Must-Read: "The Other WIPP" -- Gov't Geological Consultant On Serious Problems, Obvious Long Before Shipments Began

Roger Yates Anderson was hired as a geological consultant by the government before waste was ever emplaced at the WIPP in New Mexico.  A thorough and thoughtful scholar, he who saw some real obvious problems back in 1999. Since the unpopularity of his critical input quickly led to his being replaced, "The Other Wipp" documents these for posterity -- and, luckily for us, his writing shines with the unmistakable spiritual sensitivity of one of them artist-types, and is therefore quite a pleasure to read, as well.

This is a real gem.  Enjoy.

Be seeing you.

Peaceful Intentions Notwithstanding, Japan Sure Has A LOT Of Weaponizeable Plutonium

Rokkasho Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Facility, Wikimedia Commons.

 A whole lot.

Intimations of non peaceable intent (see "Japan to rethink pacifist constitution by 2020 amid rising tensions," RT, and "For 'no war' Article 9, any reinterpretation will do," The Japan Times, for starters, as well as this really interesting bit of conspiracy) aside, we are left with the possibility of nuclear terrorism that cannot but loom in the collective dark cloud of Western media.

In it are perhaps clues, no? 

As if the threat was more credible than that of a reemergent desire for self sufficiency in the defense sector.  This having de facto happened rather recently -- with Fukushima --  is of course irrelevant when calculating future risk.

Excerpted from
"Japan could be building an irresistible terrorist target, experts say"
by the Center for Public Integrity, their own 'Key Findings:'

  • Publicly, the United States has said little about Japan’s plans to enlarge its existing stockpile of plutonium. But since President Obama was elected, Washington has been furiously lobbying behind the scenes, trying to persuade Japanese officials that terrorists might regard the Rokkasho plant as an irresistible target
  • Japan has resisted upgrading its security force or requiring background security checks for the 2,400 workers there, similar to those in the U.S.
  • Confidential U.S. diplomatic cables note police officers who are asleep, express chagrin that Japanese guards do not carry weapons and criticize the government for staging unrealistic training exercises, while relying too heavily on what its nuclear utility companies decide to do.
  • Japan’s prime minister at the time of the Fukushima disaster — Naoto Kan — said “Japan is not prepared for such attacks.”
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency is formally responsible for ensuring that plutonium does not leak from the Rokkasho plant without detection. But the system it has installed there is only 99 percent accurate, meaning that enough plutonium for 26 nuclear bombs a year could still be removed without a trace.
  • Companies with ties to the yakuza, or Japanese organized crime syndicates, are heavily involved in the nuclear industry.

To which I would add this as well:

  • Publicly, the United States has said little about Japan’s plans to enlarge its already substantial hoard of plutonium. Washington formally granted Japan the unlimited right to use U.S. technology and nuclear feedstock for the plant during the Reagan administration. Now some of that materiel is to be returned, under a deal to be announced later this month at a U.S.-led international summit in the Netherlands promoting the security of nuclear materials that can be used as explosives.
  • It all sounds calm and cordial. But since Obama was first elected, Washington has been lobbying furiously behind the scenes, trying to persuade Japan that terrorists might regard Rokkasho’s new stockpile of plutonium as an irresistible target — and to convince Japanese officials they should better protect this dangerous raw material.
...and with it, a raised eyebrow.  Plutonium from the Reagan years is no longer viable; must have been reprocessed.  One would think they had warlike intentions from this, but, of course, the answer would seem a resounding no...
...that is, if that word existed in Japanese.

When the Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Center at Rokkasho is operating at full capacity, it’s supposed to produce eight metric tons of plutonium annually. That’s enough in theory for a country like Japan to make an estimated 2,600 nuclear weapons, each with the explosive force of 20,000 tons of TNT.
When the Rokkasho plant was conceived, Japan believed plutonium-burning reactors would make the island nation energy independent. The facility was embraced as a way to convert nuclear wastes into fuel on a crowded archipelago rocked by violent earthquakes, dotted with active volcanoes, and lashed by tsunamis and typhoons.

Critics of the plant point out, however, that Japan has no urgent need for a single kilogram of the plutonium the plant will produce.

Read more
Tokai One and Two, Wikimedia Commons

Be seeing you.


Note: the dark line graph is associated with the left index,
 the grey bar graph, with the right.

Its not just that the line hardly climbs -- although try as I might, I do not cease to find that slope has a certain bitter humour, a sense of timing if you will.

From the Sunlight Foundation.

American Oligarchy: 
How the preferences of elites shape policy outcomes
by Alexander Furnas
APRIL 17, 2014, 1:40 P.M.

