ENOUGH ¡BASTA! Say No to High Level Nuclear Waste Dumping in New Mexico

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WIPP “Recovery Cost” and Time will rival that of Three Mile Island


The cleanup at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant has ended after 14 years with a final puff of radioactive steam from the evaporator used to get rid of contaminated water from the 1979 accident.

The total cost of the cleanup was put at $1 billion. Unit No. 1 was restarted in 1985 and will be monitored until it and its twin reactor are decommissioned in 2014. NYT – Aug.93 (http://www NULL.nytimes NULL.com/1993/08/15/us/14-year-cleanup-at-three-mile-island-concludes NULL.html)

Cost of reviving WIPP after leak could top $500 million
Patrick Malone – The Santa Fe New Mexican – 1 Oct.14

The U.S. Department of Energy aims to reopen the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, at least partially, by April 2016, according to a recovery plan unveiled Tuesday. But full resumption of operations at the underground nuclear waste repository might have to wait up to five years, federal officials said.

The estimated cost of bringing WIPP back to life could top $500 million, according to the report. WIPP stopped receiving waste shipments in February, when a truck fire followed by a radiation leak happened within days of each other.

“DOE is committed to reopening WIPP,” Mark Whitney, the department’s acting assistant secretary of environmental management, told reporters Tuesday. He acknowledged the “aggressive plan” seeks to open the waste storage facility sooner than many early estimates, which suggested WIPP would be closed until 2017 or beyond.

But a nuclear watchdog that closely monitors WIPP questioned whether the Energy Department has underestimated the time it will take to resume operations and understated the cost.

“Thirty-five years ago, DOE was saying WIPP was going to be open by the mid-’80s. Then 25 years ago, in the late ’80s, they were saying WIPP was going to be open in the early ’90s, and it didn’t open until 1999,” said Don Hancock, director of the nuclear waste safety program at the Southwest Research and Information Center. “They weren’t realistically looking at what it was going to take to open WIPP then, and now they’re not being realistic about when it will reopen. It will take a lot longer than that, and it’s going to cost a lot more than they’re saying.”

…more (http://bakken NULL.com/news/id/222328/cost-reviving-wipp-leak-top-500-million/)

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October 13, 2014   Add Comments

People Near WIPP Site destine to become New Generation of New Mexico Downwinders

\\\

…more (http://childrenofthebomb NULL.blogspot NULL.com/)

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October 13, 2014   Add Comments

WIPP holds 171,000 waste containers, they are exploding and 7 months on NO ONE KNOWS WHY

WIPP now holds more than 171,000 waste containers containing approximately 4.9 metric tons of plutonium. With a total cost that the Energy Department estimates at $7.2 billion, WIPP employs some 800 workers. The site involves an ongoing mining operation in which salt is loaded on trucks and conveyed to the surface, to other trucks that dump it in a disposal area. The floor space of the mine is designed to be substantially larger than the Pentagon’s. Waste packages are disposed in a 100-acre area that includes seven “rooms—each with a footprint as large as three football fields—carved out of the salt formation in the deep mine.

The WIPP problem, and what it means for defense nuclear waste disposal
Robert Alvarez – 23 Mar.14 – The Bulletin of Atomic Scientist

“It’s a surprise when there are no surprises,” a cleanup worker told me a few years ago at the Hanford site in Washington state, once the world’s largest producer of plutonium for nuclear weapons and now home to a massive effort to stop leaking nuclear waste tanks from poisoning the Columbia River. This maxim can hold painfully true for a variety of events assigned an extremely small chance of happening. On February 4, 2014, assumptions of very low probability crumbled at the Energy Department’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico, when a fire in a large salt truck raged for hours, deep underground.

Ten days later, an even more unlikely accident happened: Wastes containing plutonium blew through the WIPP ventilation system, traveling 2,150 feet to the surface, contaminating at least 17 workers, and spreading small amounts of radioactive material into the environment.

More than a month after the fire, WIPP remains closed, and what happened underground remains unclear. It is not known whether the leak and the truck fire are connected; a waste-drum explosion or the collapse of a roof of one of the facility’s storage chambers could be to blame for the radiation event. As Energy Department contractors send robots to explore WIPP’s caverns, the future of the world’s only operating high-hazard radioactive waste repository is uncertain. “Events like this simply should never occur. One event is far too many,” Ryan Flynn, New Mexico’s environment secretary, said immediately after the accident. The US Energy Department, which oversees WIPP, views the fire and leak as simply small bumps in the long road of running a long-term waste repository. “Without question, there is absolutely not an iota of doubt …. We will re-open,” David Klaus, the Energy Department deputy undersecretary, told the public in Carlsbad on March 8. But less than two weeks later, New Mexico seemed to have the last word on the immediate response to the accident, when it cancelled its permit for additional disposal at WIPP.

What WIPP does, and what it contains. In 1979, Congress authorized the design and construction of WIPP, planned to be a repository for a class of waste known as transuranic (TRU)–that is, radioactive elements heavier than uranium on the periodic chart, including plutonium, americium, curium and neptunium—and generated by the US defense effort after 1970. A bedded salt formation was chosen as the site of the project because of its presumed long-term stability and self-sealing properties. After several long-running legal challenges, Congress authorized the opening of WIPP in 1992 and set a cap of 175,000 cubic meters of waste to be disposed. Seven years later, WIPP began to receive wastes.

