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WIPP

The Department of Energy's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, a.k.a. WIPP, is a facility in southeastern New Mexico for storing high level transuranic waste that has been piling up since the 1940s, primarily from nuclear weapons production. In cavern "rooms" excavated in an ancient Permian salt bed more than 2,000 feet below the ground, the 16 square mile facility stores the long-lived defense actinide waste in stacked metal drums and lead-shielded casks. This waste includes Plutonium, Americium, and  other nasty high-energy alpha and beta particle emitters.

On Valentine's Day - February 14 - a radiation alarm sounded in the vicinity of panel 7, where waste was being stored. Workers were quickly sequestered in one of the buildings and tested for contamination. Officials at WIPP informed nearby residents and the city of Carlsbad, 26 miles west, that it was probably just naturally occurring radon. DoE shut down the facility when plutonium and americium were detected offsite by New Mexico's CEMRC [Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring & Research Center]. The facility will remain closed for three more weeks at least, according to the Department of Energy, though they are hoping to get into the underground to investigate the cause of the release soon thereafter.

Officials are now considering a ceiling collapse in one of the storage rooms to be a likely culprit. Such a collapse could have crushed one or more drums containing the high level waste. The facility does have HEPA filtration on its exhaust system, but they do not stop all contamination - just most of it. Alpha and beta particles are not pure energy like x-rays or gamma radiation, but are serious internal contamination hazards. Just a tiny amount of plutonium is known to cause cancer if lodged in lung tissue, bone or liver, and the rest of the actinides are no slouches when it comes to deadly effects in relatively minor amounts either.

This is what the DoE had to say about that danger in a press release attempting to ease the public's concern about the release...

The DOE also found through dose assessment modeline, which calculates potential radioactivity exposure to people, that humans have a potential of less than one millirem of exposure to radiation from the Feb. 14 leak. A person receives about 10 millirem from a chest X-ray procedure.
Notice the same old same conflation of exterior gamma dose with internal deposition of transuranic alpha-emitters like plutonium and americium. It's a standard deception in the black bag of nuclear lies and half-truths, even older than the banana scam. Fortunately, in the very nearly three years since the Fukushima disaster, members of the public have been educating themselves about radiation exposure hazards, so not that many people paying attention are so easily fooled these days.

DoE officials held an open meeting for the public in Carlsbad earlier this evening. I'll be interested to see reports tomorrow on the questions and answers as well as the mood of WIPP's reluctant neighbors.
___

Okay, meeting in Carlsbad held, "not totally reassuring."

So now, for my questions to DoE about their strange behavior of attempting to pretend they aren't dumping gnarly alpha/beta emitters on the citizens of southeastern New Mexico...

First, they said it was just an atmospheric radon spike, nothing from WIPP. Which of course it wasn't. No one's been down in the mine since a salt truck fire caused total evacuation on February 7th. So they don't know what happened in section 7 to set off the alarm, or how much gnarl has been released to go out the stack. They had to back off that lie when CEMRC detected plutonium and americium off-site.

1. DoE says what got released somehow managed to get released before the stack HEPA filters somehow started to work. That's bull, the filters are always on duty, it's just that .03% of what they're designed to filter gets out anyway. So what is being detected off-site must have come from that .03%. How large is the release really? The levels detected by the alarmed detector should give a fair indication...

2. Since we know what got out must be the .03% of the release that escapes filtration, must we assume that the release is ongoing and will be ongoing until/unless they can get in there and clean it up? Is the closure time for 'flushing' the air? And if the air is being 'flushed', doesn't that mean releases are constant?

3. If the release of these very deadly isotopes is ongoing, why are the citizens not being told to shelter in place, and taught the ways they can minimize air exchange so as to keep their homes/offices clear of these very deadly isotopes?

4. Why is DoE deliberately likening airborne plutonium/americium (plus whatever other gnarl) to x-ray exposures? Alpha/beta particles are NOT external hazard gamma rays.

5. If it's just alpha/beta emitters, why close the facility for a month rather than send some well-suited (with air supply) hps and engineers down the hole to see what's up? We are told there can be no significant gamma or neutrons, so as long as the workers are covered and not breathing the air, it shouldn't be an issue.

Not that I expect DoE will ever answer those. If the x-ray lie doesn't work, they'll immediately revert to the banana dance. ...oops. Too late. Sigh.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I haven't seen anything on (29+ / 0-)

    this leak here, but may have missed something. If so, consider this an update, current as of today.

    There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. - Will Rogers

    by Joieau on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 09:43:32 AM PST

  •  Scary situation (9+ / 0-)

    It looks likely this is far worse than the DOE is trying to make it out.  As you wrote, why not send people down there in protective gear?

