Drilling delayed at nuclear test site | AspenTimes.com

Drilling delayed at nuclear test site

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs correspondent

A Texas company has postponed plans to drill near the site of the Project Rulison underground nuclear explosion, but only until next year.Presco Inc. had hoped to drill some wells this fall, but operational issues have delayed the work until April 2005 at the earliest, said Kim R.W. Bennetts, vice president of exploration and production for the company.Lack of access to drilling rigs and transportation pipelines are two of the factors behind the delay, Bennetts said.However, Presco plans to proceed with drilling in the vicinity of the Rulison-area property where the federal government set off a proton bomb underground in 1969. The purpose was to see whether the explosion could free up natural gas contained in sandstone formations about 8,500 feet underground.The test was deemed a failure due to the radioactivity in the gas, but the federal and state governments say nearby gas drilling shouldn’t present a danger.However, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in February ruled that Presco could not drill within a half-mile radius of the test site’s bore hole without approval from the U.S. Department of Energy. That’s an area covering about 500 acres.Presco had previously been required not to drill on 40 acres around “ground zero” of the Project Rulison site.Area residents have voiced concern that the drilling could lead to radioactive contamination of well water and other public safety threats.Presco has been meeting with residents to explain its plans and also is voluntarily sampling water wells, surface springs and seeps for radioactivity, naturally occurring methane and pollution, Bennetts said. It is doing some of that testing this week, and a total of more than a dozen sites will be tested.”We’re just doing it just because we want to make sure people are satisfied,” Bennetts said.”We’re going to try to bend over backward to do what we can to assure everyone’s safety, including our own,” he said.