The end of the Cold War and the downsizing of the US nuclear weapons complex expanded WIPP’s mission to include excess plutonium. Instead of just contaminated rags, clothing and equipment, in 1998 the Energy Department decided to dispose of plutonium, originally part of the US strategic stockpile, from the now-closed Rocky Flats site. Some 3.5 tons, or more than 70 percent of the plutonium stored in WIPP, was originally meant to be used in nuclear weapons. …more (http://thebulletin NULL.org/wipp-problem-and-what-it-means-defense-nuclear-waste-disposal7002)

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September 21, 2014   Add Comments

Hanford Tank Farm Contractor leverages legal system furthering abuse, intimidation of Whistleblower

Order to rehire Hanford worker suspended
By Annette Cary – Tri-City Herald – 18 September, 2014

An administrative law judge is expected to consider whether the Hanford tank farm contractor must rehire former employee Shelly Doss, plus provide back pay and other compensation.

The Department of Labor announced in August that Washington River Protection Solutions violated whistleblower laws. It issued a preliminary order requiring the company to reinstate Doss to her former position as an environmental specialist and pay her more than $220,000.

However, it gave the contractor 30 days from notification to object before the order could take effect.

Washington River Protection Solutions filed an objection and a request for a hearing Wednesday, preventing the preliminary order from becoming final.

Although the preliminary order was dated July 22, Washington River Protection Solutions was not notified until Aug. 19, starting the clock on the 30-day period, according to the Department of Labor. All parties involved were notified of the Aug. 19 date, it said.

As outlined by federal regulations, Doss and Washington River Protection Solutions may present evidence to a Department of Labor judge, who will issue a decision. The final decision is the responsibility of an administrative review board.

The preliminary order required that Doss be given the job she had before being terminated Oct. 3, 2011. It required Washington River Protection Solutions, the Hanford tank farm contractor, to pay her the wages she would have made since then, plus any annual raises, and interest.

In addition the preliminary order called for payments of her attorney fees, $20,000 for emotional distress, $10,000 for callous disregard of protected rights as a whistleblower and $4,381 for her expenses.

Washington River Protection Solutions has not taken the actions outlined in the preliminary order, which included hiring Doss and posting a notice advising all of its employees of their rights as whistleblowers.

Regulations cited in the Department of Labor notification to Washington River Protection Solutions said the preliminary order would be suspended if either party filed an objection within 30 days, which would have been Thursday.

The investigation by the Department of Labor found that Doss had filed a whistleblower complaint while employed at the tank farms in 2009, which was settled with the help of the Hanford Concerns Council.

…more (http://www NULL.tri-cityherald NULL.com/2014/09/18/3160219_judge-to-hear-hanford-whistleblowers NULL.html?sp=/99/900/1643/&rh=1)

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September 21, 2014   Add Comments

DOE Inc. uses “plausible fiction”, “Sister Barrels”, as smoke screen to hide truth about WIPP radiation leak

The facts remain, DOE, Inc. and its partners, who brought you the WIPP radiation leak through their incompetence and reckless disregard for the land and people of New Mexico, have been obstructing New Mexico’s Investigation (http://bit NULL.ly/1uS6Pmb) into their negligence and are constructing lies and giving bribes to restart their failed “revenue engine”. All the while, DOE, Inc. and its partners, continue to grasp at straws to explain the radiation leak, inventing “plausible fictions” about what really caused the leak. They are moving ahead with the recovery and reopening WIPP, a failed Nuclear Plant without a fundamental understanding of the cause of the disaster. At this point they have few clues about how the accident happened and they really have no idea how many unstable waste barrels, become “radioactive dirty bombs”, may actually be strewn about between New Mexico and West Texas. WIPP has become the “Mother of All Scams”, as Secretary Moniz, with his notoriously strange hairdo, arrived on the scene in “mad-hatter” fashion, with a TRU-PAC LOADED with CASH to help keep the Nations failed Nuclear Waste program from being exposed as the fraud it is…

With no alternatives or plans on the drawing boards, the extent of exposure from the “accident that was never supposed to happen”, has reached well beyond the injured workers in Carlsbad. It includes the grotesque exposure of the government-industry wedding, that allows greed, corruption and incompetence to thrive while it substitutes our health and safety for another pay-off at the tax-payers expense. The WIPP Radiation Leak has strikingly similar patterns of corruption, incompetence and revolving door industry-government career opportunity that allowed BP’s Moconda Well to blow-out in 2010, resulting in the worst oil spill in US history. The Federal government’s agency, Minerals and Mines Service, became a key enabler for the Moconda disaster that cast a sheen of death and destruction across the gulf coast from New Orleans to Florida, not unlike DOE, Inc. – more (http://wapo NULL.st/1wtw9mb).

The unusual and unholy union of defenders of “Nuclear New Mexico”, Heinrich, Udall and Martinez, must adandon WIPP and stop trying to save one of the state’s cash cows, that can only remain as a curse against New Mexico for generations to come. We need economic diversification without burying us in the legacy of America’s deadly and unkempt Nuclear Neglect. What non-nuclear industry, small or large is going to consider New Mexico if has to contend with our legacy of nuclear negligence and generations of workers and citizens made sick by drunk, on greed, neoconservative-meet-neoliberal, profiteers. Our States politicians must stop sacrificing the people and our land as a convenient way to fill State coffers and line the pockets of the their benefactors and the profiteers whose lackeys occupy the wings of our State and Federal Legislative bodies. – no2wipp oped.

exploded

LANL’s burst barrel has sister drum at WIPP
17 September, 2014 – By Patrick Malone – The New Mexican

Investigators are still trying to pinpoint what caused this drum of radioactive waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory to pop open and leak in an underground repository near Carlsbad. A second drum of nuclear waste contains the same volatile mix of ingredients from Los Alamos National Laboratory. Courtesy Los Alamos National Laboratory

A second drum of nuclear waste contains the same volatile mix of ingredients from Los Alamos National Laboratory that is suspected of causing a radiation leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, lawmakers learned Tuesday.

