Breaking Bad: A Nuclear Waste Disaster By Joseph Trento, DC Bureau, June 5th, 2014 “…..There were warnings that not all was sanguine at WIPP. On Wednesday February 5, a truck used to haul salt taken out of the mine to make room for more and more radioactive casks caught fire because of a fuel spill. A fire in a mine is always serious. But a fire in a high-level nuclear storage facility is very serious. The first concern was a storage cask or canister had caused the fire but no radiation monitors went off, only a fire alarm. Eighty-six workers were slowly evacuated from the mine.
Fortunately, the workers made it to the surface and the fire was isolated to the ruined truck and involved no radioactive waste. That day there was no plutonium flash, no compromised canisters; just six workers were transported and treated at Carlsbad Medical Center. Another seven workers were treated at WIPP for smoke inhalation and the facility closed until everyone was certain the fire was out. A crew had to be sent in to do the inspection because, inexplicably, the WIPP facility is remarkably short of sophisticated remote sensing equipment. DOE immediately began an investigation.
The DOE Office of Environmental Management (EM) put together an Accident Investigation Board (AIB) to review what had gone right and wrong. The main contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership, as well as the entire Carlsbad DOE field office was under scrutiny. DOE issued a press release saying, “The fire was a serious event that posed a threat to workers deep underground. In this case, the fire resulted in minor smoke inhalation to six workers, but it did not impact the public or the environment. There is no indication the fire was related to the February 14 radiological release.”
What investigators found was shocking. Carlsbad DOE officials did not conduct basic oversight of the private contractors running WIPP. The contractors failed to implement basic fire safety procedures, such as managing flammable truck fuel in an underground nuclear storage facility. In addition, WIPP officials repeatedly ignored the recommendations of the Defense Facilities Board – the gold standard for maintaining basic safety standards at all defense facilities. But the most damning part of the report said the safety culture required in such a dangerous environment no longer existed. Ironically, as the fire investigation was still underway, investigators had time to prevent the explosion that was to come. But their observations were ignored. The DOE EM report should have resulted in the immediate shutdown and full safety review of the facility. Instead, DOE Washington pressed to keep the waste flowing into WIPP. “The reality is DOE is overwhelmed with nuclear waste and has no safe place to put it,” Greg Mello says.
Nine days later, 2150 feet under the New Mexico desert, just before midnight on February 14, a canister of Los Alamos plutonium-tainted nuclear waste exploded. In a nuclear repository holding thousands and thousands of similar canisters and casks in what was supposed to be the most secure nuclear storage facility in the world, the very thing that was never supposed to happen did. No security cameras had been installed that could view the explosion. The radiation unleashed by the cracked canister quickly contaminated the sprawling underground salt mine. The seven football-field sized rooms in the Panels contain canisters that could have then caught fire and exploded. The continuous air monitor (CAM) finally detected the radiation and an alarm sounded alerting the night shift that high-level radiation had been detected. At that point, the contractors and DOE had no idea of the extent of the damage.
A DOE press release put the best face on a disaster: “Only 11 employees were at the WIPP site on the surface, no employees were in the underground. Two other WIPP employees reported to the site a couple hours later. The continuous air monitor measured airborne radioactivity close to the operating location where waste was being emplaced. Ventilation air is pulled from the underground repository by huge fans on the surface. This exhaust consists of unfiltered clean air… When the CAM alarmed, two dampers were automatically closed in the exhaust duct that redirected the exhaust through high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters that removes radioactive particles.
DOE said, “The next day an above ground exhaust air monitor on the WIPP site detected very low levels of airborne radioactive contamination. The 140 employees at the site were kept indoors as a precaution while air samples were taken. The 13 employees present during the radioactive release event on February 14 were tested for internal radioactive contamination after the event. The 140 employees have also been offered testing.
“It is believed that a small amount of radioactivity leaked by the exhaust-duct dampers, through the unfiltered exhaust ducts and escaped above ground. The exhaust duct dampers are large ‘butterfly’ valves that are designed to close and cut off the airflow through the exhausters. However, the valves do not fully seal the exhaust ducts and still allowed a small amount of unfiltered air to escape.”
