The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Terrorists planned an attack on nuclear weapons base

terrorism-targets-2US Nuclear Weapons Base In Italy Eyed By Alleged Terrorists by   Two suspected terrorists arrested by the Italian police allegedly were planning an attack against the nuclear weapons base at Ghedi.

The base stores 20 US B61 nuclear bombs earmarked for delivery by Italian PA-200 Tornado fighter-bombers in war. Nuclear security and strike exercises were conducted at the base in 2014. During peacetime the bombs are under the custody of the US Air Force 704th Munitions Support Squadron (MUNSS), a 130-personnel strong units at Ghedi Air Base.

The Italian police said at a press conference today that the two men in their conversations “were referring to several targets, particularly the Ghedi military base” near Brescia in northern Italy.

Ghedi Air Base is one of several national air bases in Europe that a US Air Force investigation in 2008 concludeddid not meet US security standards for nuclear weapons storage. Since then, the Pentagon and NATO have spent tens of millions of dollars and are planning to spend more to improve security at the nuclear weapons bases in Europe.

There are currently approximately 180 US B61 bombs deployed in Europe at six bases in five NATO countries: Belgium (Kleine Brogel AB), Germany (Buchel AB), Italy (Aviano AB and Ghedi AB), the Netherlands (Volkel AB), and Turkey (Incirlik AB).

Over the next decade, the B61s in Europe will be modernized and, when delivered by the new F-35A fighter-bomber, turned into a guided nuclear bomb (B61-12) with greater accuracy than the B61s currently deployed in Europe. Aircraft integration of the B61-12 has already started.

July 25, 2015 Posted by | incidents, Italy, safety | Leave a comment

Increased radiation levels, leak shuts down US nuclear facility

Local News: “Breaking… Alert… leak shuts down US nuclear plant” — Gov’t: Radiation levels ‘above normal’ — ‘Steam plume’ seen in reactor building, workers can’t find where leak is coming from due to safety concerns — Flood warnings issued for area

US NRC Event Notification Report, Jul 23, 2015 (emphasis added): Callaway Plant initiated a shutdown required by Technical Specifications (TS)… TS 3.4.13 Condition A was entered due to unidentified RCS [reactor coolant system] leakage being in excess of the 1 gpm TS limit. The leak was indicated by an increase in containment radiation readings… A containment entry identified a steam plume; due to personnel safety the exact location of the leak inside the containment building could not be determined. At this time radiation levels inside [the] containment are stable and slightly above normal. There have been no releases from the plant above normal levels.

AP, Jul 23, 2015: Missouri Nuclear Plant Shut Down After ‘Non-Emergency’ Leak… Jeff Trammel, a spokesman for St. Louis-based Ameren, called it a “minor steam leak.”… Ameren officials are investigating the cause… it was unclear when the plant would restart… [NRC] inspectors are at the plant.

Missouri Times, Jul 23, 2015: Unplanned Shutdown & Elevated Radioactive Levels at Ameren Missouri’s Callaway 1 Nuclear Reactor Containment Building… Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued an event notice for the unplanned shutdown of the Callaway 1 nuclear reactor… The NRC notes that radiation is above normal in the containment building.

Jefferson City News Tribune, Jul 23, 2015 at 2:26p: Alert – Steam leak shuts down Callaway

Jefferson City News Tribune, Jul 23, 2015:Breaking News – Steam leak shuts down Callaway Plant… Company officials are trying to determine the cause of the problem, which they said “has been contained.”

ABC 17, Jul 23, 2015 — Callaway FLOOD WARNING: Issued at: 9:52 am CDT on July 23, 2015, expires at: 4:00 AM CDT on July 26, 2015. The Flood Warning continues for the Missouri River near Chamois until Friday afternoon. At 7:00 am Thursday the stage was 19.5 feet. Flood stage is 17.0 feet. Minor flooding is occurring.