    Unless there is no acceptable protective gear.

    •  A good number of the actinides (8+ / 0-)

      also emit gamma, so there would be a bit of gamma dose involved, but you just adjust stay-times accordingly to keep those to a minimum. Proper 'shielding' of skin and lungs would make the alpha and beta fairly inconsiderable, though you'd still want a stay-time limit so nobody gets 'sunburned' by the strong beta that might get through suit and clothing to skin.

      Problem is that the underground is 4-miles square (16 square miles). And the access shaft is central, toward the north. The leak in section 7 is well onto the south end, and it would take awhile to get there, even in a truck.

      Still, they say it was just one room, one alarm. Which should indicate the leak area of most intense radiation is limited. There are detectors (with alarms) every 200 feet or so, we've been informed of just one, in one 'room'. If the entire underground is crapped up to the max, it'll probably take longer than 3 weeks of 'flushing' to clear it out. And if they're clearing it out, the people downwind - and within 20-25 miles all around - need to be told to take precautions.

      I hate it that they never do this, as so much harm could so easily be prevented if they were just honest. They rely on the time-delay between breathing plutonium (etc.) and being diagnosed with lung cancer to cover their collective asses. It always works, because the public is kept dumb on purpose.

      There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. - Will Rogers

      by Joieau on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 10:16:37 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  to be clear (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau, Bisbonian, Jim P, Gordon20024, patbahn

    on the 7th- a truck caught fire
    on the 14th- they think the ceiling collapsed.
    they seem to be saying there is no correlation between the two events. is that right?

    and if they havent been down-this is bizarre that they havent been down- they are just guessing.
    but they closed the site down for a month?

    well im guessing they know a heck of a lot more than they are telling. and what they know might be damned scary.
    sure sounds like it is scaring them

    really not good news out of our WIPPY friends.

    and as always, i love your diaries.
    your diaries always seem well informed and honest
    unlike a few here that post what seem to be an overly optimistic about the nuclear world.
    im trying to be polite...
     

    •  Aw, thanks live1. (6+ / 0-)

      I try to be as clear and honest as I can, while explaining things that most people know basically zip about and aren't anxious to learn. §;o)

      You're right that there would seem no connection between the truck fire and whatever happened in 7. They're a couple of miles apart, at least. It is my understanding (and fair guess) that the evacuation of the entire underground during that fire was because it's close down there - half a mile underground and vented just barely. Several workers apparently suffered from smoke inhalation in the time it took to get them out.

      Of course they know more than they're saying. And of course it's what they're NOT saying that is of greatest concern. One monitor alarm in one 'room' of one section would definitely NOT preclude suited-up workers from going down to check out the situation. The monitors are every ~200 feet or so, and if it's true that only one went off, there would be no significant exposure until you got close enough to see what's happened.

      The fact that they haven't and don't plan to - and have sent all the workers home for another 3 weeks (plus the weeks up to now) alerts me to the [strong] likelihood that they're still venting, and that means these nasties are still going out, still dosing the population. Now, it's not like New Mexicans haven't been regularly dosed with radiation over the years or anything, but nobody "gets used to it." It harms biological tissues, I don't care who you are. And prevailing winds will take it into western Texas and Oklahoma. Somebody in government needs to start being honest about this...

      There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. - Will Rogers

      by Joieau on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 10:31:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The truck fire and the alarm were in different (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joieau, BlackSheep1

      areas. I don't see any obvious connection.

      I am surprised that no one has been down to investigate. It would be informative to send a monitoring team in if only to see how close to area 7 they can get before they have to leave.

      Could it be there are some things they don't want to know or acknowledge?

      I'm a Vietnam Era vet. I'm also an Erma Bombeck Era vet. When cussing me out and calling me names please indicate which vet you would like to respond to your world changing thoughts.

      by Just Bob on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 10:35:38 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I suspect there is some concern (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JeffW, Just Bob

        about if it IS a ceiling collapse, other areas may also collapse. This was apparently an issue in the #1 cavern when they first started placing the waste, the ceiling 'flaking' off in sheets. They did put those big bolts with plates into the ceilings (seen in the photo above), like they used down Interstate 40 from where I live, after the unstable mountain crumbled onto the highway and into the river and shut it down for more than a year. Which informs me (those rocks weren't even vertical, much less upside down!) that these nifty big bolts and plates aren't very effective against moving geology. The highway was closed by yet another huge rock slide just over a year after they'd opened again.