The revelation came during a meeting of the New Mexico Legislature’s Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee in Carlsbad. It signals renewed cause for concern, considering that the precise cause of the Feb. 14 rupture of a waste drum that exposed more than 20 WIPP workers to radiation has not been identified, according to a nuclear watchdog with a close eye on the below-ground nuclear waste repository.

“We need to know what the cause is. We can’t really reopen WIPP until we know what the cause is, and until then we won’t know that it won’t happen again,” said Don Hancock, director of the nuclear waste safety program at the Southwest Research and Information Center.

Terry Wallace Jr., the lab’s WIPP recovery manager, told the committee that in addition to the waste drum that burst in February in Panel 7 Room 7 at WIPP, a drum housed in nearby Panel 6 contains the same worrisome mix of waste: organic kitty litter, acid neutralizer and a lead-laden glove introduced during treatment of the Cold War-era waste at Los Alamos. …more (http://www NULL.santafenewmexican NULL.com/news/local_news/lanl-s-burst-barrel-has-sister-drum-at-wipp/article_8f27843b-a1ea-5616-af74-f6d9eb34e61e NULL.html)

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September 21, 2014   Add Comments

YELLOW FEVER – A film Uncovering The Navajo Uranium Legacy

…more (http://www NULL.yellowfeverfilm NULL.com/#!news/c1vud)

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September 20, 2014   Add Comments

French Nuclear Energy Giant AREVA leaves Niger penniless while indulging in Yellow Cake Smorgasbord

18 August, 2014 – 100Voices (http://100r NULL.org/2014/08/100voices-ali-idrissa/)

As the president of France made a state visit to Niger in July, Ali Idrissa, head of civic group ROTAB, or Network of Organizations for Transparency and Budget Analysis, called on citizens to turn out wearing yellow scarves and tee-shirts. The goal: to protest France’s extraction of uranium for nuclear energy while so many in Niger lack access to electricity.

The yellow scarves are a symbol of yellowcake uranium, which fuels the plants “that makes the Metro run, that lights up the Eiffel Tower,” Idrissa says, while 90 percent of Nigerians live without electricity. Here, Idrissa discusses the divide, and his arrest to prevent civic protests from disturbing the visit of François Hollande.

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September 20, 2014   Add Comments

New Mexico Environment Secretary says DOE Inc. blocking State Investigation of Nuke Waste Disaster

wippgate

State official accuses feds of hampering probe of WIPP leak
6 Sep.2014 – By Patrick Malone – The New Mexican

New Mexico’s top environmental regulator lashed out at the U.S. Department of Energy this week, accusing it of impeding the state’s investigation into the circumstances that led to a radiation leak earlier this year at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad.

During his keynote speech to an audience representing federal agencies, industry, academia, national labs and all levels of government at the annual Radwaste Summit in Summerlin, Nev., New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn warned that Los Alamos National Laboratory and WIPP could face steeper sanctions from the state because of what he characterized as Energy Department roadblocks that have protracted the probe.

“The problem is that Department of Energy headquarters back in Washington, D.C., is looking at this situation through a political or [public relations] lens, so they’ve put a noose around the scientific personnel who can answer our questions and move this process along,” Flynn told The New Mexican.

On Feb. 14, a drum of nuclear waste that originated at Los Alamos burst at WIPP, the nation’s only below-ground repository for waste generated during decades of Cold War nuclear weapons production. The cause of the chemical reaction that triggered the drum to rupture remains under investigation by several federal agencies and the New Mexico Environment Department, which holds permitting authority over both LANL and WIPP. WIPP has ceased receiving waste indefinitely since the release.

Increasingly in recent weeks, the federal Energy Department has thwarted attempts by the state Environment Department to gather information for its investigation, according to Flynn. Six weeks ago, at a legislative hearing in Los Alamos, Flynn lauded LANL’s cooperation with the state investigation into the radiation leak, including the lab’s confession to treating the suspected drum without a permit, a process that left behind a lead-laden glove that’s being eyed as a contributing factor in the leak. On Friday, Flynn accused the Energy Department of muzzling scientists with crucial information about the waste stream.

He said at times during the state’s investigation into the leak, LANL personnel have provided “outstanding communication” about the possible cause of the radiation release. But when the Environment Department has asked for documentation supporting the scientists’ observations, the Energy Department has repeatedly refused to provide it. …more (http://www NULL.santafenewmexican NULL.com/news/local_news/flynn-accuses-feds-of-blocking-wipp-probe/article_d20f9fdd-ded2-5a2d-b15f-8e13190681cd NULL.html)

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September 7, 2014   Add Comments

WIPP Readies for Grand Re-Open Amid DOE Inc., Lies, Deception and Misdirection

radbarrels

WIPP operator prepares draft plan for reopening
By Lauren Villagran – Abq Journal Las Cruces Bureau – 27 August, 2014

A recovery is underway at a troubled New Mexico nuclear waste repository even as an investigation into the cause of a radiation leak there continues, according to an Energy Department contractor.

Nuclear Waste Partnership has presented a draft recovery plan for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant to the Department of Energy for review. The plan, scheduled for release in the coming weeks, is expected to offer details on how the contractor plans to deal with radiation contamination in the deep underground mine outside Carlsbad.

“They are looking at resuming limited operations in early 2016 and looking at resuming full operations in late 2017,” said New Mexico Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn, who has been briefed on the draft plan.

Clean-up activities have already begun, NWP Recovery Manager Jim Blankenhorn said at a recent town hall in Carlsbad. And although the recovery plan is still in draft form, it specifies “the first set of activities we’re going to do, regardless of what the final product looks like.”

