Plutonium found in city nearly 30 miles from US nuclear site — Newspaper: Explosion ‘melted through’ container causing radioactive release — More Pu-241 went airborne than all other types of plutonium combined, yet not included in test results http://enenews.com/plutonium-detected-city-30-miles-nuclear-site-explosion-melted-container-released-four-types-plutonium-officials-testing-pu-241-leaked-all-others-combined?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ENENews+%28Energy+News%29
Carlsbad Current-Argus, Sept. 9, 2014: DOE will provide WIPP update next week — It appears the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant is far from reopening… According to photographic evidence made public by the DOE, it appears a chemical reaction caused an explosion inside one of the waste drums. The explosion melted through portions of the drum, and the incident triggered a small release of americium and plutonium into the outside air about half a mile from the facility.
“Plutonium… about half a mile from the facility”? Recently published air monitoring data from the state of New Mexico indicates that soon after the WIPP radioactive release 3 types of plutonium were found nearly 30 miles away in Carlsbad, the state’s 10th largest city. The levels were similar to those found within the nuclear site’s boundary:
- WIPP NW Border, 2/21-2/28: Plutonium-238 = 0.015 pCi/sample (Lab minimum detectable activity [MDA] = 0.0082)
- WIPP site, 2/21-2/28: Plutonium-239/240 = 0.0092 pCi/sample (MDA = 0.0062)
- WIPP site, 2/28-3/11: Plutonium-238 = 0.027 pCi/sample (MDA = 0.024)
- Carlsbad, 25+ mi. away, 2/28-3/11: Plutonium-238 = 0.016 pCi/sample (MDA = 0.0074)
- Carlsbad, 25+ mi. away, 2/28-3/11: Plutonium-239/240 = 0.022 pCi/sample (MDA = 0.0074)
More Plutonium-241 was released from WIPP than all other plutonium isotopes combined, yet officials have not included it in any publicly available test results:
- Plutonium-241 = 15,900 dpm
- Plutonium-239/240 = 11,600 dpm
- Plutonium-238 = 514 dpm
Gov’t Expert: Plutonium is certainly being discharged into Pacific Ocean from Fukushima plant; Flowing out of ruptured containments — TV: Reactor water turns into ‘yellowish, fizzing liquid’ from damaged fuel rods… “It actually vibrates” (PHOTO & VIDEO) http://enenews.com/study-plutonium-being-discharged-fukushima-pacific-ocean-flowing-ruptured-containment-vessels-tv-reactor-water-becomes-yellowish-fizzing-liquid-damaged-fuel-rods-actually-vibrates-video?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ENENews+%28Energy+News%29
P. Bossew, German Federal Office for Radiation Protection, PLUTONIUM EMISSION FROM THE FUKUSHIMA ACCIDENT (pdf), 2013 (emphasis added): While much has since been published on environmental contamination and exposure to radio-iodine and radio-caesium, little is known about releases of plutonium […] The inability to cool the fuel led to melting of parts of the reactor cores (which parts exactly, is not yet well known) […] [Causes of the containment] ruptures and leaks […] are not entirely clarified […] explosion seems to have produced further structural damage in the containments, at the one hand, and on the other hand released large amounts of radionuclides into the environment. […] the fraction of Pu released into the environment can be expected to be higher [than] atmospheric releases only. Certainly some Pu has been released with liquid effluents and discharged into the ocean. […] The liquid discharges certainly also contained Pu. […]
‘Modern Marvels‘ History Channel (at 19:45 in): It is now 28 hours since the accident at Three Mile Island began. The men in the control room have no way of looking into the reactor…. it now seems clear some of the 36,000 slendertubes holding the uranium fuel have cracked, this is allowing radioactivity to escape into the reactor coolant water. It is imperative operators know how much radioactivity is now in the coolant. Too much, and the nuclear chain reaction could restart… Foreman Ed Hauser agrees to risk his life to take the readings. This is allowing radioactivity to enter the coolant water. He is in for an even greater scare when he draws the coolant water sample. The water from the reactor should be clear; instead he stares at a yellowish, fizzing liquid… It actually vibrates in his hand.