In fact, DOE employees used spray foam to seal the dampers to keep more radiation contaminated air from escaping from a half mile underground.
That night America’s only official high-level nuclear waste site was rendered useless for at least the next three years. Everything that was supposed to happen did not. Air vents to the surface did not automatically close. DOE failed to keep computer records updated of what deadly waste was in what container and where it was located. That small explosion not only contaminated 21 workers and caused an unknown amount of radiation released into New Mexico’s air, but it also revealed a Department of Energy that is the midst of a nuclear security crisis not in some far off country like Pakistan or one of the former Soviet Republics but here at home.
This time the Environmental Management team asked to investigate by DOE did not have to face the pressure of telling headquarters that WIPP should be shuttered. Radiation contamination did that for them.
The loss of WIPP means the most deadly substances science has managed to create will have to be stored in place across our country in places totally unsuited for such storage. At WIPP, the deadly conditions created by the explosion will make monitoring the remaining radioactive materials very difficult. The official report of the WIPP accident was scathing. But scathing reports on DOE operations are common…. “.http://www.dcbureau.org/201406059835/natural-resources-news-service/breaking-bad-nuclear-waste-disaster.html
2 Linked to Pakistan nuclear program killed in attack Fox News June 04, 2014 A suicide attacker killed two military officers linked to Pakistan’s nuclear program, along with three civilians, near the Kamra air base, not far from this capital, police told Efe.
The incident occurred in the Fateh Jang area about 10 a.m. when a vehicle belonging to the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission was boarded by the suicide bomber, who was on foot, after which he detonated the explosives attached to his body…….http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2014/06/04/2-linked-to-pakistan-nuclear-program-killed-in-attack/
Horror on board Plymouth nuclear submarine as crew battles to survive By Plymouth Herald June 04, 2014 By TRISTAN NICHOLS Defence Reporter @tristan_nichols A “CATASTROPHIC” systems failure on board a Devonport-based nuclear submarine caused a mass-casualty incident, The Herald can today exclusively reveal.
Eight of those casualties were in a ‘life-threatening’ condition.
Temperatures inside the boat soared to 60 degrees Celsius with 100 per cent humidity as the crew battled to fix the problem miles from land.
With the three-year anniversary of the previously unreported incident having just passed, Ryan Ramsey, the submarine’s Commanding Officer at the time, today revealed: “I genuinely thought there was going to be a loss of life on board. People were going to die.”
The tragic incident happened at about 10.30am around three hours after the hunter-killer submarine had left Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates on May 26, 2011……….http://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/Horror-board-Plymouth-nuclear-submarine-crew/story-21181219-detail/story.html
6 Hanford Nuclear Reservation workers report smelling chemical vapors in tank farms http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/05/29/6-hanford-nuclear-reservation-workers-report-smelling-chemical-vapors-in-tank/ RICHLAND, Wash. – Six workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation are receiving medical evaluations after they reported smelling chemical vapors at two underground storage tank farms.
Washington River Protection Solutions, which operates the underground tanks at Hanford, says five of the workers reported symptoms typically related to chemical vapor exposure.
The employees were working in or near Hanford’s AP and SY Tank Farms when the vapors were reported. All workers immediately exited the area and moved upwind.
Hanford officials are taking samples and checking for possible sources of the vapors.
There have been numerous incidents in recent months when Hanford workers have reported smelling chemical vapors while working in the tank farms.
The tanks contain radioactive wastes left over from the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons.
Fires sweep southern California and prompt partial evacuation of San Onofre nuclear power plant news.com.au 15 May 14 FIREFIGHTERS are scrambling to control multiple blazes in southern California on the second day of a sweltering heatwave.
At a press conference today, fire and emergency officials said the greatest concern is now in the city of San Marcos north of San Diego, where a new blaze broke out in the late afternoon and some 21,000 evacuation notices have been sent to residents……One fire prompted the partial evacuation of the San Onofre nuclear power plant, theLos Angeles Times is reporting……..