Previous event at Callaway: Emergency declared at US nuke plant: Fire shuts down reactor — “Reports of black smoke” — Company says no radiation release “above normal operating limits”

July 25, 2015 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

Many incidents and near misses in USA’s nuclear reactors

safety-symbol1Flag-USAThe Truth About Nuclear Power – Part 16 Subtitle: Near Misses on Meltdowns Occur Every 3 Weeks Roger E. Sowell, Marina del Rey, California 25 June 15 

This is the second of approximately one dozen articles on nuclear safety, these will (or do) include (1) the relationship between plant operators and the regulatory commission, NRC, and show that safety regulations are routinely relaxed to allow the plants to continue operating without spending the funds to bring them into compliance.  (2) Also, the many, many near-misses each year in nuclear power plants will be discussed.   (3) The safety issues with short term, and long-term, storage of spent fuel will be a topic. (4)  Safety aspects of spent fuel reprocessing will be discussed.  (5) The health effects on people and other living things will be discussed.  The three major nuclear disasters (to date) will be discussed, (6)  Chernobyl, (7) Three Mile Island, and (8)  Fukushima.   (9) The near-disaster at San Onofre will be discussed, and (10) the looming disaster at St. Lucie.  (11)  The inherent unsafe characteristics of nuclear power plants required government shielding from liability, or subsidy, for the costs of a nuclear accident via the Price-Anderson Act.  (12) Finally, the serious public impacts of evacuation and relocation after a major incident, or “extraordinary nuclear occurrence” in the language used by the Price-Anderson Act, will be the topic of an article.   Previous articles showing that nuclear power is not economic are linked at the end of this article.

In the four year period 2010-2013, inclusive, the US nuclear reactors had 70 near-misses.  These occurred in 48 of the 103 reactors.  Some, therefore, had multiple near-misses in the same year.  One plant, Columbia, had 3 near-misses in the same year.  Wolf Creek, and Ft. Calhoun each had one near-miss in three of the four years.  On average, that is 17 near-misses per year, or roughly 17 percent of the reactor fleet.  Put another way, every 3 weeks, another near-miss occurs.  The frequency of near-misses is expected to increase over time, as the aging reactors have more equipment degrade and fail, and new systems are installed that are unfamiliar to the operators.

What is common in these incidents are old and degraded equipment that fails due to improper inspection, replacement equipment that either does not work as expected, or operators are improperly trained, and in one notable case, improperly trained workers left critical bolts improperly tightened on the reactor head.

The most serious incident, in my view, occurred at the Byron Station, Unit 2, in January, 2012, in Illinois.  A complete loss of cooling water at Unit 2 was temporarily replaced with water from Unit 1. Had this been a single-reactor plant, with no operating reactor close at hand, the loss of cooling could have resulted in a partial or full core meltdown, exactly what happened at Fukushima, Japan.  This is completely unacceptable.

Some, the nuclear proponents, will argue that the safety systems are adequate since no meltdowns occurred.  However, the sheer number of serious incidents shows that eventually, another catastrophe will occur.  The US has been lucky, but that luck is likely running out as the plants grow older and more mishaps occur.

Information in these incidents are taken from Union of Concerned Scientists’ series of annual reports, 2010 – 2013, inclusive.  The commentary is my own.  Links to the four (now five) reports are:

2010 see link
2011 see link
2012  see link
2013  see link
2014  see link    (link added 5/10/2015)

Incidents in 2013 (Fourteen incidents)…………

June 26, 2015 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

USA Department of Energy investigates radiation leaks, and exposure to workers at nuclear sites

DOE probes worker radiation exposure at test site By STEVE TETREAULT REVIEW-JOURNAL WASHINGTON BUREAU WASHINGTON, 19 June 15  — The Department of Energy has launched investigations into two incidents over the past year where workers at the Nevada National Security Site were exposed to potential contamination while conducting nuclear weapons activities.

The episodes took place on June 16, 2014, and Oct. 21, 2014, at the National Criticality Experiments Research Center, the laboratory where the government maintains a substantial stockpile of nuclear material used for research and training.

The department is looking into the circumstances surrounding “losses of contamination control of highly enriched uranium” at the lab, according to Steven Simonson, director of the DOE Office of Enforcement…….

The incidents that prompted the investigation were the latest disclosed missteps by Los Alamos and other outposts in the weapons complex that have come under close scrutiny within DOE and on Capitol Hill.

In May, the Energy Department proposed to fine the operator of the Los Alamos National Laboratory $247,500 after it lost track of classified material that was supposed to have been shipped to the Nevada National Security Site in 2007, but never arrived. The mistake was not detected until five years later.

The New Mexico laboratory also has been faulted in the 2014 release of radiation from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant that contaminated nearly two dozen workers with low levels of radiation and forced the nuclear waste site to close.