Sunlight Foundation

At Sunlight we spend a lot of time trying to make sense of who has a say in the policy making process, and whose perspective is being heard. Time and time again we find that well-organized corporate interests are far more involved in the process than ordinary citizens, or the underfunded groups that seek to represent them.
Now, a recent paper — forthcoming in Perspectives on Politics by political scientists Marty Gilens of Princeton and Benjamin Page of Northwestern — has provided some really striking empirical evidence that the kinds of imbalances we have observed anecdotally in our work at Sunlight are actually systematic features of modern American democracy. The preferences of economic elites and business interests, according to Gilens and Page, significantly shape policy outcomes — and the preferences of average citizens simply don’t.

Read more

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WIPP: Drinking Water Officially 'Safe,' But Tests May Be Misleading

Near Brantley Lake, NM (Courtesy wheelsonfire, intrepid photographer)

Its official, from officials: No harm to human health!  
this and the next screenshots from this article, archived here (dropbox).

But wait...

...not so fast.  Let's have a look, shall we?  Since everything's  ...fine?  

So I says to my self, I says, 

"Gentle Self!  Now why would it take longer to get back the soil results?  Might they not want to make those results as public?"  

And is seems to me I remember seeing somewhere a video where a little cartoon character was eager to tell me -- in Japanese -- all about how Plutonium sinks quickly in freshwater and so is (virtually) harmless.

Well it seems that despite his agenda, Plutonium-boy's empirical observations are, in fact, quite factual.

Coincidence perhaps, but there is a context of which experts in the field ought to by now be aware, that remains unimplied, at least in the following report, and undermines the findings.

Perhaps we ought to hold our breath while they get back to us? Perhaps not. Here's why, with proof.

May I direct attention to the material in bold, below.  I have left passages in much of their original context, in case someone not so gentle were to object should it have been otherwise.

Radiochemistry and Nuclear Chemistry
by Jan-Olov Liljenzin and Jan Rydberg 
Chapter 22

Behavior of Radionuclides in the Environment

The majority of the plutonium from weapons testing was injected initially into the stratosphere. The plutonium originally in the weapon which survived the explosion would have been formed into high-fired oxide which would be expected to remain insoluble as it returned to earth. Such insoluble particles would have sunk in a rather short time into the bottom sediments of lakes, rivers, and oceans or would become incorporated in soils below the surface layer. However, in most nuclear weapon explosions a considerable amount of plutonium is generated in the explosion via U (n,() reactions and subsequent "-decay of the product U, 238 239 U, U, etc. In total, about two thirds of the plutonium released was generated in this way. 240 241 The nuclides from the (n,() reactions would exist as single atoms, and, hence, were never formed into high-fired oxides. The plutonium from this formation path would have been soluble and, as a result, more reactive and its behavior would be more similar to that of plutonium released from nuclear reactors, reprocessing plants and from nuclear waste repository sites. 


Near test sites, reprocessing facilities, etc., the concentration of plutonium in the soil and water is much higher than in more distant locations. Generally, the great majority of plutonium is associated with sub-surface soils or sediments or with suspended particulates in water. For example, when vegetation, animals, litter and soils are compared, $99% of the plutonium is present in the soil. Similarly, in shallow bodies of water, more than 96% of the plutonium is found associated with the sediments. However, it is via the species that are soluble or attached to suspended colloids and/or particulate matter in water that plutonium is transported in the environment. Analysis of vertical plutonium migration in soils near Chernobyl and in eastern Europe from the Chernobyl accident has shown that most of the plutonium is still in the first 0.5 cm from the surface for soils with significant humic acid content. In these soils, the plutonium is mostly associated with the insoluble calcium-humate fraction. In non-humic, carbonate rich soils, the plutonium has moved several centimeters downward. Migration rates of #0.1 cm y is associated with the humic soils and of 1-10 cm y with the carbonate rich ones. Presumably, migration is retarded by the interaction with the immobilized humic material in soils . In subsurface oxic soil near Los Alamos National Laboratory, USA, plutonium is relatively mobile and has been transported primarily by colloids in the 25-450 µm size range. Moreover, the association with these colloids is strong and removal of Pu from them is very slow. By contrast, near Sellafield in wet anoxic soil, most of the Pu is quickly immobilized in the sediments although a small fraction remain mobile. Differences in oxidation state (Pu(V) vs. Pu(IV)) as well as in humic content of the soils may explain these differences in mobility. Table 22.7 lists the concentration of plutonium, after filtration (0.45 µm), in the surface layers of some natural waters. The higher concentration in the Okefenokee River is assumed to reflect the effect of complexing by humic materials.