The blazes, which also closed a major north-south highway, come amid record temperatures in the western US state, where the annual wildfire season typically starts much later in the year………http://www.news.com.au/world/fires-sweep-southern-california-and-prompt-partial-evacuation-of-san-onofre-nuclear-power-pant/story-fndir2ev-1226918410622
Nuclear expert says kitty litter contributed to radiation leak at WIPP Current Argus News, By Zack Ponce, 13 May 14 firstname.lastname@example.org CARLSBAD >> A change in the type of “kitty litter” that’s mixed with transuranic waste may be to blame for February’s radiation leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. A scientist who worked at WIPP until 2010 says he believes a change from non-organic kitty litter to organic litter caused a chemical reaction inside a waste drum, releasing the radioactive isotopes.
WIPP announced Monday night that photos taken over the weekend showed evidence of melted plastic and rubber on 55-gallon drums, indicating that the production of heat likely occurred in the underground area where waste is stored, according to a news release.
Jim Conca, who worked with WIPP from 2000 to 2010, said last week he believes a chemical reaction involving the kitty litter caused a small explosion inside a waste drum. New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn confirmed on Monday that he has heard Department of Energy officials discuss the possibility that kitty litter may have been to blame for the radiation leak. Flynn said it is just one of many theories the DOE is exploring and nothing is certain at this time.
WIPP Recovery Manager Jim Blankenhorn said during last week’s town hall meeting that officials believe the radiation leak was likely caused by nuclear waste that contained nitrate salt which gave off some sort of chemical reaction. Blankenhorn said a switch from a non-organic substance to organic was what triggered the event. According to Conca, the unidentified substance containing elements mirroring nitrate salt is kitty litter.
Under WIPP’s congressional mandate, the nuclear waste disposal facility located 26 miles east of Carlsbad cannot accept any liquid waste, and therefore kitty litter is used as a preventative measure to absorb any remnants of liquid before the drums are sealed and shipped to Southeastern New Mexico, Conca said……… http://www.currentargus.com/carlsbad-news/ci_25750452/doe-examining-possibility-kitty-litter-contributed-radiation-leak
Report: Ukrainian Police Arrest 9 Militants Smuggling Uranium-235 Prison Planet, Bradford Thomas May 8, 2014 Russian news outlet NEWSru.ua reported Monday that Ukrainian police in the Chernovci region arrested nine militants—eight Ukrainian citizens and one Russian—who were in possession of 1.5 kilos of substance containing Uranium 235, contents that could be used to create a “dirty bomb.”
The car containing the U-235 had foreign plates and was coming from Pridnestrovie (or Transnistria), a Russian military occupied breakaway territory in Moldova………http://www.prisonplanet.com/report-ukrainian-police-arrest-9-militants-smuggling-uranium-235.html
The truck was carrying materials for the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) and was engaged at the Bagjata Mines.
From last few weeks, posters with instructions for drivers to stop ferrying uranium ore from the Bagjata Mines have appeared on trucks at regular intervals, instilling fear and tension among transporters.
Maoist leaders have threatened transporters with dire consequences if they continue to do business with UCIL.
The banned outfit had been demanding permanent jobs for locals in the company as compensation for acquisition of their lands in Bagjata.
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) of Jamshedpur Amol Venukant Homkar said the incident took place early this morning, and added that 15 unidentified armed persons pulled the driver down from the vehicle and then set it ablaze. Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) plays a very significant role in India’s nuclear power generation programme……….http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-maoists-set-truck-carrying-uranium-for-ucil-ablaze-1986317
Huge blast reported near secret Iran nuclear site; City of Qazvin closed WorldTribune.com, 8 May 14, NICOSIA — Iran has been rocked by huge explosion near a nuclear facility.The Iranian media have reported an explosion in the northern Iranian city of Qazvin. The blast, reported on May 6, was said to have taken place near a secret nuclear enrichment facility in Abyek.
“The explosion took place in a storage facility,” Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency, which reported at least 50 injured, said.
Officials said nobody was killed in the explosion. But they acknowledged a huge fire that was sweeping the industrial city, about 130 kilometers north of Teheran “Firefighters are trying to prevent the spread of the fire at a car oil storage facility,” Qazvin civil defense director Ali Ahani said.
Iranian opposition sources said scores of people were killed in the blast. They said Iranian Army and security forces closed much of Qazvin,
with a population of 1.1 million.
