Monthly Archives: February 2014

Fire at nuclear dump in New Mexico.

On Feb. 9, 2014 the New York Times reported about the   nuclear depository in Carlsbad, New Mexico. It is half a mile below the surface, and was thought to be an ideal storage site for nuclear weapons waste.  However, the article goes on to say that there had recently been a fire at the site

 when a truck hauling salt in the mine caught fire. Smoke forced an evacuation of workers and a shutdown of waste burial operations, which officials said was temporary. They said the fire did not affect the radioactive waste, which is stored at the other end of the mine…. the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, WIPP for short, is drawing new attention here in the New Mexico desert. At a time when the effort to find a place for highly radioactive civilian and military wastes is at a near-standstill, officials say the site might be a solution.

Initially, there was reported to be no danger to people or the facility.     However, the story has become more ominous with the passage of time.   There was a report today by CBS that

Officials said they can tell from their analyses of air samples in and around the plant that a container of waste leaked, but it could be weeks before they can get underground to find out what caused it. Possible scenarios include a ceiling collapse or a forklift puncturing a canister, Farok Sharif, president of the Nuclear Waste Partnership, said Monday before a community meeting in Carlsbad.  More than 250 people attended that forum, where Sharif and Joe Franco, the DOE site office manager, told sometimes skeptical residents that the elevated amounts of radiation that have been detected offer no more risk than a dental X-ray or an airline flight….The Department of Energy has acknowledged that 13 workers at its nuclear waste dump 26 miles southeast of Carlsbad, N.M., tested positive for radiological contamination following an underground leak on Feb. 14.  Exposed personnel were working above ground at the 16-square-mile facility,

Initially, the story seemed minor, but with the passage of time the problem is getting worse.   Now there is a fire in a place underground and no easy access to the site.    The radioactive material is leaking into the air, exposing workers and the down wind community at large.

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Navy knew of USS Ronald Reagan Radiation Exposure

A recent post by Harvey Wassermann showed a link to a post about the USS Ronald Reagan.   They quote one of the naval officers:

MR. MUELLER: So — this is Mueller — the sample that was taken and then what we detected, we were 100 nautical miles away and it’s — in our terms it’s — compared to just normal background it’s about 30 times what you would detect just on a normal air sample out at sea. And so we thought — we thought based on what we had heard on the reactors that we wouldn’t detect that level even at 25 miles. So it’s much greater than what we had thought. We didn’t think we would detect anything at 100 miles.

The navy knew that the sailors were exposed, and they have denied responsibility.

Nuclear plume to reach West Coast

The BBC recently reported that a nuclear plume is about to reach the West Coast of the United States. Image

There are at least two different computer models, and soon there will be sampling to determine which is correct…One of these models anticipates a maximum concentration by mid-2015 of up to 27 becquerels per cubic metre of water; the other no more than about two becquerels per cubic metre of water…Bedford’s Dr John Smith told BBC News that further measurements being taken in the ocean right now should give researchers a fair idea of which model is correct….And he emphasised again: “These levels are still well below maximum permissible concentrations in drinking water in Canada for caesium-137 of 10,000 becquerels per cubic metre of water – so, it’s clearly not an environmental or human-health radiological threat.”

Measurable levels are being detected, but the levels are “safe.”   However, if one looks carefully at the graph, it shows that much of the Pacific has levels around 100 microseverts per cubic meter.   However,  the only truly safe level of radiation is none.  Maximal permissible concentrations are a fiction.  Who is giving the permission, and on what basis?

Radiation found on West Coast is from Fukushima.

In a recent report  the Christian Science Monitor wrote that:

Researchers at the annual American Geophysical Union’s Ocean Sciences Meeting in Honolulu announced that traces of radioactive cesium isotopes – cesium-134 and cesium-137– from Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have been detected in Vancouver.

Now there is evidence from very reputable sources that there are detectable levels of Cesium.   It does not say whether there was testing for other nucleotides, but it it likely that many different nucleotides have been released, and the total radiation count is much higher.