...A rather large amount of nuclear fission products and actinide elements have been released to the environment from nuclear weapons testing and from accidental and intentional discharges from nuclear reactor operations and fuel reprocessing. The research on the fate of these released radionuclides suggest that the long lived actinides form quite insoluble or strongly sorbed species while I and Tc have relatively high dissemination in natural systems. The 129 99 most active shorter-lived species ( Sr, Cs) also have more mobility in ecosystem.

Read more here (data encoded HTML) or here (PDF, Dropbox) or download source of html here (pastebin) or here (Dropbox)

So perhaps we best not hold our breath until CEMRC gets back to us. 

Because, you see:

Plutonium is not usually water soluble.  For this reason, most of whatever Plutonium was released would not be in the water of the reservoirs, but buried in the sediment below – just like most of it would not be in the the urine of the workers tested, but in their fatty tissue or fæces (and they were getting back to us with the outcome of those tests tests).

Now I am not saying that there will be appreciable contamination in the sediment.  Actully, I don't think so -- but I would like to know for sure.

I am just saying that the testing of the water is not as reassuring as they would like to make it seem, and it just seems like another one of those coincidences that there isn't even a date given for when they will be getting those sediment sample tests back.

So if they wanted to be reassuring, why not have the tests done, or a date when they will be done?  So often they don't even get back.  Let's see how it goes this time.  

What do you think?  I am especially interested in local opinions, although comments, if civil, are always welcome.  As I have said before, that is one of the main reasons I research, and publish. 

Good luck to us all.

from this fascinating post.
Be seeing you.

WIPP Release Called 'Dirty-Bomb' by Noted Author, Judge, & TV/Radio Personality

Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) opened 1999, to be safe for 10,000 years. Now closed after Plutonium leaks of February 14, 2014. Re-opening uncertain. (photo via featured guest post, below.)

The following article is so excellent I felt it my duty to accept and act upon the permission to repost that Reader Supported News so generously offers.

US Nuclear Waste Dirty-Bombs New Mexico With Plutonium
By William Boardman, Reader Supported News
30 March 14

Radiation from a half-mile underground reaches atmosphere.
It was Valentine’s Day when the nation’s only radioactive nuclear waste facility first released radioactive particles including Plutonium and Americium into the atmosphere of New Mexico and beyond, including into Texas, Oklahoma, and Mexico. Earlier that same day, the New Mexico Environment Department opened the public comment period on an application to modify and expand that nuclear waste facility, which the department said it planned to allow.   
The first thing the U.S. government and the government contractor charged with running the supposedly secure radioactive waste project immediately did, when faced with the first-time-ever release of radioactivity from the underground site, was not tell anyone anything. They told no one the truth for four days, even though the truth didn’t seem all that bad, as such things go. Unless contradictory data emerged, this would seem to be a brief release of a relatively small amount of very dangerous isotopes from nuclear weapons waste stored half a mile underground in a salt deposit. While the full scope of the release remains unknown weeks later, it seems clear that this was no Fukushima, except for the operators’ default to instant deceit.
The next day, February 15, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy, which is responsible for the project, issued “Event News Release No. 1,” a reassuring press release about “a radiological event” (not further defined), misleadingly stating that “a continuous air monitor detected airborne radiation in the underground” (NOT a release into the air). [emphasis added]
The press release expanded on its false reassurance by saying: “Multiple perimeter monitors at the [facility’s] boundary have confirmed there is no danger to human health or the environment. No contamination has been found on any equipment, personnel, or facilities.” No one was exposed, the press release implied, and added further details to reinforce the “no danger to human health or the environment” claim that is so often the first thing the nuclear industry says about any “event,” regardless of what people may or may not know to be true. Other press releases maintained this official story for several days. 
Nuclear industry lies are rational in terms of protecting interests
According to that story, “there were no employees working underground at the time,” and the 139 employees at the surface had to be “cleared by radiological control technicians” and test negative for contamination before they were allowed to leave the site, an odd precaution for radiation that was reported only underground. The official story did not mention that the underground part of the facility had been closed down for the previous nine days, since February 5, when a 29-year-old salt truck had caught fire, forcing the evacuation of all 86 employees then working underground.     
To be fair to the folks running the underground nuclear repository, which bears the anodyne name Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), when the continuous air monitoring system first detected radioactivity being released on February 14, 2014, the system automatically shut down air exchange with the outside, at least according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which describes the facility this way:
“WIPP, a cornerstone of DOE’s [nuclear waste] cleanup effort, is the nation’s first repository for the permanent disposal of defense-generated transuranic radioactive waste left from research and production of nuclear weapons. Located in southeastern New Mexico, 26 miles east of Carlsbad, WIPP’s facilities include disposal rooms excavated in an ancient, stable salt formation, 2,150 feet (almost one-half mile) underground. Waste disposal began at WIPP on March 26, 1999.”  
The waste isolation mine was designed to last 10,000 years without leaking. As of 2014, WIPP had more than 1,000 employees and a $202 million annual budget.
Among the details that remain unclear about this WIPP accident are how long it took the system to detect the release and how much Plutonium and Americium were released. The government’s initial position was none. That wouldn’t last long.  
On February 17, the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center (CERMC) posted on its Facebook page that it “is currently processing and analyzing ambient air filters from our air samplers located near the WIPP facility. We should have results by the end of the week which will give some indication as to whether any radiation was released into the environment. Hopefully CEMRC will get its filters from the exhaust air shaft at the WIPP site soon so we can analyze those for radionuclides as well. Lastly, remember that adults living within a 100-mile radius of the WIPP site can receive a free whole body count to see what types and levels of radiation are in their lungs and/or whole body....” 