“It is not certain whether Abyek was the target,” an opposition source said. “But this incident will hamper access to the facility in the short-term.”
The opposition said Iran’s nuclear facilities have been repeatedly
targeted by Israel and the West……..http://www.worldtribune.com/2014/05/07/report-50-injured-blast-iran-nuke-site-storage-facility/
Tokyo hit by worst quake since 3/11 — Felt throughout more than half of Japan prefectures — Expert: “People should take precautions for next several days” — AP: ‘Unusual’ quakes shake Alaska http://enenews.com/tokyo-hit-by-worst-quake-since-311-felt-throughout-moe-than-half-of-japans-prefectures-expert-people-should-take-precautions-for-next-several-days-ap-unusual-quakes-hit-alaska?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ENENews+%28Energy+News%29
Yomiuri Shimbun, , May 5, 2014: The quake, which struck at about 5:18 a.m., measured lower 5 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7 in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo [...] the strongest seismic intensity level measured in central Tokyo since the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. [...] Yohei Hasegawa, a Japan Meteorological Agency official in charge of monitoring earthquakes and tsunami, said at a news conference: “The earthquake is believed to have occurred inside the Pacific plate and it doesn’t seem to be related to an earthquake that could occur directly beneath Tokyo, which would have a different mechanism. It is unlikely to be followed by active aftershocks, but people should take precautions for the next several days.”
AP, , May 4, 2014: It was the strongest earthquake since the 9.0 quake in March 2011. [...] The quake was felt across a wide area of Japan [...] There were no reports of damage or other abnormalities from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant [...] Reuters reported a magnitude 6.6 earthquake struck in the Pacific Ocean [...] a second earthquake of magnitude 6.1 about 10 minutes later, further south. [...] On Saturday, a series of small earthquakes and aftershocks has rattled northern Alaska. [...] the earthquakes are unusual, because the region isn’t a seismically active part of Alaska.
Standart News, May 5, 2014: jolts were felt in 26 out of 47 prefectures of Japan.
NBC Right Now: Explosion at U.S. nuclear site — Kept secret from public — Happened in plant where plutonium was manufactured — “One of the most hazardous buildings” in America — Workers: “Flames shot out… big, loud bang like a shot gun” (VIDEO) http://enenews.com/nbc-explosion-at-u-s-nuclear-site-kept-secret-from-public-for-weeks-happened-at-plant-where-plutonium-was-manufactured-this-is-one-of-the-most-hazardous-buildings-in-america-flames-s
NBC Right Now (Yakima, WA), (Yakima, WA), May 1, 2014 (h/t Stock): Hanford union workers tell NBC Right Now there was an explosion at the plutonium finishing plant cleanup site weeks ago, but the event wasn’t shared with the public. The Hanford union representative says it happened when workers were cutting some pipe as part of the demolition of the Plutonium Finishing Plant [PFP]. The union representative wants to remain anonymous and says workers are concerned management isn’t putting worker safety first. [...] Workers describe the explosion as a spark then flames that shot out of a pipe and a loud bang [...] We’re told it happened two weeks ago [...] Workers say they think the contractor is playing down the explosion and possible safety concerns to protect themselves from fines and work delays. [...] The union representative says management wants to keep experienced workers quiet.
Hanford Union Representative: “: “Having a pipe explode at probably the most contaminated facility in the United States. This is one of the most hazardous buildings in the U.S. [...] Management continues to call it a small pop even though the workers say no this thing was a big, loud bang like a shot gun blast [...] People bring up concerns and they fall on deaf ears, especially at this facility. It’s like they’re dumbing it down because if this becomes a big concern, then they’re not going to be able to remove the pipe in a timely manor. Well, that’s not the concern. I could care less about your time frame and how much money you’re going to make when you get that pipe out. My concern is the people cutting the pipe in the first place and that doesn’t seem to be their concern. [...] PFP is not wanting to use experienced individuals anymore because we’re bringing up too many concerns in this plant. They want to bring in the guy that’s not going to ask any questions and they’ve started to do so.”
Department of Energy:: “The Department of Energy is overseeing the contractor’s response and will continue to evaluate their investigation into the cause of the event and corrective actions.”