On Feb. 14, a hot reaction inside at least one drum of nuclear waste stored at WIPP resulted in the release of plutonium and americium particles. The radiation contaminated several of WIPP’s long, underground hallways and also found its way into the environment in low levels.

Seven months on, scientists are still trying to figure out what caused the hot reaction and radiation release.

In the meantime, NWP teams have begun making daily entries into WIPP for something called “rollback,” in which every area of the underground facility is being tested and characterized for radiation contamination. A map is emerging showing which areas are safe and which are not, with buffer zones labeled in between. …more (http://www NULL.abqjournal NULL.com/452498/news/wipp-operator-prepares-draft-plan-for-reopening NULL.html)

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September 7, 2014   Add Comments

LANL to relabel exploding Nuke Waste Barrels as “ignitable” or “corrosive” – feeling better now

exploded

Review, relabeling of LANL waste raises questions about scope of problem
By Staci Matlock – The New Mexican

As investigators keep trying to pinpoint what caused a drum of radioactive waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory to pop open and leak in an underground repository near Carlsbad, the lab’s review of the incident has led to uncertainty over the volatility of hundreds of other drums, including dozens still at Los Alamos.

The lab notified state environment officials late last month that it was re-evaluating and relabeling as “ignitable” or “corrosive” the contents of 86 drums at LANL.

The drums contain nitrate salts similar to those in the drum that ruptured Feb. 14 at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Southern New Mexico.

The Department of Energy also is reviewing and relabeling more than 300 LANL containers with similar chemicals that are stored in WIPP’s underground salt caverns.

The re-evaluation raises questions about the scope of the problem that led to the leak at WIPP. Lab officials had previously said they believed the problem was isolated to two drums that contained a unique blend of chemicals, causing one of the drums to burst.

The lab’s review of 86 waste drums also prompted state regulators to question whether the lab has authority to “provisionally” relabel those drums as ignitable or corrosive while the contents are analyzed.

Relabeling the drums “does not affect the permanent underground disposal of the waste at WIPP,” said lab spokesman Matt Nerzig. “The drums at Los Alamos are stored safely and securely in robust structures with high efficiency particulate air filtering and fire detection and suppression systems. The drums are visually inspected and monitored for temperature daily.”

Investigators still haven’t determined exactly why a lid on a lab waste container cracked at WIPP, causing the first leak in the waste facility’s 15-year history. But they are looking at possible chemical reactions after kitty litter and neutralizers were added to the drum, which also contained nitrate salts and a lead-laden glove. Some chemists have theorized the added ingredients could have caused waste in the drum to ignite.

Lab staff overseeing waste handling operations at LANL approved the addition of both the kitty litter and the neutralizers by lab contractor EnergySolutions to the drums containing nitrate salt. The lab also approved a switch from a clay litter to a wheat-based litter and agreed to use of a neutralizer that manufacturers warned shouldn’t be mixed with certain chemicals. …more (http://www NULL.santafenewmexican NULL.com/news/local_news/lanl-s-review-relabeling-of-waste-drums-raises-questions-about/article_08aae724-dfb5-5e99-a387-6dc3c91fd295 NULL.html)

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September 7, 2014   Add Comments

Heinrich, Udall, WTF up with the missing mine inspections at WIPP?

DOE Inc. and Corrupt Partner URS are taking New Mexico for a ride just like the have WA with Hanford. Not only are they not inspecting the mine(WIPP), they allowed nuclear leaks and pretend nothing is wrong and have the audacity to boast of their Safety Record. Reckless negligence and permanent damage to New Mexico is what happened. New Mexico’s Nuclear corridor is a sales slogan. IT BULLSHIT AND BAD FOR YOU.

apydog

The Pup wants to know why an area with rich history of mining are not doing mine inspections?

Want Explanation Of Missing Inspection At Carlsbad Nuclear Waste Plant
27 March, 2014 – KRWG

U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich today announced that they have sent a letter to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, asking for a written report on why the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) had not done legally required regular inspections at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, N.M.

The information about missed safety inspections was revealed in the Department of Energy’s accident report on the Feb. 5 fire at WIPP. A specialized salt mine over 2,000 feet below ground, WIPP is covered by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. By law, the Labor Department’s MSHA is required to inspect WIPP no less than four times a year. Yet records in the accident report indicate that MSHA had performed inspections just twice in the last three years.

”The health and safety of the workers at WIPP and the surrounding community are our top priorities and it is extremely concerning to learn that a fire in the mining portion of WIPP was a preventable circumstance,” Udall and Heinrich wrote.

The senators asked Perez to provide them with an explanation of the factors that led MSHA to miss inspections, a summary of the findings of the inspections that MSHA did complete, assurance that MSHA will follow the inspection process in the future, a summary of steps MSHA will take to ensure that such an accident does not occur again, and a pledge that MSHA staff will be available at WIPP throughout the recovery process to ensure the safety of the investigations, remediation, and future re-opening of WIPP. …more (http://krwg NULL.org/post/udall-heinrich-want-explanation-missing-inspection-carlsbad-nuclear-waste-plant)

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September 7, 2014   Add Comments

Missing Records, Radiation Monitoring Lapses, Exploding Radioactive Barrels – Lies and Deception in New Mexico

WIPP; Cause Still Unknown, Missing Records, State Radiation Monitoring Lapsed
28 August, 21024 – Simply Info.

The LA Times covers the ongoing issues at WIPP. Their findings match with ours in our efforts to follow the events after the explosion in the mine. Records kept at WIPP have many missing records in the public inventory system. We have asked WIPP and DOE officials multiple times through multiple channels why the inventory system has so many blank and missing record files. They have repeatedly refused to provide an explanation for the blank barrel records or to explain when that would be corrected.