Government admits radioactive release, says: don’t worry, be happy
It wasn’t until February 19 that the Energy Department issued a press release acknowledging the reality of the airborne release of radioactivity. And this was only after that day’s edition of the local newspaper, the Carlsbad Current-Argus, had already reported on the Carlsbad Environmental Center’s news release about higher than normal levels of radioactivity including Plutonium and Americium. The government belatedly confirmed the report, without apology, instead putting a positive spin on it, even though officials had been denying it (or perhaps had not known about it) for days. Under the headline “Radiological Monitoring Continues at WIPP” – even though the radiation was detected a half mile away – the new DOE release said:
“Recent laboratory analyses by Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center (CEMRC) found some trace amounts of americium and plutonium from a sampling station located on the WIPP access road. This is consistent with the fact that HEPA [high-efficiency particulate absorption] filters remove at least 99.97% of contaminants from the air, meaning a minute amount still can pass through the filters. As noted by the CEMRC, an independent environmental monitoring organization, the levels found from the sample are below the levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure public health is protected.”
The Carlsbad Environmental Center, a division of the College of Engineering at New Mexico State University, is a quasi-governmental agency. Besides monitoring the waste project, the center has been a contractor for government labs –  the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Sandia National Laboratory – as well as the Nuclear Waste Partnership, a private contractor. The center also works with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on issues relating to conventional explosives used to spread radioactive materials (or, in the words of the website: “issues involving Homeland Security, particularly those involving radiation dispersal devices (RDDs or dirty bombs).” 
Radiation reached Carlsbad by February 24, but officials did not say this publicly until March 10. A week later they denied the report, saying the Carlsbad radiation came from somewhere other than the waste plant. They didn’t say where.    
Dirty bomb or accident – different intent, same effects
Anyone making a dirty bomb would be delighted to use Plutonium as a terror weapon, because Plutonium is very deadly, and remains deadly for a long time (Plutonium 239 has a half-life of 24,000 years). A lot of Plutonium will kill you very quickly at close range, especially if it’s been made into a bomb, which the U.S. proved pretty definitively at Nagasaki in 1945. But even a tiny amount of Plutonium, inhaled and lodged in your lungs, can kill you slowly. In that sense, what happened at the nuclear waste isolation facility was that its operators managed to set off a small dirty bomb. No wonder they claimed no one was exposed.
Talking about dirty bombs or even RDDs is not a preferred public relations approach for most of the nuclear industry, even when their facilities actually become radiation dispersal devices (RDDs). The spin is always about how safe everyone is and how trivial the level of radiation exposure is. The public relations pattern with the New Mexico waste project release is standard – and fundamentally dishonest, as it has been always. On February 24, the Energy Department produced another press release with the benign headline, “WIPP Reports New Environmental Monitoring Data” with text that included:
“Dose assessment modeling, which calculates potential radioactivity exposure to people, from the release data showed a potential dose of less than one millirem at each of the environmental sampling locations. A person receives about 10 millirems from a single chest x-ray procedure. The average person living in the United States receives an annual dose of about 620 millirem from exposure to naturally occurring and other sources of radiation.”
Even though the basic assertions here may be factually true in a narrow sense, the implied argument – that there’s nothing to be concerned about – is a lie. First note the use of “potential” – twice – which makes clear that the “dose of less than one millirem,” which could potentially be much more, has little meaning for understanding reality. The statement is careful NOT to use “maximum” or any other limiting word. The first sentence implies a full body dose, the next sentence executes a bait and switch, referring to a chest X-ray which delivers a targeted dose. The last sentence pretends to put it all in perspective by trivializing the earlier doses in the context of an average annual dose of 620 millirem. 
Plutonium: one millionth of a gram, officially “safe,” can be lethal
In this press release and thousands like it, the government lies with an apparently reasonable tone, good enough to persuade The New York Times and others. But it’s a big lie, because governments know that no radiation exposure is good for anyone, that any exposure is a risk. The honest discussion would be over how much radiation a person can tolerate and remain healthy for a reasonable time. There are many correct answers to that depending on the particular conditions of exposure. It is dishonest to conflate “naturally occurring and other sources of radiation” because “other sources” are mostly from nuclear medicine, power plants, and warheads – all sources created by deliberate human choice.
The deeper lie is in the suggestion that, since a person gets 620 millirem a year, what harm can come from a little bit (or a lot) more? The answer is that great harm can come from very limited exposure, although that’s not necessarily likely. The official “acceptable” body dose of Plutonium is less than one millionth of a gram, and even this amount can eventually be lethal, because Plutonium that gets into the human body doesn’t all come out. It tends to concentrate in the blood, muscle and bone. Americium behaves similarly in the human body. Another official lie embedded in government language is the suggestion that 620 millirem is somehow “safe.” It’s not. It’s already too great an exposure, and the effects of radiation are cumulative.  
A particularly articulate internet post, Bobby1’s Blog of February 22 (and later revisions), challenged the official story as to both the amount of radioactive material released, how far it had spread, and the danger it posed.  
But the official spin works. Matthew Wald of the Times has been writing about nuclear issues for years, yet on February 25 he still managed to start his piece with error-filled credulity: “Almost two weeks after an unexplained puff of radioactive materials forced the closing of a salt mine in New Mexico that is used to bury nuclear bomb wastes, managers of the mine are planning to send workers back in and are telling nearby residents that their health is safe.” The mine was already closed when the so-called “puff” of Plutonium and Americium created conditions that no one can honestly call “safe.” The rest of his piece reads like Wald is also on the DOE payroll. 