Investigations uncovered violations at the laboratory in how transuranic waste destined for WIPP was packaged and managed……..

June 20, 2015 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station radiation leak – source is found

Exelon locates source of radiation leak at Peach Bottom,  Officials say the tritium posed no health risk By Brett Sholtis @BrettSholtis on Twitter 06/19/2015 

Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station. On April 17, 2015, Exelon detected a level of tritium in excess of the EPA-recommended guidelines. Exelon has located the source of the leak and is taking steps to correct the problem. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the tritium poses no health or environmental risk. (FILE — YORK DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS)

Exelon Corporation has located the source of a water leak that led to elevated levels of tritium in a groundwater well at Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station. Peach Bottom spokeswoman Krista Connelly declined to specify the source of the leak, but confirmed that they have located it………

Paul Gunter, a director at public interest group Beyond Nuclear, said the tritium points to a larger problem of recurring leaks, which the industry doesn’t take seriously. “This is a one-off measurement in one well,” Gunter said. “It doesn’t say how much got out. This is what they detected at that one point.”….

June 20, 2015 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear safety breaches – legal action, at Devonport Naval Base

safety-symbol-Smflag-UKSix nuclear incidents at Plymouth dockyard including employee contaminated with radiation By Plymouth Herald, June 09, 2015 Plymouth’s naval base is facing legal action after an employee suffered a dose of radiation.

The safety breach is one of six highlighted at Devonport Naval Base by the Office for Nuclear Regulation from the end of last year.

Radioactive water from the cooling system of a nuclear reactor was also mistakenly discharged into a submarine.

The ONR says reporting of safety incidents at the Plymouth base has been below standard…….

June 10, 2015 Posted by | incidents, UK | Leave a comment

The emergencies at North Anna Nuclear Power Station

Japan Nuclear Engineer: US reactor at risk of ‘supercriticality’ during recent emergency… “That’s something scary” — Damaged nuclear fuel rods and fuel fragments found at plant, conditions reported as “seriously degraded” (VIDEO)

Satoshi Sato, Nuclear Engineer, April 28, 2015 (emphasis added): “I don’t know if you remember, there was the earthquake in 2011 in Virginia. That was a big one… enough to cause vibration to the North Anna reactor resulting in a big spike of neutron flux — or reactor power… and somehow caused the additional radioactivity into the core. So that’s something scary, potentially resulting in a supercriticality.” (IEER: “The neutron spike accompanying a sudden supercriticality can lead to an explosion of the reactor core. It is this sort of event which occurred at the Chernobyl reactor”)

U.S. NRC Event Notification, Aug 29, 2011: EMERGENCY DECLARED… North Anna Power Station declared an Alert [“actual or potential substantial degradation of the level of safety”] due to significant seismic activity… This notification is to report… a condition existed which met the emergency plan criteria but was not declared… Design Basis Earthquake limits may have been exceeded.

U.S. NRC, 2012: Reactor trips at both North Anna 1 and 2, were caused by a “Power RangeHigh Negative Neutron Flux Rate”… four possible causes [were identified] (1) loss of power to the control rod motor generator sets, (2) a dropped control rod, (3) movement of the nuclear instrumentation detectors, and (4) core barrel movement… Analysis included a third-party evaluation of the potential response of the core nucleate boiling… [Physics Forum: “nucleate boiling… reduces the heat transfer capability of the coolant… which leads to even more boiling, etc, until the fuel becomes ‘dry’… the cladding will burn and/or fuel will will melt”]

U.S. NRC email, Sept 2011: RE: North Anna… At this point, it appears that the grippers for several of the control rods deenergized and dropped.

Westinghouse patent: A dropped rod… will initially result in a reduction in the total powergenerated by the core. The reactor will then attempt to meet the load… by increasing powerin the remainder of the core which could lead to local overheating elsewhere in the core.

ASEE 2003 Conference: If a critical reactor is over moderated… the reactor can rapidly reach and exceed the prompt critical condition… Chernobyl started at a low power level, which corresponded to a positive void coefficient.