See also: Study: Water helps dissolve Fukushima’s melted nuclear cores, accelerates corrosion — Plutonium concentrates on outer edge of fuel — Poses “a much longer environmental threat” than initial releases — Transport of nuclear material into environment to continue for many years if not isolated
Study: Fukushima plutonium in playground 60 km from nuclear plant — “Proves that indeed Plutonium has been emitted by the accident” — Some “in the form of fuel fragments”? — Up to 14 Billion Bq of Pu-239 and-240 released (MAP) http://enenews.com/study-fukushima-plutonium-in-playground-60-km-from-nuclear-plant-proves-that-indeed-plutonium-has-been-emitted-by-the-accident-some-may-be-in-
P. Bossew, German Federal Office for Radiation Protection, PLUTONIUM EMISSION FROM THE FUKUSHIMA ACCIDENT (pdf), 2013 (emphasis added): [...] Apparently no explosive fuel fragmentation occurred, so that little, if any of the release happened in the form of fuel fragments. […] Only scattered data are available from the farther surroundings. It can be assumed that continuous and frequent monitoring of environmental media for Pu from locations more distant than a few km was deemed unnecessary […] Given two different sources (global and Fukushima fallout) with different, but known 238Pu : 239+240Pu ratios, the contributions of the both in a sample which is a mixture of both can be calculated […] we estimated a median 2.28 (95% conf. interval 1.98 –2.58),  and 2.19 ± 0.48 (1 ), , for Fukushima emissions. […] The background Pu ratio in global fallout has been reported 0.035 ± 0.008 […] a map of the 238Pu : 239+240Pu ratio in the region around the NPP […] The “trace” towards NW from the NPP, in which the Pu ratio deviates strongly from the background […] This proves that indeed Pu has been emitted by the accident […] For 238Pu, the Fukushima contribution is much higher than the global one in many places (as detectable at all) because the Pu ratio is much higher in Fukushima (~2.19) than in global fallout (~0.035). […] Keeping with [the total 137Cs release of] 15 PBq given by NISA […] we find an atmospheric emission of 239+240Pu equal 4.2 GBq. Using the upper estimate of released 137Cs, 50 PBq, a release of 14 GBq is found. [NISA 239+240Pu estimate = 6.4 GBq; Zheng et al. 239+240Pu estimate = 1.0 to 2.4 GBq] […] It should be stressed that the evidence of Pu from Fukushima does not pose any radiological concern [...]
P. Bossew, German Federal Office for Radiation Protection, Hirosaki University, Anthropogenic Radionuclides in Environmental Samples from Fukushima Prefecture (pdf), 2013: Three samples [all taken approx. 60 km from FDNPP, 1 from a parking area in Koriyama city and 2 from a playground in Fukushima city] were measured twice [...] Sample 4 was too small for a meaningful analysis. […] The result found in this study is consistent with a Pu/ Cs ratio reported by Imanaka et al. (2012) for a highly contaminated place in the Fukushima zone as below 1 E-6 [...] Zheng et al. 2011 found 239+240 Pu/137Cs in soil, close to the NPP, as (3.6 ± 1.1) E-7 (only samples with 241Pu>0 considered, and Fukushima contribution 87% to the sample J-village, surface soil , as suggested by the authors), which is in good agreement with the results of this study.
See also: Scientists: Plutonium released from Fukushima “is of radiological concern”; Reactor must be source, not spent fuel pool — Study: Plutonium found 120 km from plant; “Pu and non-natural uranium certainly increased in environment”
Main plutonium facility might “collapse” in earthquake unless repairs are completed; scope of work needed still unknown
Board says full re-start of LANL plutonium facility premature; nuclear criticality accidents not ruled out
On May 16, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB, Board), cautioned Congress about the structural integrity of the main plutonium facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in the event of an earthquake similar to those which have rocked the site in recent millenia. The building in question, “PF-4,” was built in 1978 to earlier, less stringent earthquake standards.