Energy Department said no one was contaminated. That was false.
On February 26, in a letter to residents of the Carlsbad area, DOE field manager Jose Franco made what appears to be the first official admission that workers at the waste pilot plant had suffered internal radioactive contamination. Franco wrote that “13 Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) employees that were on site the evening of February 14 were notified that they have tested positive for radiological contamination.” Previously the agency had said there were 139 employees on site at the time of the release, and no external radiation was detected on any of them.
“It is premature to speculate on the health effects of these preliminary results, or any treatment that may be needed,” Franco wrote, adding that the contamination was “likely at very low levels” and “predominantly americium-241, material which is consistent with the waste disposed of at the WIPP. This is a radionuclide used in consumer smoke detectors and a contaminant in nuclear weapons manufacturing.”
Franco said it would probably take weeks to establish a credible estimate of the contamination dose these 13 employees received. The Times of February 27 carried the story on page A16 and online with Matthew Wald downplaying its importance. Local media gave the development more scrutiny, since the implications were clear: among other things, officials had no idea why there was a Plutonium release, they had no idea how much Plutonium was released, they had no idea how far the Plutonium had traveled, and they had no idea how many people had been contaminated (the number of contaminated employees later rose to 17, and then to 21).   
Actually the detected level of Plutonium was millions of times higher than officials first acknowledged.
On March 2, another articulate online post, Pissin’ on the Roses, presented a cogent argument that the Plutonium release had been much greater than the official story allowed. Basing the conclusion on public and leaked documents, the blog argues that the numbers are inconsistent and make sense only by assuming that the radioactive release lasted about 33 minutes: “When we ‘followed the math,’ the story didn't square with what the public was told, i.e. ‘the release was less than EPA reportable requirements’ (supposedly 37bq/m^3 for Plutonium). In fact, the math showed levels thousands of times greater than EPA reportable requirements for Plutonium.” But there was no report to the EPA.    
Almost a month later, Southwest Research and Information Center, an independent organization that focuses on health, environmental, and nuclear issues, used Energy Department data to reach a similar but more extreme conclusion: that the release actually lasted more than 15 hours. 
Asking questions is a problem: we might find the wrong answers
Actually, the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) was stalling, apparently reluctant to get involved with protecting the environment around the government’s only underground nuclear weapons waste storage site, now that it had begun releasing radiation for the first time. On February 27, New Mexico’s two U.S. senators wrote directly to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, asking for the EPA’s independent assessment of the “event,” as well as deployment of EPA assets to New Mexico to assess the situation independently. Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, both Democrats, noted that since “the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the primary regulatory authority in regard to any releases of radioactive materials to the environment from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant,” the EPA should do more than merely monitor the Energy Department and other agencies involved. 
The EPA stonewalled. In effect, the Democratic administration in Washington had this answer for the two Democratic senators: Drop dead. The EPA said it at greater length, but not until March 5, and then in a letter from the regional administrator, not the administrator in Washington. “We are still evaluating the situation,” wrote Ron Curry, without ever saying why the primary regulatory authority was refusing to “conduct independent studies.” 
“As you know, the EPA’s primary regulatory responsibility is to ensure that any releases of radioactive material from the WIPP facility are below the EPA exposure limits for members of the public,” the regional bureaucrat began, launching a paragraph of denial and irresponsibility. Curry said that the EPA would “inspect” the work of others and, so far, “it is very unlikely that any exposures would approach these regulatory limits or represent a public health concern.” EPA doesn’t know this, EPA has no independent way of knowing this, and as of March 5, EPA had no interest in knowing this independently, even as the primarily responsible regulator.
Besides, Curry added, “we note that the available information supports the conclusion that nearly all of the radioactive material was retained within the filtration system … [and] that radiation levels have declined significantly….” Translation: that’s what we’ve been told officially and that’s good enough for us. 
Also on March 5, the Energy Department issued a press release asserting more apparently good news: “Follow-up testing of employees who were exposed … shows exposure levels were extremely low and the employees are unlikely to experience any health effects as a result…. [tests] came back negative for plutonium and americium, the two radioactive isotopes that were detected in preliminary bioassays.” The release does not offer an explanation for this reported atypical behavior of ingested Plutonium and Americium. 
Area residents received a letter from DOE dated March 5 containing an identical reassurance. It also expressed hope that workers might be able to re-enter the mine the following week, for the first time since the February 5 salt truck fire. 
Fear of more Plutonium? Expert says: Don’t lick your iPhone charger!
During February, in response to continued rising public concern, the Energy Department started holding regular public meetings. On March 6, five nuclear waste officials appeared at a sparsely attended public forum billed by the Energy Department as a “WIPP Recovery Town Hall Meeting” at the Civic Center in Carlsbad. The almost 90-minute session (recorded by DOE with low quality audio) featured David Klaus from the DOE, David Huizenga from DOE's Office of Environmental Management, Joe Franco from the DOE Carlsbad Field Office, Farok Sharif from Nuclear Waste Partnerships [he was later removed from the job and replaced] and Fran Williams from Energy Department contractor UCOR, who told the audience flatly: “There are no health impacts to you, to your family, the members of your community from the event.” 