‘Fukushima’ sounds warning on nuclear energy – Los Angeles Times

The conclusion is worth stating:

How safe is safe enough? Throughout the history of nuclear power, utilities and regulators have assured the public that their plants can withstand every emergency situation except the truly unimaginable. But the unimaginable can happen, as it did on the coast of Japan on March 11, 2011.

“Fukushima” shows in sobering detail what can follow when those with a vested interest in making the technology seem safer than it is decide not to plan for an extreme event because “it can’t happen here.” The authors remind us: Yes, it can. “

Japan Safety : Nuclear Energy Updates

” On March 18, 2011, an official from theU.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission  named Chuck Casto called together the NRC delegation on assignment with him in Tokyo.

“We’re in never-never land,” he told them.

Seven days earlier, a magnitude 9 earthquake had rattled a complex of six nuclear power plants known as Fukushima Daiichi, roughly 150 miles northeast of Tokyo. Then came nature’s second, more devastating blow: a tsunami that swamped the complex, flooding its electrical generators and putting its three operating reactors out of commission. The reactors were soon out of control, the plant effectively disabled by that most feared event in the nuclear industry: a “station blackout,” when no power is available to run any of the safety systems designed to defend the public from a runaway reaction.

In the days that followed, three explosions blew apart portions of two reactor buildings, and the reactors’ fuel cores at least partly melted…

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Sick animals in Alaska, 11/11

There was a recent report about diseased seals in Alaska in 2011:

Beginning mid-July 2011, elevated numbers of sick or dead seals with skin lesions started being discovered in the Arctic and Bering Strait regions of Alaska. The North Slope Borough Division of Wildlife Management first began to notice sick seals while conducting ice seal satellite telemetry studies during routine research in July and August 2011. Hunters also began to report unusual symptoms they were observing in seals during harvests. Although abnormal hair loss (known as alopecia) had been under investigation in ringed seals for several years, hunters and researchers started seeing seals with more severe signs of illness, as well as dead seals. Diseased seals–primarily ringed seals—exhibited hair loss, delayed molting, and skin ulcers. Some of these seals also exhibited lethargy and labored breathing. Similar cases in ringed seals were also reported from Canada and Russia. In addition, there have been some reports of skin lesions in Pacific walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) in Alaska, with some associated mortality. Spotted seals and bearded seals were also affected. There were reports of pinnipeds with similar symptoms in Canada, Russia, and Japan…. By December 2011, there were more than 100 cases of affected pinnipeds in Alaska’s Arctic region. Due to the unusual number of marine mammals discovered with similar symptoms across a wide geographic area, and after consultation with the Working Group on Marine Mammal Unusual Mortality Events, NOAA and USFWS announced the declaration of an Unusual Mortality Event on Tuesday, December 20, 2011.

I am struck that this report was just released as a 2/14 fact sheet.   There are earlier reports dating to 11/11.   I had not found them on previous searches.    The conclusion of the study  is that there is no evidence of radiation directly causing the illness.   This report can be added to previous reports of sick sea lions on the West Coast of California.

Twenty thousand billion Becquerels released at Fukushima.

There was a recent report that about a recent leak at Fukushima:

Last week officials from the Tokyo Electric Power Company announced that extremely radioactive water had leaked from a storage tank at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant….According to the utility over 100 tons of water containing 240,000,000 becquerels per liter of beta-ray emitting substances leaked out of the storage tanks over a period of nine hours before the leak was discovered.  The water which leaked was largely partially treated water from early on in the disaster in March 2011….Alarms indicating a rise in water levels in the tank had gone off nine hours before the leak was discovered, but was ignored and shut off by workers who assumed that it had malfunctioned….TEPCO spokesman Masayuki Ono told reporters at a press conference that the radioactive water had leaked because three valves which should have been closed were open.  At the time, Tokyo Electric speculated that one of the valves may have malfunctioned or have broken.

I did the arithmetic;  this leak represents twenty thousand billion Becquerels of beta decay.   It does not include alpha or gamma particles.

The workers are working under near impossible circumstances.   The problems are attributed to human error and not the nuclear reactor technology itself.   Maybe the nuclear reactors are simply too complex to be run by humans.   After all, “to err is human.”