The Board was established by Congress in 1988 to advise the Department of Energy (DOE) on the safety of DOE’s nuclear facilities.
Also on the 16th, DNFSB Chairman Peter Winokur wrote National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Administrator Frank Klotz about the Board’s concerns regarding LANL’s planned re-start of higher-hazard plutonium operations in PF-4 without first evaluating the potential of those operations to result in nuclear criticality accidents. Such accidents, were they to occur as a result of human error, mechanical failure or any other cause, would invariably involve very high levels of radiation and have often been fatal to surrounding workers. Such accidents have happened before at LANL and at other nuclear facilities in the U.S. and abroad. (See for example this LANL review.)
Regarding the first issue DNFSB writes in its “Report to Congress on the Status of Significant Safety Issues Concerning the Design and Construction of DOE’s Defense Nuclear Facilities” that:
..the Board remains concerned that PF-4 is vulnerable to seismic collapse. The large plutonium inventory of PF-4, coupled with the facility’s proximity to the public, creates the potential for high off-site radiological consequences. DOE is pursuing actions to address the collapse vulnerability, but maintains that PF-4 is safe to operate in the interim and complies with DOE standards for seismic performance. The Board communicated to DOE in a letter dated July 17, 2013, that it does not agree… -: http://lasg.org/press/2014/press_release_20May2014.html#sthash.cCZ6igPz.VLFKX1CD.dpuf
Covert mission: Plutonium source might be Canada Questions being asked about mystery cargo BY IAN MACLEOD, OTTAWA CITIZEN MARCH 30, 2014 The nuclear fuel carrier Pacific Egret slipped into the harbour at Charleston, South Carolina, on March 19 and unloaded a top-secret cargo at the port’s Naval Weapons Station.
Fitted with naval guns, cannons and extensive hidden means of repelling a terrorist assault, the three-year-old British vessel was purpose-built to transport plutonium, highly enriched uranium (HEU) and mixed-oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel on the high seas.
Its previous publicly reported position had been exiting the Mediterranean at the Strait of Gibraltar almost two weeks earlier on March 7, carrying a delicate nuclear cargo loaded at the La Spezia naval base in northern Italy.
As the vessel entered the North Atlantic that day, its tracking image vanished from an online marine traffic monitoring system. The ship the size of a football field became all but invisible to unauthorized eyes.
Questions are now being raised about whether the sensitive cargo included recycled plutonium that originated here in Canada.
The clandestine business of transporting shiploads of fissile nuclear materials between nations rarely comes into public view. An eight-kilogram piece of plutonium-239 the size of a grapefruit could obliterate much of Ottawa in seconds — as it did to Nagasaki in August 1945. It’s aptly named after the ancient Greek god of the underworld……… Continue reading
A Botched Plan to Turn Nuclear Warheads Into Fuel Bloomberg, By Matthew Philips April 24, 2014 As the Soviet Union was unraveling and the Cold War was winding down in the early 1990s, negotiators in Washington and Moscow began talking about how best to dispose of the plutonium inside thousands of nuclear warheads the two nations had agreed to dismantle. The cheapest and easiest method was to immobilize the radioactive material by encasing it in molten glass and burying it. But the Russians balked at that, likening it to flushing gold down the toilet. Ultimately, it was decided that the plutonium would be converted into fuel for nuclear power plants. In September 2000, the U.S. and Russia signed an agreement under which each side would turn 34 tons of weapons-grade plutonium into mixed-oxide fuel, or MOX, that could be combined with uranium for use in commercial reactors.
In the U.S., that huge task would take place at an aging plutonium factory in South Carolina called the Savannah River Site. From the 1950s to the 1980s, the 310-square-mile facility had churned out about 36 tons of weapons-grade plutonium for nuclear warheads. Now, the plant would turn those same warheads into fuel rods. The Department of Energy initially estimated it would cost about $1 billion to convert the plant. Construction began in August 2007, with an expected completion date of 2016.