Williams, Director of Environmental, Safety, Health and Quality for Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s contractor UCOR has 35 years of experience in her field, health physics and occupational medicine. Although the “Town Hall” received little coverage, Williams made the most news with her comments 57 minutes into the meeting about radiation levels in the region: “They’re down at the levels of licking your iPhone charger. I’m not trying to be funny; I’m trying to equate radiation exposure to something that you can understand…. I hope that helps.”
“Many left Thursday night’s meeting [March 6] with the Department of Energy uneasy,” reported Albuquerque TV station KRQE. “They pleaded for more information about the underground radiation leak last month that seeped radiation outside, but many remain frustrated and concerned for their safety. The DOE tried to reassure people they are safe even though the underground storage areas remained sealed off.” 
The next night (March 7) the local Republican congressman, Rep. Steve Pearce, held his own town hall meeting. The long time backer of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (whose private contractors contributed to his campaigns) promised to ask tough questions. Pearce said, “I will hold their feet to the fire.”

Other than his meeting with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and New Mexico’s two senators the day before, Pearce’s involvement in events at WIPP appears largely limited to cheerleading, as in his February 5 press release saying everything was fine after the fire and his February 15 press release saying everything was fine after the release of radioactivity. 
Pearce has touted his vote for a bill dealing with the “IRS scandal” that didn’t happen as an effort to “restore accountability in Washington.” He has made no apparent effort to address the EPA’s continuing unwillingness to act accountably as the primary regulatory authority for WIPP radioactivity releases into the environment. 
Radioactive waste isolated for 10,000 years – until it’s not 
More than three weeks after the detection of airborne Plutonium, no one had been able to re-enter the salt mine to assess conditions underground or to determine the cause of the accident. WIPP was built without underground surveillance cameras. Officials at the Energy Department and other agencies have refused to speak publicly about the issues or to answer reporters’ questions on the record. Even their public bromides began to diverge, with DOE suggesting that WIPP would be operational in the near future, while the NM Environmental Department issued a legal notice saying WIPP would “be unable to resume normal activities for a protracted period of time.” 
On March 8, the Albuquerque Journal News published a story that said, “No one knows yet how or why a waste drum leaked at southeast New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant on Valentine’s Day, triggering alarms, exposing workers and setting off a cascade of events that could cripple the nation’s radioactive waste disposal system.”
Reviewing Department of Energy records, the Journal concluded that there were only two likely scenarios for the February 14 accident:
(1) If a waste drum’s contents overheated, that might cause a spontaneous explosion that spread radioactive debris. Planners in 1997 contemplated this possibility before WIPP opened, and gave odds of it happening as 10,000 to 1.

