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USA’s NUCLEAR WASTE ISOLATION PILOT PLANT GOES TO NEW MEXICO

11 Oct 2014

On 30 Sep 2014 the USA Department of Energy (DoE) Office of Environmental Management (EM) Released their lengthy plan to remediate and long-term store nuclear waste. The strategic plan addresses the disposal and environmental remediation of “Legacy” and “active sites”, to protect human health and the environment, The EM program was established in 1989, and began waste disposal operations in 1999 , The plan is called : Waste Isolation Pilot Plan (WIPP), and will be responsible for the cleanup of millions of gallons of liquid radioactive waste, millions of cubic yards of solid radioactive wastes, thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel (produced by our NPPs),and “special nuclear material” (whatever that is), huge quantities of contaminated soil and water, disposition of large volumes of transuranic and mixed/low-level waste, and deactivation and decommissioning of hundreds of excess facilities. A huge undertaking that probably will not happen as planned. Let us see why.

“LEGACY”-LARGEST NUCLEAR WASTE REPOSITORY IN THE WORLD was necessitated by 50 years of cold war nuclear weapons development and production, as well as Government sponsored nuclear energy research. Transuranic (high-level waste) waste inventory is located at four remaining large quantity sites: 1. Hanford Site (Washington State), 2. Idaho National Laboratory (Idaho), 3. Los Alamos National Laboratory (New Mexico), and 4. Savannah River Site (South Carolina), as well as more than 20 small quantity sites throughout the USA.- note: some of the nuclear waste at Hanford is such, that even those responsible for it do not want to find out what it is; So, who will dispose of it? The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) was planned by the USA DoE – EM Carlsbad Field Office, located 26 miles east of Carlsbad, New Mexico, EM is/will be responsible for management and operations. WIPP occupies about 16 square miles, and consists principally of a large underground salt-mine complex still being constructed and equipped for its intended role; even though there is a well formulated development plan. It is apparently such nuclear waste that will be shipped by special nuclear waste trains and disposed of at WIPP, in rooms mined out of an ancient salt formation 2,150 feet below the surface.

TRAINS NEEDED FOR THE NEW YUCCA MOUNTAIN NUCLEAR WASTE REPOSITORY. Recall that in our two previous articles we pondered where the specially designed trains would take such nuclear waste, and where it would come from. It now seems certain to us that the current plan is to create a New Mexico Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, given that the original Yucca Mountain was banned by Nevada after the expenditure of about $5 Billion dollars – Now there was a monumental waste of non-radioactive dollars!, but at least Nevadans recognized the folly of underground high-level, and specially low level waste which is normally stored in open containers. Hell! Los Alamos Labs (just north of the WIPP) had several such fires in low-level waste open containers; several of which were of severe magnitude. We see many uncertainties about WIPPs ability to handle both, high level, and low level nuclear waste. The difference is that low-level waste is normally stored in open containers, continues to give off heat, and remains radioactive for many years. It also contains traces of plutonium. High level waste must be stored in sealed (dry-casked) containers with a life expectancy of seldom more than 80 years. Nobody likes to think of what will happen when the dry-casks begin to leak and need replacement.

INTENDED PURPOSE OF THE WIPP, According to EM office is to safely isolate Transuranic (TU) waste generated by atomic energy defense activities from the public and the environment. TU waste is also now stored at sites in the spent-fuel cooling ponds at more than 100 nuclear Power Plants (NPPs) in the USA alone. Evidently the nuclear generation merchant nuclear fleet wants our government to create room for more such waste. Worldwide NPP’s are the main creators of Transuranic waste. There exist about 1,000 NPPs. Even so, TU waste was/is also generated by atomic energy defense activities in nuclear weapons research /development, facility dismantlement, and waste site cleanup. Such waste consists primarily of tools, gloves, clothing and other such items contaminated with trace amounts of radioactive elements, including plutonium. Predictably,…

TWO ACCIDENTS OCCURRED AT THE WIPP IN FEB 2014. that caused the authorities to suspend operations on February 5, 2014; this, following a fire involving an underground vehicle. Nine days later, on February 14, 2014, a “radiological event” (sorry-no details provided) occurred underground, contaminating a portion of the mine primarily along the ventilation path from the location of the incident releasing a small amount of contamination into the environment. HMMM! Not a very auspicious beginning, despite all the safeguards and different levels of overview. Accident investigation pointed out the need for much greater smoke extraction capabilities. Nothing was said about purging the smoke. Point is, fire does not destroy radioactivity, it only changes its form to smoke and creates an even greater heat accumulation. WIPP is a potential “Underground Fukushima”.

Edward Oliver Gonzalez (gonzedo)

E-mail>gonzedo@yahoo.com

 

Ref data: http://www.wipp.energy.gov/Special/WIPP (this is a 44 page pdf planning document – Oh, yea!, planners they have, and they all do as they are told by superiors – even when they do not know who they are, and when they do not know the science behind their planning. Forgive them Lord, for they do not know what they do! The previous two articles deal with this subject, and make these developments begin to paint an ominous picture.

http://energy.gov/em/articles/department-energy-releases-wipp-recovery-plan

http://energy.gov/articles/update-hanford-site-and-cleanup-progress

http://energy.gov/em/articles/doe-seeks-trucking-services-transuranic-waste-shipments (Now its not just special trains, but trucks also – maybe)

P.S. I find it dismaying that while this makes three (3) articles about nuclear waste in the USA, in the last 11 days we have been read nearly 1,200 times in Ukraine, and in the high hundreds in nearly 65 countries already, meantime, the number of readers in the USA is less than 1,000, and well under the usual expectations. We do not know what to make of it!. Is our USA readership doing the same thing as our DoE, and sweeping such monumental problems out of sight?, or are we being interdicted?


October 11, 2014 at 2:38 AM
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