The U.S. government even had a ready customer for the rods. Charlotte-based Duke Energy (DUK), one of the largest nuclear power companies in the U.S., signed on as a buyer. From 2005 to 2008, the company ran tests of MOX fuel the Department of Energy got from France. The fuel worked fine. Everything was going according to plan.
Almost seven years after construction began, the MOX plant is now 60 percent built. But it’s looking increasingly likely that it won’t ever be completed….The MOX plant in South Carolina requires 85 miles of pipe, 23,000 instruments, and 3.6 million linear feet of power cables. The project is vastly over budget: The Department of Energy has sunk about $5 billion into it so far and estimates it will cost an additional $6 billion to $7 billion to finish the plant, plus an additional $20 billion or so to turn the plutonium into fuel over 15 years. In its 2015 budget request released in March, the Department of Energy announced it will place the MOX project on “cold standby,” effectively mothballing the project for the foreseeable future. “It’s a major fiasco,” says Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Billions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted. It’s a classic boondoggle.”
The MOX plant is the latest blunder for the Department of Energy, which has a reputation for mismanaging big, complicated projects, particularly those related to nuclear energy. Costs for a nuclear waste treatment plant in Washington State have nearly tripled to $13 billion. A uranium processing facility in Tennessee once estimated to cost around $1 billion is now tipping the scales at around $11 billion, according to an Army Corps of Engineers study. It’s also running about 20 years behind schedule. A Department of Energy spokesman declined to comment for this article…….http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-04-24/u-dot-s-dot-botches-plan-to-turn-nuclear-warheads-into-fuel
Arak nuclear reactor resolved says Iran http://www.skynews.com.au/world/article.aspx?id=969168 April 20, 2014 Iran and six world powers have resolved their differences over the country’s plutonium-producing Arak reactor, Iranian nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi says.
The reactor, which has yet to be completed, has been a main point of contention at the ongoing talks aimed at ending the stand-off over Tehran’s nuclear program.
The governments of Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany – the so-called P5+1 – have expressed concern that Iran could use the plutonium produced at the facility in the western city of Arak to build nuclear weapons.
‘We have suggested that we will produce only one-fifth of the originally planned plutonium, and this was welcomed by the P5+1,’ said Salehi.
The world powers have called for Arak’s closure or for technical changes so that it no longer turns out plutonium.
Salehi said Arak would not be shuttered because Iran needs it to produce medical isotopes for civilian use, but that reducing its plutonium production capacity alleviates negotiators’ concerns.
The heavy water reactor uses natural uranium as its fuel and will generate plutonium as a by-product.
Iran and the sextet agreed in an interim deal in November on a limited suspension of sanctions in return for some nuclear concessions from Tehran, including suspending construction of the Arak reactor and scaling back uranium enrichment.
Under the broader agreement that both sides are aiming to conclude by July, Iran is expected to accept additional nuclear curbs while the world powers have promised to permanently lift all sanctions and to help Iran build new reactors.
Tehran insists that it has no plans to build nuclear weapons.
Iran and the P5+1 will hold expert-level nuclear talks May 5-9 in New York, said Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, according to Press TV.
Japan reaffirms its plan to produce plutonium, Center for Public Integrity
The Abe government’s new energy plan calls for completing the Rokkasho plutonium fuel factory despite U.S. concern it poses terrorism risks By Douglas BirchemailJake Adelstein 12 April 14
Just weeks after Japan pledged to return hundreds of pounds of plutonium to the United States for disposal, the Japanese government on April 11 formally endorsed the completion of a factory designed to produce as much as eight tons of the nuclear explosive annually.
The plant is among the key elements of a long-range energy plan approved by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet, reversing the previous government’s efforts to phase out nuclear power in the wake of the March 2011 Fukushima disaster. The move is generally viewed in Japan as unpopular with the public but has been welcomed by Japan’s utilities, which are struggling with massive debts.