The Times also points out during the initial incident there was no radiation protection staff at the plant and they were unable to locate the on call person. It also took 13 hours to set up the emergency response center.

The state of New Mexico has admitted they did not have radiation monitoring staff in the Carlsbad office. An EPA review found missing, mis-dated and incorrect radiation readings from the state agency intended to be an independent oversight of the feds. At the most recent meeting it appears they have now staffed that position in Carlsbad as a new radiation monitoring staff member was introduced.

This article would not be possible without the extensive efforts of the SimplyInfo research team
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September 7, 2014   Add Comments

DOE Inc., Experts, to Release 7000 points-of-confusion clean-up plan to confuse, divide public over “WIPP Recovery”

realtionships

Officials say they will detail 7,000-point nuke dump cleanup plan in 2 weeks
4 Sep.14 – Associated Press – Star tribune

CARLSBAD, N.M. — Officials working to reopen the federal government’s troubled nuclear waste dump in southeastern New Mexico say they are making significant progress and will detail their recovery plans in two weeks.

Tammy Reynolds, who is leading the effort at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, told a community meeting Thursday evening that there are more than 7,000 pieces to the plan for cleaning up radiological contamination and resuming operations after a mysterious February leak that contaminated 22 workers.

Officials have said it could be three years before WIPP completely reopens.

It’s still unclear exactly what caused the leak from a barrel of waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory.

WIPP is the government’s only permanent repository for legacy waste such as contaminated gloves, tools and clothing from decades of nuclear bomb building. …source (http://www NULL.startribune NULL.com/nation/274035231 NULL.html)

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September 7, 2014   Add Comments

DOE Inc. Suppresses the Information, URS Strong Arms the Workers – Sound Familiar

whistleblower

Hanford’s Toxic Avengers
The Department of Energy is accused of suppressing deadly nuclear-cleanup flaws.
By Joshua Frank – 21 Feb.12 – Seattle Weekly

Once home to the nation’s largest plutonium-making facility, Hanford, Washington, is now one of the most toxic nuclear-waste sites in the world. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is currently spending $2 billion a year to clean up the 586-square-mile reservation. However, not all is well on Washington’s dusty southeastern edge: Whistle-blowers are stepping forward, claiming that taxpayer money is being spent recklessly on a project riddled with potentially deadly design defects.
Nuclear sign

Donna Busche, who has been employed by contractor URS (originally known as United Research Services) as acting Manager of Environmental and Nuclear Safety at Hanford’s Waste Treatment Plant (WTP) since 2009, is among the latest of these senior managers to speak out about what she sees as the silencing of those who raise concerns about possibly lethal safety issues. Last November, Busche filed a complaint of discrimination under the federal whistle-blower protection statutes with the U.S. Department of Labor, alleging retaliation against her for reporting problems at the WTP, which one day will turn Hanford’s 56 million gallons of highly hazardous radioactive waste into storable glass rods through a process known as vitrification.

Climbing the corporate ladder in the male-dominated engineering world was no easy feat. But Busche, as numerous co-workers say, is tough, politically savvy, and scientifically skilled. After attending graduate school at Texas A&M and before arriving at Hanford, Busche was the Chief Nuclear Engineer and Manager of Nuclear Safety at the DOE’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico.

Busche’s job at Hanford is to ensure that the site’s contractors produce adequate documentation to support the contractor’s compliance with federal environmental and nuclear-safety laws, meaning that virtually no aspect of construction can take place at the WTP until Busche says it is safe to do so. “I’m where the nuclear-safety buck stops,” says Busche.

If Busche says “Stop,” the work must stop. But saying “Stop” to the wrong guys, Busche claims, has gotten her in a heap of trouble with Hanford higher-ups. …more (http://www NULL.seattleweekly NULL.com/2012-02-22/news/hanford-s-toxic-avengers/)

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September 7, 2014   Add Comments

DOE Inc., Partners, have Rich History of lies, misdirection, delays bilking taxpayers, lining contractor’s pockets

…the leak between the [tank] walls should have triggered Washington law calling for an immediate response. DOE took two months to confirm the initial leak between the walls. Six months later, DOE announced to Washington’s Department of Ecology that they’d be sending a plan for pumping the tank… That plan calls for pumping to be complete by 2019. So, released materials will not be removed within 24 hours: more like six or seven years, depending on when you started the clock ticking.

Stories about Hanford seem to recapitulate a cascading set of failures by the Department of Energy in its mismanagement of Hanford’s clean-up, the cost of which, averaging $2 billion per year, now totals some $40 billion. …endless series of missteps — or intentional foot-dragging. …a month after multiple tests showed radioactive contamination, [DOE] gave the Hanford Advisory Panel the impression that it might simply be rainwater intrusion. …official confirmation of the leak came on the same day the public comment period ended for the state’s dangerous waste permit for Hanford.

A Different Kind of Leak Gives Lie to DOE’s Hanford “Clean-Up”
Michael van Baker – 21 Jun.13 – The Sunbreak

nuketanks

News organizations are reporting today that a double-walled tank at Hanford may be leaking highly radioactive waste into the soil below it, based on heightened measurements of contamination in that area. Previously, when word of the leak in AY-102 leaked out in 2012 (see: “Hanford worker’s struggle to ‘do the right thing‘”), the waste was thought to be contained within the double walls.

Though it was known that the tank contained some 707,000 gallons of liquid radioactive waste, Department of Energy assistant manager of the tank farms Tom Fletcher minimized the risk at the time, saying: “This is fixed contamination on the floor. There is no liquid. There is no vapor.” By June 2013, visible evidence of wet radioactive waste, amounting to almost a half-gallon, was being reported.