North Anna Root Cause Evaluation, Oct 2011: The last power decreases prior to the trips were of sufficient magnitude and rate to generate the negative rate trip… Root Cause Evaluation Team has postulated that the major cause of the power oscillations was void defect created by bursts of bubbles… which caused the power increases which followed the power decreases… It is postulated that [as] the seismic waves shake… a large portion of the [fuel] cladding surface is suddenly in the nucleate boiling region [and] causes the bubble burst… [I]t may not be plausible to generate sufficient void to decrease the core power up to 10% [therefore it] can be concluded that the bubble burst theory alone does not explain the magnitude of change [in] Units 1 and 2.

Enformable, Oct 2011: “It is likely that the North Anna Operators are going to be shocked… when they open the reactor to attempt to refuel it, and find that they cannot retrieve the fuel”

3 years later >> Richmond Times-Dispatch, Sept 30, 2014: Dominion Virginia Power has foundtwo damaged nuclear fuel rods in its North Anna 2 power plant [NRC in 2011: “It is noteworthy that the power oscillations were more pronounced on Unit 2“]… 15 uranium fuel pellets came out of two rods… [CEO David Heacock said] rods rubbed against the support structure, cutting grooves in them and eventually causing their tops to crack off… “We have accounted for about eight of the pellets”… The failed fuel assembly had been used during three 18-month operating cycles at North Anna

U.S. NRC Event Notification Report, Sept 15, 2014: FAILED FUEL ASSEMBLY IDENTIFIED DURING CORE OFF-LOAD… North Anna Unit 2… Video inspection of the reactor vessel identified debris that has the potential to be fragments of fuel pellets resting on the core plate… this event is being reported [as an] event or condition that results in the condition of the nuclear plant, including its principle safety barriers, being seriously degraded.

Watch Sato’s press conference from last month here

May 27, 2015 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

France’s nuclear safety worries as fires break out close to 3 nuclear power plants

safety-symbol1flag-franceFrench police investigate fires near three nuclear sites PARIS  French police are investigating fires that caused minor damage near three nuclear installations, state-owned utility EDF (EDF.PA) and atomic research agency CEA said on Tuesday.

Fires broke out on Monday morning at a weather station near EDF’s former Brennilis nuclear power station in Brittany and another near its Belleville nuclear plant on the Loire river, a spokeswoman said.

She said the fire had damaged equipment belonging to the IRSN nuclear research institute used to measure pollution and radioactivity at the weather stations, which are each about 1.5 kilometres away from the nuclear plants. “Police investigations are ongoing,” the EDF spokeswoman said.

Another fire was started on Monday evening at a weather station close to atomic research institute CEA’s Valduc site in Burgundy where nuclear weapons are manufactured and dismantled.

“There was the beginning of a fire, but it was quickly put out and there were no real consequences,” a CEA spokesman said, adding that a complaint had been filed with police.

The simultaneous incidents are reminiscent of drones that flew over French nuclear plants last year which raised safety concerns. [ID:nL5N0SR0DY] (Reporting by Michel Rose; editing by Jason Neely)

May 13, 2015 Posted by | France, incidents | Leave a comment

Alarm in New York following explosion at Indian Point Power Plant

New York Nuclear Scare After Explosion at Indian Point Power Plant New Yorkers contemplated the pros and cons of nuclear energy again Sunday after an explosion at Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester. By: Hana Levi Julian, Jewish Press  May 10th, 2015 “….The Indian Point nuclear power plant that provides 25 percent of the electric juice for the Big Apple and Westchester County went into “emergency response” late Saturday afternoon.

Billows of black smoke rose into the sky over the Indian Point nuclear power plant near Buchanan, New York.

A transformer failed, causing an explosion that ripped through the non-nuclear side of the plant.

The blaze was just 200 yards away from the building in which the reactor was located.

Firefighters who rushed to the scene were able to extinguish the flames, Entergy spokesperson Jerry Nappi told CNN, adding that one of the plant’s two reactor units automatically shut down.

No one was injured in the fire and there was “no threat to the public safety at any time. All Indian Point emergency systems worked as designed,” the facility said in a tweet.

But the fire had to be extinguished twice, because the flames re-ignited. Even so, the fire was out within half an hour.

Governor Andrew Cuomo received a briefing on site and told reporters, “These situations we take very seriously. This is a nuclear powered plant; it’s nothing to be trifled with.”