The mammoth plant in the village of Rokkasho, scheduled to be completed in October, is meant to extract plutonium from spent commercial reactor fuel so it can be used in fresh fuel to be burned in the country’s reactors. “With safety first in mind always, Japan will promote…the completion of Rokkasho,” the energy plan states.
Publicly, the Obama administration has said little about Rokkasho, located on the Pacific Coast about 1,000 miles north of Tokyo. But privately, U.S. officials and experts say they are worried that Japan’s operation of the $22 billion facility – in the wake of the country’s closure of most of its nuclear power plants — will add unnecessarily to its existing stockpile of 44 tons of plutonium, some of which is stored in Japan and some in Europe.
U.S. officials have complained to their Japanese counterparts that the plant lacks an adequate security force, making it a potential target for terrorists. They have also urged Japan to subject the plants’ workers to stringent background checks, a move the Japanese see as being at odds with privacy traditions. U.S. experts also have expressed concern that the plant’s operation will encourage other countries, including South Korea, to constructsimilar plutonium factories.
Japan’s stockpile of plutonium today ranks fifth in the world, behind four nuclear-weapons states. The Chinese government in recent weeks has repeatedly expressed concern about Japan’s plans to produce plutonium “far exceeding its normal needs.”
Tokyo’s decision to proceed follows a joint announcement on March 24 by Abe and President Obama and Abe, at the Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands, that Japan would return hundreds of pounds of plutonium and weapons-grade uranium it received under the U.S. Atoms for Peace program in the 1960s and 1970s.
The two leaders said the transfer would further “our mutual goal” of keeping global stocks of nuclear explosive materials to a minimum, to keep them out of the hands of terrorists.
But critics say Rokkasho’s operation would violate that goal……..
Many communities in Japan are dependent on a stream of payments by the federal government to promote the siting of nuclear power plants, but a few have recently expressed concerns about the burning of plutonium-laced reactor fuels.
In early April, the city of Hakodate sued to halt work on a reactor that would be the first to burn such fuel. Hakodate’s Mayor Toshiki Kudo told reporters in Tokyo Thursday that the government and utility had ignored a plea from the municipality to suspend work on the Ohma plant and made “a unilateral announcement that it would go ahead with construction.”
Kudo called the plant “a terrorist target,” and said it could pose a greater safety risk than reactors fueled in other ways.
Angela Erika Kubo contributed to this article from Tokyo. http://www.publicintegrity.org/2014/04/11/14582/japan-reaffirms-its-plan-produce-plutonium
After spending tens of billions of dollars and decades on breeder-related programs, Tom Cochran said, countries find it hard to pull the plug.
“You have an entrenched bureaucracy and an entrenched research and development community and commercial interests invested in breeder technology, and these guys don’t go away,” Cochran said. “They’re believers … and they’re not going to give up. The really true believers don’t give up.”……..
“Stealing a weapon is too hard,” Cochran said. “But there is no big risk in fuel assemblies, or in taking things from a bulk handling facility that can be used to make weapons.” In this view, Rokkasho is a kind of big-box store for would-be nuclear terrorists.
A Washington-based physicist and nuclear contrarian, Cochran helped kill a vast plutonium-based nuclear industrial complex back in the 1970s, and now he’s at it again — lecturing at symposia, standing up at official meetings, and confronting nuclear industry representatives with warnings about how commercializing plutonium will put the public at enormous risk.
Where the story ends isn’t clear. But the stakes are large. Continue reading
A World Awash in a Nuclear Explosive? TruthOut, 19 March 2014 12:24 By Douglas Birch and R. Jeffrey Smith, Center for Public Integrity | Report Washington “……..Just a Few Pounds Worth of Plutonium? There’s been a ghoulish debate between officials and independent scientists about how much plutonium is needed to fuel a clandestine bomb. But both agree it’s not much.