(2) If the roof in one of the salt cavern rooms fell, that might rupture one or more waste drums and lead to the spread of radioactive debris. Planners gave the odds of that happening as one in a million. 
The most likely cause of an accident, planners thought, would be mishandling of waste drums by workers, but there were no workers underground on February 14. 
The next day, March 9, DOE announced that remote testing of areas not in the path of the radiation release showed “no detectable radioactive contamination in the air or on the equipment lowered and returned to the surface. Air quality results were also normal. These results were expected….” DOE suggested that workers might be sent down the mine before the end of the week. 
The Energy Department also announced that four more workers had been contaminated by ingesting Plutonium or Americium at “extremely low levels,” bringing the total to 17 workers contaminated. [On March 27, DOE would announce four more being tested for contamination, raising the total to 21.] The DOE also announced that there would be no workforce layoffs during “recovery efforts,” for which there is no estimated end point.   
A fire suppression system is useful when there’s a fire
One of the problems for the workers underground on February 5, when the 29-year-old salt truck caught fire, was that the truck’s onboard automatic fire suppression system had been deactivated. Emergency teams put out the fire and evacuated the tunnels without any injuries other than six workers needing treatment for smoke inhalation. Rep. Pearce promptly issued a press release calling it a “minor fire” that posed no threat to public health or safety, which appeared true at the time. 
But the deactivated fire protection on the truck turned out to be just the first of a host of shortcomings and failures relating to the waste plant, problems that are still being uncovered. 
“This accident was preventable” was the understated conclusion of the Accident Investigation Board in the Department of Energy in its 187-page report released March 13. The Board’s four-week investigation included at least two pre-accident visits to the mine, which has been inactive since February 5. The Board praised the workers and their supervisors for responding quickly, knowledgeably, and cooperatively to minimize the emergency. The Board found extensive fault with management’s performance over a longer period of time, finding that maintenance programs were ineffective, fire protection was inadequate, preparedness was inadequate, emergency management was ineffective – and that these criticisms had been made before, some more than once. According to one news report:
At a community meeting in Carlsbad on Thursday to preview the report, the lead investigator, Ted Wyka, praised the 86 workers who were half-mile underground in the mine when the fire started, saying they “did everything they could” to tell others to evacuate. 

But a number of safety systems and processes failed, Mr Wyka said. Emergency strobe lights were not activated for five minutes and not all workers heard the evacuation announcement.

One worker also switched the air system from normal to filtration mode, which sent smoke billowing through the tunnels.
New Mexico’s senators, in a joint statement, found the Board’s report “deeply concerning” and urged DOE management to take the critique seriously and fix the shortcomings. For his part, Rep. Pearce “applauded” the DOE for “a candid, transparent report” that demonstrated how poorly they had been doing their job for many years. 
Senators Heinrich and Udall have written to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, asking why his agency has failed to carry out its responsibility under federal mine safety law, which requires the Mine Safety and Health Administration “to inspect WIPP no less than four times a year.” Records show that WIPP was inspected twice – instead of 12 times – ­in the past three years.
With WIPP closed, Los Alamos waste has to be trucked to Texas
The Los Alamos National Laboratory has been a disaster waiting to happen for years, a disaster that almost happened in 2011 as wildfires approached the facility where radioactive waste was stored in roughly 20,000 steel drums above ground. The fires were held back, but the waste is still there, scheduled for “permanent” storage at the underground waste plant before the next fire season in the summer. Now that can’t happen because WIPP is leaking, and closed.  
On March 20, the Department of Energy and its contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership, announced plans to truck the Los Alamos waste to West Texas for temporary storage at Waste Control Specialists, another government contractor. DOE “has committed to the state of New Mexico to removing several thousand cubic meters of TRU waste from LANL by June 30, 2014. The waste will be moved to WIPP for final disposal once the site reopens.”
According to DOE, it has already moved most of the Los Alamos waste, which “consists of clothing, tools, rags, debris, soil, and other items contaminated with small amounts of radioactive elements, mostly plutonium.” 
On March 21, the New Mexico Environment Department withdrew its temporary permit that would have allowed the waste plant to expand. That’s the same permit that the department said on February 14 that it would approve at the end of the 60-day public comment period. The permit would have allowed WIPP to build two new disposal vaults in the salt mine. According to the news release:
“NMED [NM Environment Dept.] cannot move forward on the WIPP’s request to open additional underground storage panels and for the other requested permit modifications until more information is known about the recent events at the WIPP,” said Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn. “Just as NMED needs more information to make informed decisions on permit modifications, the public also needs more information about the radiation release in order to provide informed input during the public comment period. Once NMED has all of our questions answered, we will proceed with consideration of a revised draft Permit.”
With so many other questions to be answered, the question of whether WIPP will ever re-open gets harder to answer with any certainty. There have been numerous reports, by DOE and others, of further radioactive leaks from the site – none of them known to be large and all considered officially “safe.” As Arnie Gundersen at Fairewinds notes, DOE says that when the WIPP ventilation system is set on filtration mode, its air filters collect 99.97% of all the radioactive particles headed for the atmosphere. Accepting that capture rate as correct, Gunderson points out that, mathematically, if the filters are 99.9% effective (which he doubts), that means that out of every 1,000 minutes there is one unfiltered minute. In other words, the radioactive leak continues, albeit slowly, even when the filters work at peak capacity (which is not a constant). Just since February 14, Gundersen calculates, perfectly functioning filters would still have allowed another half hour of contamination into the environment. 
Nuclear supporters continue to minimize any danger. Plutonium and Americium are heavy elements, the argument goes, so they fall to the ground quickly. And they stay there unless there’s a lot of wind. No one knows now just how much Plutonium or Americium the waste plant has already emitted, or how much it will emit. But anyone who cares to know knows that this is spring in the Southwest, when the winds pick up and dust storms have already happened this year. 