May 13, 2015 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

Another shutdown at Oyster Creek Nuclear Plant

Oyster Creek Nuclear Plant Shuts Down Again,  Exelon spokesperson says electrical disturbance responsible for latest scram. By PATRICIA A. MILLER (Patch Staff)May 8, 2015
The Oyster Creek Nuclear Plant in Lacey Township has shut down again, this time because of an electrical disturbance in the ”non-nuclear” part of the plant, spokesperson Suzanne D’Ambrosio said…….

he NRC ’s performance indicator for unplanned scrams for each 7,000 hours of operation changes from green to white if a nuclear plant has more than three unplanned shutdowns. Oyster Creek crossed the green/white threshold on July 11, 2014, when the plant had a fourth unplanned shutdown, the NRC has said.

Oyster Creek is the oldest nuclear plant in the United States. It went online on Dec. 23, 1969. 

May 9, 2015 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

370 Billion Bq of Plutonium equivalent may have escaped from WIPP

Gov’t: Radioactive release “orders of magnitude” worse than predicted at US nuclear dump — 370 Billion Bq of Plutonium equivalent may have escaped from WIPP drum during “thermal runaway” & multiple fires — For amount to be that high, a “significant number” of breached drums is expected (VIDEO)

Sante Fe New Mexican
, Apr 23, 2015 (emphasis added): The head of a team of federal investigators [said] he’s not certain whether more than one drum of nuclear waste contributed to contamination of [WIPP]… The reaction pushed temperatures inside the container to nearly 1,600 degrees, ripping open the drum and scattering radioactive material thatbreached not only the fortified room that held the waste, but WIPP itself, which was designed to never leak… [Officials] would not rule out minor seepage from other drums.

U.S. DOE Accident Investigation Report Phase 2, Radiological Release at WIPP, Apr 2015:

6.4.1 Analysis Summary

  • The radiological release… resulted from an exothermic reaction that led to a thermal runaway in drum 68660 [that] exhibited the following fire behaviorsExpanding flame front of material expelled from drum… Ignition of exposed combustibles… Propagation within the waste array by flame impingement… Melting and burning of exposed plastics.
  • The combustibles external to the waste containers were ignited… direct fire effectswere limited to Rows 8 through 18… there were multiple small fires that caused direct flame impingement on several waste packages… the fire… caused the migration of contamination throughout Panel 7 [and] significant fire damage.
  • A thermal runaway is characterized as a very rapid temperature rise within the container… [This] ultimately… led to failure of the lid… permitting a rapid release of combustible gases and combustible solids.

7.1 Accident Scenarios and Source Term Evaluation

  • Source term at Station A should be 10 to 100 times lower than the source term in Panel 7 Room 7… Station A source term is estimated [at] 0.1 plutonium equivalent curies (PE-Ci).
  • DOE-STD-5506-2007… recommends a bounding estimate of 1E^-4 ARF [0.0001 Airborne Release Fraction] for a drum over-pressurization without a fire… This release estimate, when applied to the… drum inventory of 2.84 PE-Ci, results in an initial source term released to the room of 2.8E^-4 PE-Ci [0.000284 PE-Ci]… less than 1 percent of the 0.1 PE-Ci source term at Station A.
  • The chemical reaction resulting in over-pressurization of the drum described above is similar to the… evaluation of a drum deflagration from hydrogen buildup from radiolysis which assumes burning of material expelled from the drum and a contained burning of material remaining within the drum… [The modeled] release estimate from a drum deflagration is about 3 percent of the 0.1 PE-Ci source term at Station A… the actual amount of material released as measured at Station A was larger than the amount predicted… by almost two orders of magnitude… For either the drum over-pressurization or drum deflagration scenarios discussed above, a much greater airborne source term is possible if the nitrate salts behaved as a combustible dust ignited in air or if a greater fraction of material were ejected and burned.
  • The 0.1 PE-Ci source term at Station A can be divided by the range of 0.01 to 0.05 LPFs [Leakpath Factor] to estimate the range of source terms initially released… This results in a range of 2 to 10 PE-Ci [74 to 370 billion Bq] airborne in the room… [I]nventory in drum 68660 [was] 2.84 PE-Ci.
  • If drum 68660 released a source term as modeled… a significant number of waste containers would be expected to be breached to cause the 2 to 10 PE-Ci source term estimate… Based on the above estimates… release fractions and deposition in the underground, indicated the release from drum 68660 alone was much larger than what would be modeled… [T]he source term evaluation, using conventional release modeling assumptions, could not conclusively affirm that container 68660 was the sole contributor to the release.