The U.S. bomb that destroyed half of Nagasaki in 1945 had 6.2 kilograms of plutonium in it, or 13.6 pounds. But experts say it was over-engineered — only one kilogram fissioned, they concluded later.
The International Atomic Energy Agency nonetheless decided years ago that eight kilograms of plutonium, or 17.6 pounds, are needed to make a bomb and so that’s the quantity its monitoring is geared to stop from getting loose.
Cochran and his NRDC colleague Christopher Paine challenged the IAEA standard in 1995 with a study concluding that only 3 kilograms — 6.6 pounds — would be needed to fashion a “very respectable” bomb with the explosive power of a kiloton, or 1,000 tons of TNT. But no matter who is right, Rokkasho’s annual plutonium production would be enough for 1,000 weapons or more. Continue reading
On arrival at lecture halls, he would push his stand-in for plutonium into an empty Coke can he had sawn in half. During his talks, he would hold the can up so his audience could see it, and say the contents could incinerate a city. “A six-pack of these is a nuclear arsenal,” he would say.
A World Awash in a Nuclear Explosive? TruthOut, 19 March 2014 12:24 By Douglas Birch and R. Jeffrey Smith, Center for Public Integrity | Report Washington #……..The Coke Can Experiment In the abstract, there’s plenty of alarm in official circles. “Just one nuclear weapon exploded in a city — be it New York or Moscow; Tokyo or Beijing; London or Paris — could kill hundreds of thousands of people,” President Barack Obama told the United Nations Security Council in September 2009. “And it would badly destabilize our security, our economies, and our very way of life.”
But Cochran has long criticized the effectiveness of one of Washington’s most costly and elaborate strategies to prevent such a catastrophe — a global effort to detect and capture illicit fissile materials at border crossings and major world ports.
Since 2003 the United States has spent more than $850 million on equipment and training for customs officials at 45 foreign ports so they can scan shipping containers to detect nuclear materials. It’s a daunting assignment. About 432 million shipping containers crisscrossed the oceans in 2009 alone. U.S. ports accept 15 million containers every year. Continue reading
Japan and China’s Dispute Goes Nuclear, The Diplomat, Japan and China’s bitter PR campaign has now entered the nuclear realm. By Zachary Keck March 18, 2014 Japan and China appear to be trading nuclear barbs with one another.
For some weeks now, China has been raising concerns about the amount of enriched uranium and weapons-grade plutonium Japan currently stockpiles. “We continue to urge the Japanese government to take a responsible attitude and explain itself to international community,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said at the end of last month.
The following week, the same spokesperson asked: “Has Japan kept an excessive amount of sensitive nuclear material that is beyond its actual needs? Does one need so much sensitive nuclear material for peaceful use? Should one keep excessive weapons-grade nuclear material?” He added: “More importantly, does Japan have higher-enriched and weapons-grade uranium, and how much does it have? What are those used for? How can Japan ensure a balance between the demand and supply of nuclear materials? These are the real concerns and questions of the international community.”
Japan has one of the most advanced civilian nuclear programs of any country without nuclear weapons.According to NBC News, Tokyo has 9 tons of plutonium stockpiled in different places throughout Japan, while 35 tons of Japanese plutonium is stockpiled in different countries in Europe. Only about 5 to 10 kilograms is needed to produce a nuclear weapon. Japan also has an additional 1.2 tons of enriched uranium. It is also building a fast-breeder plutonium reactor in Rokkasho that will produce 8 tons of plutonium annually.
Many experts believe that Japan could produce nuclear weapons within 6 months of deciding to do so, and some believe that Tokyo is pursuing a “nuclear hedging” strategy. Japan has done little to mollify these concerns. In fact, it has often encouraged them, with a Japanese official recently saying off the record that “Japan already has the technical capability [to build a nuclear bomb], and has had it since the 1980s.”