This isn’t Hanford’s only ongoing leak. At least six single-walled tanks are leaking radioactive waste as well. In mid-February, the DOE confirmed that T-111 was leaking 150 to 300 gallons of radioactive liquid waste each year. (The following week, five more leaking tanks were reported by DOE.) It’s accepted that, over the decades since the tanks were built, 67 have leaked over one million gallons into the soil, contamination that over time makes its way into groundwater a few hundred feet below the tanks, and toward the Columbia River, some five to eight miles distant. …more (http://thesunbreak NULL.com/2013/06/21/a-different-kind-of-leak-gives-lie-to-does-hanford-clean-up/)

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September 7, 2014   Add Comments

Aftermath of Radioactive Disaster, Radioactive Wild Boars Roam Country Side

radioactivehogs

Chernobyl Disaster Leaves Radioactive Wild Boars Roaming Germany
2 Sep., 2014 – NBC News

MAINZ, Germany — Nearly three decades after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, wild boars containing high levels of radiation have been found roaming the German countryside some 700 miles away. The explosion at the Ukrainian plant in 1986 spread a radioactive cloud over Europe. One in three boars tested in Germany’s eastern state of Saxony still exceed legal radioactive limits, officials say. “You should not expect that wild boars in the southern Vogtland region are now glowing in the dark, but regulations in Germany and the European Union are very strict,” local environment ministry spokesman Frank Meyer told NBC News.

Between September 2012 and August 2013, 297 out of 752 boars exceeded legal limits of radiation — particularly the hazardous isotope Caesium 137, which has a 30-year half-life and decays slowly. But to give an idea of how strict the regulations really are, experts say that a person would have to eat 13 kilograms of contaminated meat to get the same low-level radioactive effects of being on a transatlantic flight. Saxony boars are particularly affected because of heavy rain in the region directly after the disaster, and “their diet of mushrooms and other plants that store radiation,” according to Klaus Richter from Saxony’s hunting association. Germany’s boar population has skyrocketed over the past 20 years. Since 2012, hunters in Saxony have been required by law to test every animal they shoot. …source (http://www NULL.nbcnews NULL.com/news/world/chernobyl-disaster-leaves-radioactive-wild-boars-roaming-germany-n193596)

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September 3, 2014   Add Comments

The cost of caring for Europe’s ageing nuclear plants

The cost of caring for Europe’s elderly nuclear plants
By Nina Chestney and Susanna Twidale -18 August, 2014

(Reuters) – Europe’s ageing nuclear fleet will undergo more prolonged outages over the next few years, reducing the reliability of power supply and costing plant operators many millions of dollars.

Nuclear power provides about a third of the European Union’s electricity generation, but the 28-nation bloc’s 131 reactors are well past their prime, with an average age of 30 years.

And the energy companies, already feeling the pinch from falling energy prices and weak demand, want to extend the life of their plants into the 2020s, to put off the drain of funding new builds.

Closing the older nuclear plants is not an option for many EU countries, which are facing an energy capacity crunch as other types of plant are being closed or mothballed because they can’t cover their operating costs, or to meet stricter environmental regulation.

Though renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power are slowly rising in the mix, they do not produce a constant output, so other sources will always be needed for backup. [ID:nL6N0QK2K0]

But as nuclear plants age, performance can suffer, and outages – both scheduled and unplanned – rise.

With nuclear safety in the spotlight since the 2011 reactor meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima plant – which in turn prompted Germany to call time on its entire nuclear fleet – operators can take no chances with their elderly plants, but the outages get longer and more difficult.

“These reactors were designed over 30 years ago. The people involved are either retired or dead, and most of the companies involved no longer exist,” said John Large, an independent nuclear engineer and analyst who has carried out work for Britain’s Atomic Energy Authority.

Jean Tandonnet, EDF Group’s nuclear safety inspector, said in January that its French fleet last year had a series of “problematic unit outages”, and scheduled outages were extended by an average of more than 26 days. Regular maintenance and major equipment replacement jobs had increased by 60 percent in the last six years, he said.

“(At an ageing plant) outages take slightly longer, and there is more work to do to make sure it is in top condition. Safety comes ahead of anything else,” a spokeswoman for EDF Energy in the UK said.

France is the EU’s nuclear leader, its 58 reactors producing nearly three quarters of the country’s electricity. France’s nuclear watchdog will make a final decision on whether to extend the life of the French fleet to 50 years in 2018 or 2019. EDF has estimated the extension would cost 55 billion euros.

“The average age of the (French) reactors is now about 30 years, which raises questions about the investment needed to enable them to continue operating, as ageing reactors increasingly need parts to be replaced,” according to the World Nuclear Industry Status report 2014.

SAFETY FIRST

Though the EU has conducted risk and safety tests on the bloc’s nuclear plants, environmental campaigners say the tests failed to address risks associated with ageing technology, among other things.

With exposure to radiation, high temperatures and pressure, the components of nuclear plants take a battering over time.

“They can, for example, become more brittle, susceptible to cracking or less able to cope with temperature extremes,” said Anthony Froggatt, senior research fellow at London-based thinktank Chatham House.

“While this can be monitored, it can be problematic if ageing occurs at a greater rate than anticipated or it occurs in areas which are difficult to access or monitor,” he added.

As reactors age, there is also a risk of finding a generic design flaw that could affect all the reactors in a country if they are of the same design.

GERIATRIC DISORDERS

Britain has 16 reactors in operation that came online from the 1970s to 1990s, and all but one will be retired by 2023 unless they get extensions. [ID:nL6N0PD3V3]

At the Wylfa plant in Wales – Britain’s oldest, at 43 years – the one remaining operational reactor was out of service for seven months this year. It was first taken down for maintenance, but the restart was delayed as new problems were discovered.

