What’s Wrong with WIPP by lajicarita

By DON HANCOCK, Southwest Research and Information Center (SRIC)

The world’s first geologic repository for military nuclear waste is making international news because of the radiation leak that was detected late at night on Valentine’s Day. An unknown amount of radioactive and toxic chemical waste was released to the environment from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). On February 26, the 13 workers at the site when the leak was detected were notified that they tested positive for internal radiation contamination.

Since the Department of Energy (DOE) and Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP), the operating contractor, have repeatedly stated that WIPP would “start clean, stay clean” and not release any radioactivity for at least 10,000 years, the leak was never supposed to happen. The health danger that persists for thousands of generations is the reason to put the wastes underground so they are not released to the environment. Thus, an obvious question: What’s wrong with WIPP?

Also, what effect does the leak have on DOE plans to expand WIPP and what is the opposition to such proposals?

*Some of the unknowns about the February 2014 radiation leak*

As of March 4, there is much more that is unknown than known:

* What caused the leak?

* How much leaked into the underground salt mine?

* How much leaked into the environment?

* Where are those radioactive and toxic wastes now?

* To what amount of radiation were the workers exposed?

* What are the health effects for those workers?

* What decontamination is necessary in the underground mine?

* What decontamination is necessary on the WIPP site and surrounding area?

* If WIPP reopens, what changes in the operation, monitoring, and safety culture will be implemented?

[Much, much more]

 

 

The New Mexican has just published “New ideas, technologies from LANL could boost region’s economy” on how the Lab wants to “rebrand” itself.  I posted the following response on the newspaper’s web site:   This is more of The New Mexican’s sycophantic reporting on the Los Alamos Lab. It’s a long tradition, going back to the early 1990’s when the newspaper’s previous owner (and ex-member of the Department of Energy’s predecessor, the Atomic Energy Commission) fired two reporters who wrote the [more...]

 

LANL Community Support Is Contract Requirement A recent press release from Los Alamos National Laboratory stated that the LANL “Board of Governors last week approved a $3.1 million extension to the company’s plan supporting education, economic development and charitable giving in Northern New Mexico.” This, like most LANL statements, could use a little decoding. 1. The Lab’s contract with DOE requires community support. The LANL Conformed Contract (Conformed to Mod 215, 01/25/2013) tells us: H-24 NNSA AND CONTRACTOR COMMUNITY COMMITMENTS (a) The [more...]

 

Wired Magazine’s alarmist article NASA’s Plutonium Problem Could End Deep-Space Exploration argues that virgin production of plutonium-238 in nuclear reactors is needed, or U.S. space exploration is dead. Instead the nation’s future Pu-238 needs should be met through accelerated nuclear weapons dismantlements and recycling/scrap recovery efforts. Processing and encapsulation of Pu-238 currently takes place at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico. [Having said that, all plutonium operations at the Lab have been shut down since the end [more...]

 

Secretary of State John Kerry correctly condemned the Syrian regime’s apparent use of chemical weapons, but he’s wrong calling them “the world’s most heinous weapons.” Instead that awful distinction belongs to nuclear weapons, a class of weapons far above any other. If ever used again nuclear weapons would indiscriminately kill far more people, including women, children and non-combatants, than chemical weapons ever could, and poison the planet with radioactive fallout. Nevertheless our country is planning repeating cycles of “Life Extension [more...]

 

A July 5th article in the Deseret News reported on an NNSA program that gives millions of dollars to universities for “predictive science”, which is defined as: Predictive science is the application of verified and validated computational simulations to predict the behavior of complex systems where routine experiments are not feasible. The selected PSAAP II centers will focus on unclassified applications of interest to NNSA and its national laboratories — Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia [more...]

 

Thanks to everyone’s work, the NM Environment Department has decided to get more information before allowing any leaky Hanford high-level tank waste to come to New Mexico! NMED issued its determination to reclassify the DOE request as a class 3 – which requires a public hearing – “because there is significant public interest.” Public comments made the difference! There will be much more to do. See http://www.nukewatch.org/watchblog/?p=1503 for background. From the NMED release – July 2, 2013 RE: ELEVATION OF [more...]

 

Dear Fellow Travelers on the Long Road to Safety at WIPP: I am writing to you as a battle-weary compatriot. For so many New Mexicans, the merest mention of WIPP induces a glazed-over, burned-out feeling associated with the “done deal,” the “one that got away.” Incredibly, safeguards we originally fought for at WIPP are being stealthily erased behind closed doors right now—a potential disaster for our state’s natural resources and inhabitants. What’s going on? Some of us pessimists predicted this [more...]

 

In response to a request from Nuclear Watch New Mexico, the National Nuclear Security Administration has released to us expanded versions of the 2012 Performance Evaluation Reports (PERs) for seven nuclear weapons complex sites. (The report for the Savannah River Site was not given to us.) The reports are used by NNSA to decide how much Award Fee it will give its nuclear weapons site contractors each year. Design issues for the proposed Uranium Processing Facility (UPF) cost taxpayers over [more...]

 

The Health Safety and Security Office (HSS) of Safety and Emergency Management Evaluations performed this independent review to evaluate emergency response capabilities at the Lab and how the Lab maintained them in a state of readiness in case of a severe natural phenomena event. The review showed that LANL would have trouble responding quickly with the appropriate emergency response in the case of a serious natural event.

As one of the conclusions states – “LANL does not have an adequate means for determining quickly whether an event occurring at the CMR facility, a criticality event at TA-55 PF-4 facility, or a severe natural phenomena event at either facility involves a significant quantity of HAZMAT and requires implementation of corresponding onsite protective actions or issuance of appropriate offsite protective action recommendations.”

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