        So. It could conceivably be that the permian formation they've mined to create this facility isn't anywhere near as stable as they said it was when they sited the place. They just had so much gnarly garbage to get rid of that they didn't care if it was good to go. Besides, it's a fine way to channel unlimited amounts of gub'ment money to well-connected contractors, right?

        If indeed the formation is inherently unstable, it will have to be abandoned. I guess it would be okay to leave the already-stored waste where it is, it's not like anybody's ever going to dig it up just for fun or anything... §;o)

        There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. - Will Rogers

        by Joieau on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 11:02:35 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  HEPA filters are not always on duty (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ozy, mamooth

    In routine operations, WIPP requires a lot of air circulation because people work down there. That air is normally unfiltered, because if they tried to filter it, the HEPA filters would quickly become clogged with ordinary dust and couldn't do their job -- which is to prevent release of radioactive material.

    When the initial radiation alarm went off, the air switched to internal circulation only, with HEPA filtering, as it was designed to do. Obviously there was a brief gap in time between the release of radiation, the alarm, and the circulation switching. During that brief interval, an extremely minute amount of material escaped. And by "extremely minute", I'm talking less than 0.7 Bq, which is less than 2x10^-11 Curie. That's so low that it's 50 times less than any event you would even have to report to the EPA.

    http://atomicinsights.com/...

    We are all in the same boat on a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty. -- G.K. Chesterton

    by Keith Pickering on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 10:25:09 AM PST

    •  LOL!!! Oh, my. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bisbonian, live1, Jim P, Just Bob

      You buy that shit? Really?

      Oh... and the month-plus of whole facility evac? Are they not 'flushing' the underground? Do the HEPA filters not allow .03% out even if they aren't saturated? And what happens when they're saturated? How quickly does that happen (i.e., what are the real levels)?

      How crapped up is it really, Keith? Surely you could tell us that, and how many alarms really sounded. And how bad it is between the access shaft and #7. Gamma only, please, because that's all that would really count to fully suited investigators spending less than 15 minutes supposedly 'in range', and they've already publicly claimed there's no considerable gamma. Right?

      There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. - Will Rogers

      by Joieau on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 10:48:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Okay, I missed it somewhere along the way, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau, FarWestGirl

        but I have heard the banana nonsense all my life, and would like to hear the rebuttal.  Can you explain it?

        "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana." --Townes Van Zandt

        by Bisbonian on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 10:58:50 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Certainly, Bisbonian. (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          live1, Bisbonian, Just Bob, FarWestGirl, Jim P

          Bananas are a good source of natural potassium, a necessary nutrient used in metabolistic functions in our cells. It is a "primordial" element, was here when the planet formed.

          Of all natural potassium, 0.0117% of it is potassium-40, a radioactive isotope. Thus all forms of life on this planet - up to and including us - evolved in the presence of this natural radioactive substance - K40. The concentration of which never changes. You get X amount of internal dose from internal K40 from before you're born until the day you die (and as long as it takes for you to become dust), factored for how big you are. It is the largest portion of our radiation exposure (particularly internal exposure) from natural sources.

          It does not matter how many bananas you eat, your absorbed internal dose from K40 never changes. Even though potassium atoms in your body are constantly replaced and/or flushed out. That is because K40 is ALWAYS 0.0117 of potassium in our environment/food supply. It never changes.

          If your banana is contaminated with, say, cesium-134/137 (an effective potassium mimic for use in your body), that cesium is overwhelmingly likely to be replacing a stable atom of potassium. As opposed to a K40 atom. Thus the cesium is EXTRA dose. In addition to. On top of. Radiation dose is cumulative, always has been.

          Plutonium is a bone-seeker, but is known to lodge in lungs, liver, blood filtering organs, and to cause cancer in miniscule amounts. Causes cancer. This is well known, nobody with half a brain argues about it. The actinide waste from weapons production is the gnarliest of nuclear shit ever produced by anybody anywhere (and these are man-made isotopes, thus man-caused exposure if you are exposed). You can never be considered to have 'traded' a natural isotope for plutonium or americium, etc.

          There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. - Will Rogers

          by Joieau on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 11:30:13 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Thank you...excellent and concise. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Joieau, FarWestGirl

            "Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana." --Townes Van Zandt

            by Bisbonian on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 11:57:08 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  And wrong, though only slightly. (4+ / 0-)

              It takes time for homeostasis to kick in and regulate the concentration of potassium in your body.

              Until that happens, you are receiving a larger dose of internal radiation from eating a banana.

              Radiation dose 'risk' is cumulative, but the cumulative damage from low level radiation is difficult to assess because it competes with repair mechanisms in a probabilistic sense.