Having a “bomb in the basement” largely suits Japan’s interests in its competition with China. …….http://thediplomat.com/2014/03/japan-and-chinas-dispute-goes-nuclear/
US to build two secret underground plutonium production labs: Analyst Press TV, 24 Dec 13 The United States is planning to build two new underground plutonium production labs that will expand plutonium production for the next decades, an analyst says.
“The Senate two days ago voted to authorize the creation of two new huge secret underground plutonium production labs that will expand plutonium production for the next 150 years,” Brian Becker, national coordinator of the A.N.S.W.E.R Coalition, told Press TV on Saturday.
“That is a very important fact and I think the world is not yet learning about it or just learning about it,” he added.
Becker also said the location of the new labs is in Los Alamos. “This was going to be in Los Alamos, the nuclear facility in New Mexico and the US government has just announced in spite of environmental impact statements, in spite of everything, to rush forward for the creation of two new plutonium factories, modules that will be producing plutonium for as decades and decades to come,” the analyst said.
“That is to enrich and enhance nuclear weapons. The United States is moving nuclear weapons into outer space that is one of the big projects. They see nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons possession as a form of creating dominance. It is not keeping the world safe,” he explained.
Becker pointed out to President Barack Obama’s plans for the US nuclear weapons complex that will cost the country about $355 billion over the next decade….http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2013/12/22/341316/us-building-secret-labs-to-enhance-nukes/
serious questions were raised last year after Walter Tamosaitis, one of the scientific chiefs of the project, disclosed that the innovative technology for mixing the waste in processing tanks could cause dangerous buildups of explosive hydrogen gas and might allow plutonium clumps to form.
Doubts grow about plan to dispose of Hanford’s radioactive waste, LA Times 28 Nov 13 Experts raise concerns about the complex technology intended to turn 56 million gallons of radioactive sludge at the former Hanford nuclear facility into glass and prepare it for safe burial. By Ralph Vartabedian November 29, 2013, RICHLAND, Wash. — On a wind-swept plateau, underground steel tanks that hold the nation’s most deadly radioactive waste are slowly rotting. The soil deep under the desert brush is being fouled with plutonium, cesium and other material so toxic that it could deliver a lethal dose of radiation to a nearby person in minutes.
The aging tanks at the former Hanford nuclear weapons complex contain 56 million gallons of sludge, the byproduct of several decades of nuclear weapons production, and they represent one of the nation’s most treacherous environmental threats.
Energy Department officials have repeatedly assured the public that they have the advanced technology needed to safely dispose of the waste. An industrial city has been under development here for 24 years, designed to transform the sludge into solid glass and prepare it for permanent burial.
But with $13 billion already spent, there are serious doubts that the highly complex technology will even work or that the current plan can clean up all the waste. Alarmed at warnings raised by outside experts and some of the project’s own engineers, Department of Energy officials last year ordered a halt to construction on the most important parts of the waste treatment plant.
“They are missing one important target after another,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “It feels like we are going around in circles.”……….
Many of the problems stem from the decision to launch construction of the plant even before engineers had completed the design. The job of turning waste as thick as peanut butter into glass is at the leading edge of nuclear chemistry, a job made difficult by the complex mixture of wastes that were fed into the underground tanks by some of the nation’s largest industrial corporations under a cloak of government secrecy.
The basic plan is to pump the waste into a pre-treatment plant, a factory larger than a football field and 12 stories tall, that would filter and chemically separate the waste into two streams of high- and low-level radioactivity. Then, two other plants would “vitrify,” or glassify, the waste. One would produce highly radioactive glass destined for a future geological repository, and the other a lower radioactive glass that could be buried at Hanford.
But serious questions were raised last year after Walter Tamosaitis, one of the scientific chiefs of the project, disclosed that the innovative technology for mixing the waste in processing tanks could cause dangerous buildups of explosive hydrogen gas and might allow plutonium clumps to form……. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-hanford-nuclear-risks-20131130,0,5013027.story#axzz2m8Dynzbj
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