Watch the DOE’s presentation of the report here

May 6, 2015 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

Forest fires threatening Chernobyl nuclear plant

wildfire-nukeForest fires heading for Chernobyl nuclear plant – Ukraine Interior Ministry,  April 29, 2015 The Ukrainian National Guard has been put on high alert due to worsening forest fires around the crippled Chernobyl nuclear power plant, according to Ukraine Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.

The forest fire situation around the Chernobyl power plant has worsened,” a statement on Avakov’s Facebook page says.

The forest fire is heading in the direction of Chernobyl’s installations. Treetop flames and strong gusts of wind have created a real danger of the fire spreading to an area within 20 kilometers of the power plant. There are about 400 hectares [988 acres] of forests in the endangered area.”

Police and National Guard units are on high alert. Ukraine’s Prime Minister personally went to the affected area to oversee the firefighting. He says the situation is under control, “but this is the biggest fire since 1992.”

However, in comments to Russia’s Moscow Speaks radio, a representative of Greenpeace Russia said that the situation is much worse: “A very large, catastrophic forest fire is taking place in a 30-km zone around the Chernobyl power plant. We estimate the real area of the fire to be 10,000 hectares; this is based on satellite images. This hasn’t been officially acknowledged yet.”

The potential danger in this fire comes from the radioactive contaminants the burning plants have absorbed, ecologist Christopher Busby told RT. “Some of the materials that were contaminating that area would ahve been incorporated into the woods. In other words, they land on the ground in 1986 and they get absorbed into the trees and all the biosphere. And when it burns, they just become re-suspended. It’s like Chernobyl all over again. All of that material that fell on the ground will now be burned up into the air and will become available for people to breathe.”Christopher Busby is the scientific secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risks………

April 30, 2015 Posted by | incidents, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Drone supposedly containing radiation landed on Shinzo Abe’s roof

drone-1Drone containing radiation lands on Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe’s roof, by Charlie Smith on April 22nd, 2015 Shortly after a Japanese court has approved restarting a shuttered nuclear power plant, an unmanned aerial vehicle landed on the roof of the prime minister’s home.

 The Guardian has reported that the small drone on Shinzo Abe’s residence had “traces of radiation”.

It has sparked discussions in Japan about the prospect of terrorists using drones to launch attacks during the 2020 Summer Games, which will be hosted in Tokyo.

The levels of radiation in this instance were not deemed harmful.

There’s no evidence at this point that the drone was placed there as a protest against Abe’s desire to restart nuclear reactors in Japan.

Public opinion is strongly against the use of nuclear power in Japan four years after a meltdown in Fukushima………

Tokyo police have reportedly revealed that there was a camera on the drone, which was decorated with a sticker carrying a symbol indicating it was radioactive.

“The police also said traces of radioactive cesium were detected on the roof near the drone, though it was unclear if they came from the drone,” the New York Timesreported. “Cesium is not usually found in nature, but large amounts of it were released into the atmosphere during the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.”

April 23, 2015 Posted by | incidents, Japan | Leave a comment

DOE, National Nuclear Security Administration and the Nuclear Waste Partnership, all to blame for WIPP radiation leak

Report: Nuke dump radiation leak could have been prevented, KRQE News 13 
By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN Associated Press April 17, 2015, 
ALBUQUERQUE (AP) – A radiation leak that forced the indefinite closure of the federal government’s only underground nuclear waste repository could have been prevented, a team of investigators said Thursday.

A combination of poor management, lapses in safety and a lack of proper procedures were outlined in a final report released by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Accident Investigation Board. Officials reviewed the findings Thursday night during a community meeting in Carlsbad.

The investigators spent more than a year looking into the cause of the radiation release at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico.

Like a separate team of technical experts, they too found that a chemical reaction inside a drum of waste that had been packaged at Los Alamos National Laboratory forced the lid open, allowing radiation to escape. The contents included nitrate salt residues and organic cat litter that was used to soak up moisture in the waste.

Aside from lab managers, the report places blame on Energy Department headquarters, the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Nuclear Waste Partnership, the contractor that manages the repository. It highlights numerous failures – from Los Alamos lab not having an adequate system for identifying and controlling hazards to federal nuclear officials not ensuring the existence of a “strong safety culture” at the lab.