              For example, let's say I get a chest X-ray. There are a certain percentage of cells in my body that will be damaged by the procedure. If the damage in those cells are repaired, or if those cells die and are replaced, then the damage from that radiation dose is GONE.

              The danger, of course, is that there is a very small percentage chance that any given damaged cell will not be repaired correctly, and that this will eventually lead to cancer.

              The reason why the risk is cumulative is because it's such a low chance that it's approximately true that getting two X-rays provides twice the cancer risk of one X-ray, not because 'damage' from the first X-ray adds to 'damage' from the second.

              •  Oh, garbage. (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Bisbonian, Just Bob

                If you were to eat a whole stalk of bananas, you'd get a little 'extra' dose while it's going on through your digestive system (and probably be quite constipated if you didn't eat enough roughage and drink enough water to move it better), but your body's cells are not going to uptake more potassium than you normally use and store. That is at homeostasis from the time you're in-womb until you die, adding up accordingly as you get bigger - have more cells.

                If you have a potassium deficiency and your doctor tells you to eat bananas at breakfast, all its going to do is bring your potassium levels up to normal. Your amount of K40 is, as a percentage of potassium in your body, NEVER GOING TO CHANGE because the percentage of K40 in all natural potassium never changes.

                Exposures to man-made isotopes is quite different. And again, I am not talking external gamma here. Which varies based on where you are and how often you go to the doctor to get radiated. And is certainly harmful in excess. But it's not particulate like alpha and beta. Those are the nasties emitted by this kind of high level waste. Plutonium. It means something.

                There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. - Will Rogers

                by Joieau on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 12:48:12 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Garbage? (4+ / 0-)

                  What I said was 100% accurate, and it's your usual assertion that there is 'no safe dose level' and 'all dose is cumulative', so I'm not sure why you're casually dismissing that little 'extra' dose.

                  It takes about 4-6 hours for your kidneys to flush the extra potassium out of your system from a banana. Until that time, you're receiving an extra radiation dose. That's a fact.

                  A small dose, I grant you, but an extra dose nonetheless.

                  My comments about the X-rays and cumulative risk vs damage applies to particulates as well, though the dose calculation is more involved given a chronic source rather than an acute dose.

                  But sure, I'll grant you that there are man-made isotopes that are particularly dangerous. The link Keith posted discusses Am241, which happens to be the same isotope that's in smoke detectors. Though the amount detected from the filter is ~40000 times less than whats in a smoke detector.

                  As far as plutonium goes, I wonder if you would have any insights regarding the case of the 25 plutonium workers from Los Alamos during the days of the Manhattan project, who by all rights (and dose calculations) should have had a 99.5% chance of dying from lung cancer, every single one of them. And yet, none did:

                  "There were about 25 workers from Los Alamos National Laboratory who inhaled a considerable amount of plutonium dust during 1940s; according to the hot-particle theory, each of them has a 99.5% chance of being dead from lung cancer by now, but there has not been a single lung cancer among them."[100][102]
                  http://en.wikipedia.org/...

                  You do realize that your immediate reaction of 'Do you believe that shit' to any information that doesn't immediately agree with your agenda does not speak well to your objectivity on this matter.

                  •  I'd ask you how come (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Bisbonian, Just Bob, Jim P

                    DoE/WIPP management evacuated the entire facility until further notice, and are now getting no closer than a public meeting in Carlsbad (26 miles away) if actinides in the immediate vicinity's air are not an issue. I'd ask you why they don't just send down some well-suited, air supply hps and engineers to see what's up, since the gamma isn't that big a deal, and all of the underground chambers have multi-meter thick "pillars" that would make excellent gamma shielding if needed from a point source.

                    But I know I wouldn't get an honest answer, if you knew. And I do not expect that you know. Oh, well.

                    There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. - Will Rogers

                    by Joieau on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 01:25:20 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Are you kidding me? (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Keith Pickering, mamooth

                      You're asking why a radiation facility evacuated when there was an detection of an unplanned emission?

                      You're asking why they 'don't just send someone down' before they've done as complete an analysis as they can? An analysis that takes a significant amount of time given the levels of radiation they are trying to detect.

                      I'm really not sure if you're serious here, because one of your big things is about how incompetent and unsafe organizations and facilities like this are. And now, you're chastising them for not rushing in and acting in an incredibly incompetent and unsafe manner. (gamma's not a big deal?! WTF! a point source?!)

                      And then, to top it off, you EXPLICITLY accuse me of being a liar. I make it a habit not to HR, but calling someone a liar without provocation like that sure deserves one.