The reactor is scheduled to be taken out of service for good in September, but operator Magnox is seeking an extension to December 2015.

This week, EDF Energy took offline three of its nuclear reactors at its Heysham 1 and Hartlepool plants in Britain for inspection which are both 31 years old, after a crack was discovered on a boiler spine of another Heysham 1 reactor with a similar boiler design, which had already been taken offline in June. [ID:nL6N0QH107] [POWER/GB]

The boilers will be checked for defects with thermal imagery done using robotics, and the firm will know more about what caused the fault after the inspections, which should take around eight weeks, the EDF Energy spokeswoman said.

EDF Energy has been incorporating extra checks into its strategy for its ageing nuclear plants since it inherited them from previous operator British Energy, she said.

British Energy was delisted in 2009 following financial collapse. Several unplanned outages had reduced its power output, and its load factor – the ratio of actual output to its maximum capacity – fell to its lowest level of 56 percent in 2009, Britain’s National Archives show.

This compares with EDF’s average load factor for its French nuclear fleet of 73 percent in 2013, which is also down from its highest level of 77.6 percent in 2005, the company’s 2013 results show.

The fleet’s net output of electricity has declined from 429 terawatt hours in 2005 to 404 TWh last year, though this could be for a range of reasons, including weak energy demand.

Apart from reducing the reliability of Europe’s electricity supply, operators stand to lose many millions of euros from a single outage from lost electricity sales alone.

Reuters calculations, based on industry estimates of lost daily electricity sales, show the outages at two EDF Energy plants could cost the firm some 155 million pounds during the outages from when they began in June or August to October, not including the costs of inspection and maintenance work.

Industry sources say the lost revenue from the loss of output at a 1 gigawatt plant could reach 1 million pounds a day.

British utility Centrica, which owns 20 percent of EDF Energy’s nuclear fleet, said on Monday the reduction in output would reduce its earnings per share by around 0.3 pence this year. [ID:nL6N0QH0SZ]

More than half of Belgium’s nuclear capacity is offline for maintenance. The three closed reactors are 29, 31 and 32 years old.

Though it doesn’t break out the nuclear data separately, statistics from Europe’s electricity industry association Eurelectric show both planned and unplanned outages mostly increased at thermal power plants in eight European countries examined, and periods of energy unavailability increased from around 12.8 percent in 2002 to 18.3 percent in 2011.

As the plants age, that can only increase. …source (http://www NULL.reuters NULL.com/article/2014/08/18/us-europe-nuclear-power-insight-idUSKBN0GH05U20140818?i=1&irpc=932)

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August 19, 2014   Add Comments

No Where to Run to – TEPCO Eyes Pacific to Dump Hot Waste Water

As Radioactive Water Accumulates, TEPCO Eyes Pacific Ocean As Dumping Ground
By Nick Cunningham – 17 August, 2014

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the embattled owner of Japan’s crippled nuclear reactors, has said it is running out of space to store water contaminated with radioactive materials and is proposing to treat the water and dump it in the Pacific Ocean.

Up until now, TEPCO has been storing radioactive water in giant storage tanks on the site of its Fukushima reactor. But groundwater continually flowing into the reactor site becomes contaminated as it does so. Containing and storing an ever-increasing volume of contaminated water is a bit like running on a treadmill – new groundwater becomes contaminated just as TEPCO succeeds in removing previously contaminated water. Meanwhile, the storage tanks multiply around the reactor complex.

In June, TEPCO began construction on what it hoped would be a more permanent solution – an “ice wall.” This is how it is supposed to work: TEPCO would insert 1,500 pipes into the ground around the damaged reactors. It would then flow liquid through the pipes at -30 degrees Celsius, which would freeze the soil. That way, as groundwater rushed downhill towards the complex, the ice wall would block the water from flowing underneath the plant.

Separately, TEPCO is trying to freeze the contaminated water that has leaked directly from the reactor buildings into underground trenches. In total, a staggering 11,000 metric tons of water containing substances like uranium and plutonium has accumulated. TEPCO has thus far failed to freeze the contaminated water, and had to resort to dumping ice onto the site in an effort to freeze the area.

Now the company has admitted that it can’t keep up. So it wants approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Authority to pump out the water, treat it, and begin dumping it into the Pacific.

“We know we have to get an agreement from the relevant government authorities, the prefecture and local fishing unions,” a TEPCO spokesman said recently.

But pushback from the public could present a problem. “We would never consider dumping the water into the ocean unless we received the consent of local residents,” the TEPCO official told the Asahi Shimbun. “The water close to the plant buildings is already contaminated. Fishermen are sure to raise objections to the plan, so it will be difficult to gain their understanding.”

The Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) has been critical of the company for not solely focusing on the contaminated trench water – which it says should be the highest priority – but spending resources on issues with lower priority.

“The biggest risk is the trench water. Until that matter is addressed, it will be difficult to proceed with other decommissioning work,” Shunichi Tanaka, NRA chairman said at a news conference, according to the Wall Street Journal. “It appears that they are getting off track.”

Controlling, treating, storing and disposing of contaminated water is the most critical task in the near-term. Even if that can be resolved, the next step will be actually decommissioning the destroyed reactors – a colossal engineering challenge expected to take 40 years and cost more than $15 billion. Nothing like it has ever been done before; indeed, the task is so unprecedented, it will require robotics that haven’t been invented yet.

