fernald and the Department of Energy
have managed to win a degree of trust from the community.
The 50th anniversary celebration included tours of the site and speeches
by senior management and community leaders. Fernald's PR office also
created a pictorial time line, linking the site's history with world
events. The facility was built in 1951, in the height of Cold War
tensions resulting from the invasion of South Korea by North Korea and
the conviction of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
The primary function of those working on the site now is to clean up the
area and tear it down, returning it to its original state. In 1991, the
facility stopped producing uranium, which is basically the first stage
of material used to produce nuclear weapons.