Investigators found a failure by managers to resolve employee concerns that could have pointed out problems before the waste was shipped from Los Alamos to the repository.

Accident Investigation Board Chair Ted Wyka said during the town hall that some workers reported seeing foaming and yellowish smoke while repackaging waste. After short discussions with their supervisors, they went back to work on the assembly line.

That information did not make it up to lab managers, he said…….

The Energy Department and its contractors are facing $54 million in fines from the state of New Mexico for the failures that led to the mishap. Negotiations are ongoing, and the state has suggested more financial penalties are possible.

With the repository closed indefinitely, efforts to clean up decades of Cold War-era waste at federal facilities around the country are stalled. Federal officials say resuming full operations at the repository could take years and cost more than a half-billion dollars…….

April 18, 2015 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment

When USA Accidentally Nuked Britain’s First Satellite

exclamation-That Time The US Accidentally Nuked Britain’s First Satellite, Gizmodo 
KARL SMALLWOOD – TODAYIFOUNDOUT.COM 16 APRIL 2015“……..The satellite in question was the Ariel-1, which was developed as a joint-venture between the United States and Britain, with Britain designing and building the core systems of the satellite and NASA launching it into orbit via a Thor-Delta rocket……..
According to NASA, the instruments aboard Ariel-1 were intended to help “contribute to the current knowledge of the ionosphere” and its relationship with the Sun. More specifically, scientists were curious about how the ionosphere, a part of the Earth’s atmosphere made of particles charged by radiation from the Sun, worked. (For more on the ionosphere, see: Why Do Radio Signals Travel Farther at Night than in the Day?) As it turned out, as Ariel-1 was happily free-falling around the Earth, the US military had decided to detonate an experimental 1.4 megaton nuclear weapon named Starfish-Prime in the upper atmosphere as part of Project Fish Bowl. The explosion, which happened on the other side of the planet to Ariel-1, sent a wave of additional radiation around the Earth that ultimately damaged some of the systems on Ariel-1, particularly its solar panels, ultimately killing it and about 1/3 of the rest of the satellites in low-Earth orbit at the time. This famously included the Telstar satellite, which was the first commercial communication relay satellite designed to transmit signals across the Atlantic.

The Telstar actually wasn’t in orbit at the time of the explosion, being put there the day after the Starfish-Prime detonation. However, the additional radiation created by the explosion took years to dissipate and was not anticipated by the designers of this particular satellite. The immediate result being the degradation of Telstar’s systems, particularly the failure of several transistors in the command system, causing it to stop working just a few months after being placed in orbit.As to the purpose of the Starfish-Prime explosion, according to James Fleming, a history professor who combed through previously top-secret files and recordings concerning the blast, the US military were working with scientist James Van Allen to see if nuclear explosions could influence the existing belts of radiation around the Earth…….
He forgot to mention the obligatory, FOR SCIENCE!!!

Bonus Facts:

At around the same time the US was planning to send actual nuclear bombs into orbit, British scientists were similarly experimenting with explosives by attaching grenades to suborbital rockets to run atmospheric pressure tests; once again demonstrating that no matter where they’re from or what tools are available, scientists just really like to blow things up.
The Starfish explosion was actually supposed to have happened on June 20th, but the rocket carrying it failed at about 30,000 feet. Once this happened, the self-destruct on the nuclear warhead was initiated and it broke apart, raining its radioactive innards down on Johnston and Sand Islands, as well as in the ocean around them.
Britain’s first astronaut, Helen Sharman, was sent into space in 1991. All in all, 21 other nationsbeat Britain to the punch in terms of sending a representative of their country into space, including Afghanistan (Abdul Ahad Mohmand), Mongolia (Jügderdemidiin Gürragchaa) and Vietnam (Phạm Tuân).
The effects of Starfish-Prime weren’t just limited to low orbit. The electromagnetic pulse created by the blast ended up being much larger than expected and, in Hawaii some 900 or so miles away from the blast, the pulse ended up knocking out a few hundred street lights and damaged the telephone system. Needless to say, a similar blast in today’s digital society would have caused drastically more damage.

Karl Smallwood writes for the wildly popular interesting fact website

April 18, 2015 Posted by | incidents, USA | Leave a comment


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