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Used with permission
Source: Reader Supported News.  

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WIPP: Suspected Area Of Leak Located (Maybe) | Annotated News

A tank was punctured in 2012. Did that incident inspire this explanation? (Photo courtesy EPA)

Breaking news about the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Mysterious Nuclear Radiation Event still unfolding near Carlsbad, New Mexico.  Still unfolding, that is, for everyone dependent upon government press releases and talking points for clues.

Recently I was asked to explain how to read the news -- that is, how to wrest the truth from out of the jaws of sources such as the Nuclear Industry, or their bitches lackeys, main stream journalism. I found, in the story below, a perfect teaching example, concerning at least one of the signs to look for. 

Click to enlarge, or view in Dropbox's viewer (if you can - download it if you cannot,
or see other formats  below).
Hearty h/t and thanks to Crocodoc, where you can mark up and annotate your PDFs online -- in a way that does NOT suck.  
Inspired by them, this first edition of the Annotated News.

Obviously there are people at the Department of Energy and at the WIPP who know what is going on.  They have been investigating the incident much like they would like to release information --- wait as long as possible, then do as little as possible, and do it in a way that is dependent on being resolved sometime, oh, how about a week or two from now. 

 Check back, public, if you remember, and the information gathered by the workers that we finally sent down into the scene of the ...event ...will have been processed and edited and repackaged into something we will let you have.

Unless, of course, our hand is forced -- that is, unless someone else releases or uncovers information.

Why all this waiting to go back into the mine? After all, the event was not so dire, right? 

It isn't as though TRU waste is going to get any less radioactive anytime soon:

The longest-lived and most common isotopes of americium, 241Am and 243Am, have half-lives of 432.2 and 7,370 years, respectively. 
from Wikipedia

Twenty radioactive isotopes of plutonium have been characterized. The longest-lived are plutonium-244, with a half-life of 80.8 million years, plutonium-242, with a half-life of 373,300 years, and plutonium-239, with a half-life of 24,110 years. All of the remaining radioactive isotopes have half-lives that are less than 7,000 years. This element also has eight metastable states, though all have half-lives less than one second.
(Read more)

 Nonetheless, the February 14th incident is only just now being investigated – and, as with the salt-truck fire investigation, there is a certain aroma that one may distinctly detect, of something that was never intended to be ...right – strongest smelling right as odd descriptions suddenly abound, provided as if commonplace. If I wasn't paying enough attention before, well, that gets me focused.

...the crews had to retreat before identifying the possible source because they had been underground for five hours in protective gear that retains heat and needed to make their way underground for five hours in protective gear that retains heat and needed to make their way back above ground...

Here's a secret: often the anomalous  nature of such details is actually emphasized by such details.  Shhh. Don't tell them.

Original article (which may chose to be behind a pay wall if you visit too often) 
unmarked PDF (right-click and saver as something that ends in ".PDF")
annotated PDF (right-click and saver as something that ends in ".PDF")
HTML (right-click and saver as something that ends in ".HTML")

The links are raw text, so be sure to add the extension.

A note on copyright: The material above is important to the public inerest, and this website serves to present it as such as well as archive it in an attempt to prevent the loss of valuable information that frequently accompanies main stream reporting of current events. Links to source material are therefore provided for your convenience, or available upon request.  (I think I will add this note to the sidebar.) Leave a comment below or contact the author. 

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