KVEW (ABC),, May 2, 2014: Investigation Underway Following Pipe Explosion at Hanford’s Plutonium Finishing Plant — An investigation is underway following a pipe explosion last month at the Hanford site’s Plutonium Finishing Plant. A spokesman for the CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company says the employees were cutting a pipe on April 17th when they heard a loud bang and witnessed a small flame emit from the end of the pipe.
There is new information about what the Atlantic Cartier had on board when it caught fire in Hamburg last year. http://atlanticcartier.info/ April 10, 2014
A news report in the HAMBURG taz dated April 3rd states: –
‘The Atlantic Cartier that caught fire May 1st, close to the opening of the 34th EvangelicalChurch Day, which had attracted thousands of people. (The first report said ‘onethousand’.)
Only two weeks later was the true situation revealed. It contained 3.8 tonnes ofammunition, 180 tons of explosive ethanol, as well as 8.9 tons of uranium hexafloride andeleven tons of unused, fresh uranium fuel rods.’
This is the first report which we have seen which mentions that the ship was carrying fresh uranium fuel rods.
In the middle of March another Atlantic Container Line (ACL) ship, the Atlantic Companion, was involved in an ‘accident’ at the Halifax, Nova Scotia, north-end Ceres terminal. On this occasion four containers of uranium hexafluoride were dropped while being loaded aboard the ship.
In reply to our recent open letter to Bibby Ship Management we received the following from the company:-
‘ It is Bibby Ship Management’s policy not to discuss individual vessels or cargo detailshowever all of our vessels are managed and operated in line with the highest internationally agreed standards of vessel safety and pollution prevention.’
This is the full extent of the companies willingness to answer any of the many questionswhich we would like to put to them.
U.S. Air Force fires nine officers following nuclear test cheating probe WP, By Ernesto Londoño , March 27,
The Air Force announced Thursday that it has relieved nine mid-level commanders assigned to safeguard the nation’s nuclear arsenal following a wide-ranging probe into a test cheating scandal that implicated scores of airmen.
The dismissed officers, most of whom were colonels and lieutenant colonels, were not found to have facilitated or condoned the cheating at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. But they were held accountable for creating a culture that enabled it, officials said……. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-air-force-fires-nine-officers-following-nuclear-test-cheating-probe/2014/03/27/9e5eaffa-b5e0-11e3-b899-20667de76985_story.html
Weather experts baffled by mystery plume on New Mexico radar near 1945 nuclear bomb test site (EXCELLENT PICTURES) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2584235/Weather-experts-baffled-mystery-plume-New-Mexico-radar-near-1945-nuclear-bomb-test-site.html
There is speculation that the cloud could be the result of a weapons test
But the U.S. has not done A-bomb tests since the Test Ban Treaty in 1992
Plume originated from White Sands Missile Range in Socorro county
By DAILY MAIL REPORTER, 19 March 2014 A mystery ‘storm cloud’ caught on weather radar after erupting off a U.S. military missile testing ground in New Mexico has left weather experts baffled.
Conspiracy theorists have speculated that the plume-like cloud, which seems to appear out of nowhere, could have been kicked up by the explosion from an unreported weapons test.
Deepening the mystery, U.S. National Weather Service offices in Albuquerque and El Paso have confirmed the reading, but say they have no idea where it could have come from. The plume first appeared at sunset on Monday evening over the part of the vast White Sands Missile Range in east Socorro county, close to the ‘Trinity Site’ where the first atomic bomb was detonated in 1945.
It was spotted in publicly accessible radar data by a blogger, who tracked its progress and has published his findings in two YouTube videos and a blog post.
The WIPP – one of the world’s three deep nuclear repositories – has been shut down since February, when a sharp rise in radiation levels was linked to a leak in one of the underground tunnels storing radioactive waste about 600 meters underground. This radiation eventually made it into the plant’s surrounding area and was detected in the air by nearby monitoring stations…….One watchdog group, Southwest Research and Information Center, said plans to expand the plant’s operations could have led to lax security measures, and has labeled the WIPP a failure in terms of safety……http://rt.com/usa/second-radiation-leak-new-mexico-913/
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