But first, TEPCO has to find a place for its toxic water. …more (http://thediplomat NULL.com/2014/08/as-radioactive-water-accumulates-tepco-eyes-pacific-ocean-as-dumping-ground)

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August 18, 2014   Add Comments

First of WIPP Nuke Accident Law Suits Filed Against Negligent Plant Operators

WIPP employee sues over respiratory issues
By Lauren Villagran – Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer – Las Cruces Bureau – 14 August, 2014

In the first personal injury lawsuit to come to light since a fire and radiation leak hit a southeast New Mexico nuclear waste repository, a worker is suing the contractor in charge for alleged negligence and injuries resulting from smoke inhalation.

William Utter, a waste handler for contractor Nuclear Waste Partnership, filed the lawsuit in Santa Fe in May seeking unspecified compensation and punitive damages for a litany of injuries, including smoke and toxin inhalation, and mental and emotional distress.

His wife, Amada, and 10-year-old son are also party to the case.

Utter evacuated the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant salt mine along with 85 other workers on Feb. 5 after a salt haul truck caught fire some 2,150 feet below the surface. He was among the 13 workers treated for smoke inhalation and among the six sent to the hospital that day for further treatment.

Attorney Justin Rodriguez said Utter has been making regular trips to Albuquerque and Denver to see respiratory specialists recommended to him by NWP’s insurance carrier due to the injury; the lawsuit does not specify the diagnosis. Utter has been receiving workers’ compensation disability payments since the summer, Rodriguez said.

The business registrations of NWP along with parent URS Energy and Construction Inc., also named in the lawsuit, are in Santa Fe.

NWP spokesman Donavan Mager said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Citing “employee privacy issues,” Mager also declined to say how many workers, if any, were receiving disability payments in connection with either the fire or radiation leak.

In a court document, NWP attorneys refuted Utter’s claims, saying the “defendants do not believe that the complaint states a legally sufficient cause of action.”

The Department of Energy and NWP have maintained since the beginning that no workers were seriously injured in either of the February incidents. On a WIPP website, the DOE says “one employee continues to be treated for smoke inhalation as a result of the fire.”

In addition to the workers treated for smoke inhalation following the fire, 22 workers tested positive for radiation contamination after the Feb. 14 radiation leak at levels deemed unharmful to health.

The lawsuit draws heavily on a March accident investigation report on the fire that outlines in detail dozens of problems in safety and maintenance at the repository – deficiencies that included an ineffective fire suppression system on the truck, inoperable mine phones and ineffective emergency response training.

The report concluded the accident could have been prevented.

WIPP employs more than 1,000 workers, including both contractor and DOE employees. NWP employees are not permitted to speak to the news media.

Utter has worked for NWP for eight years and is a member of the Carlsbad chapter of the United Steelworkers union.

He declined to be interviewed by the Journal but shared through his attorney a recorded interview with a doctor in which he details the health issues he has faced since escaping the mine fire. Rodriguez said the video was prepared in conjunction with the lawsuit.

Choking back a constant, persistent cough, Utter’s voice is hoarse as he answers questions asked by a person off-camera.

“I get tired,” he said. “I start coughing real hard. I start vomiting. … It’s just like this all the time.”

Hearings have not yet been scheduled in the case. …source (http://www NULL.abqjournal NULL.com/445530/news/wipp-worker-sues-over-health-issues NULL.html?paperboy=loggedin630am&utm_source=Albuquerque+Journal+Newsletters&utm_campaign=140dd13d26-paperboy_daily_north_140814_063801&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_2dcf4c82cd-140dd13d26-108267885?paperboy=loggedin&utm_source=emailed2friend)

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August 14, 2014   Add Comments

Energy Secretary tries to rally support in community brusied by Nuke Waste Plant

Moniz: WIPP ‘core facility’ for US
By Zack Ponce – 13 August, 2014- Carlsbad Current Argus

CARLSBAD >> U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told the Carlsbad community and workers at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant that the federal government is committed to reopening the nuclear waste facility and ensuring that it operates for many years to come.

Moniz said WIPP was an “absolutely core facility for the country” and that all necessary resources would be deployed to help it recover and thrive after a truck at the plant caught fire Feb. 5 and then a radiation leak was detected Feb. 14. The plant has been closed for six months.

“If you stick with us, we’ll stick with you,” Moniz said, beginning a roughly 15-minute speech in front of about 250 people at the Leo Sweet Center on Monday night. “We are absolutely committed to this facility. We are, of course, committed to bringing it back to initial operations and then eventually to full operations, with safety fully in mind.”

Moniz was joined by U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, and New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn at the town hall. On Tuesday morning New Mexico’s congressional delegation toured WIPP along with Moniz, and all three of them agreed with the Energy secretary that the facility should be reopened as soon as possible.

Moniz said it appears evident that some sort of chemical reaction occurred in the waste drum that spewed trace amounts of americium and plutonium up to a half-mile outside of WIPP, but the Department of Energy is still not ready to release a full recovery plan.

Moniz said the Department of Energy could release its plan by late September, but said safety is the top concern in the recovery process.

“We don’t need artificial dates driving us,” Moniz said. “We need understanding and performance, because we don’t want something that is going to compromise safety.”

WIPP opened in 1999 and has taken transuranic nuclear waste to help clean up 22 legacy waste sites across the country. The transuranic waste, commonly referred to as “TRU” waste, is stored 2,150 feet below ground in the region’s Permian-age salt beds.

Moniz concluded by telling Carlsbad that the Department of Energy would not abandon the city that one day hopes to expand operations at WIPP beyond what is currently authorized by Congress.

“All of these things are in our mutual interest: getting back as soon as we can and keeping our skilled workforce together,” Moniz said. “We’re going to have bumps in the road, (but) we’re going to continue to advocate for the resources needed.”

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August 14, 2014   Add Comments