                      I would have thought Kos' meta diary would have at least temporarily cut down on behavior like this. sigh

                      •  . (0+ / 0-)
                        And now, you're chastising them for not rushing in and acting in an incredibly incompetent and unsafe manner. (gamma's not a big deal?! WTF! a point source?!)
                        There's nothing whatsoever incompetent or unsafe about suiting up and entering a dangerous radiological area. It's done daily all over the world, by hundreds or thousands of people. They tell us the issue is alpha and beta. Both these forms of radiation can be protected against satisfactorily for relatively short amounts of time. It's the gamma you need to worry about. Gamma, we are told, is NOT the issue.

                        Any danger from gamma that's not coming from the airborne actinides would be coming from the smashed barrels in room 7 of section 7. That is, for all practical purposes [FAPP] a point-source. They would easily be able to real-time monitor gamma on their way from the lift to the area. It's part of finding out what the situation is, and if one can get close enough, what's happened. There's a 3-meter thick "pillar" of salt between room 7 of section 7, between it and room 6. Inverse square law, plus shielding. Physics-101.

                        They should by rights be able to get that far, and put out a camera on a stick while hiding behind the wall, that would tell them a lot about what's happened. They're not doing that. Which tells me the situation is worse than they've reported.

                        And then, to top it off, you EXPLICITLY accuse me of being a liar.
                        No, I did not. Explicitly, no fucking way. Maybe a little bit implicitly, if you were personally inclined to take personal offense. Man up, waa-waa boy. You can take it.
                        I make it a habit not to HR, but calling someone a liar without provocation like that sure deserves one.
                        You can't legitimately HR someone you've been trolling. You of course know that. Funny, I don't see your compatriots coming to your rescue there.
                        I would have thought Kos' meta diary would have at least temporarily cut down on behavior like this. sigh
                        Markos is a grown man. He can handle it too. I am behaving just fine, thanks. This is my diary. You've been a dick.

                        P.S. to all: don't feed the trolls.

                        There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. - Will Rogers

                        by Joieau on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 03:57:23 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  The first rule of radiation safety (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          mamooth

                          is you limit exposure as much as possible. Unless there is a good reason to go into a radiologically active area, you don't go.

                          Period.

                          And I'm not sure why you keep saying 'gamma isn't the issue'. Gamma radiation is very much an issue, and saying that you can 'block' the sources with columns is not part of the radiation safety handbook.

                          You don't play 'hide and seek' with the sources.

                          I'm sure they will finally go in, once they have developed a reasonable protocol to keep exposure ALARA, and make it safe for the investigators, but they still have a significant amount of work to do analyzing the results from the detectors to get the best handle on what they are dealing with.

                          As far your behavior, when you say 'But I know I wouldn't get an honest answer, if you knew.' That is explicitly calling me a liar. It's not using the exact word 'liar', but there's no getting around what that sentence means. It is stated clearly with no room for doubt, and it is uncalled for.

                          Just because it's your diary, doesn't mean you get to use that sort of language without cause, and you don't have cause. Nothing I said warranted it.

                          Furthermore, calling me a troll because you disagree with my statements or analysis is also uncalled for. I didn't jump in until I saw you post something factually incorrect, and only because you were attempting to 'instruct' someone else. Normally I've learned to give your diaries a pass because information is generally met with the type of hostility that you showed Keith and you're showing me right now.

                          I don't need any compatriots to stand up for me, and while I don't believe in HRs, I also don't believe in letting bullies get away with their behavior.

                      •  ... (0+ / 0-)
                        You're asking why a radiation facility evacuated when there was an detection of an unplanned emission?
                        No, I'm asking why the neighbors haven't been evacuated and/or advised accordingly to take precautions.
                        You're asking why they 'don't just send someone down' before they've done as complete an analysis as they can? An analysis that takes a significant amount of time given the levels of radiation they are trying to detect.
                        No, I'm pointing out that they know what the levels of radiation and/or contamination are. There are working monitors every 200 feet or so throughout the underground. They know precisely what's coming out, too. That's one of the nifty 'other' uses of those filters happens to be.
                        I'm really not sure if you're serious here, because one of your big things is about how incompetent and unsafe organizations and facilities like this are.
                        What "facilities like this"? If you mean Fukushima Daiichi, it's not a deep geological waste disposal site storing the nastiest radionuclides all our bomb-makers from the 1940s could come up with. And the fact is, three of Daiichi's reactors are 100% melted and below ground level, 4 of the reactor buildings self-destructed (two of them quite spectacularly, LIVE!) into dust, shrapnel and lots of fuel leavings, fission products, and daughters. To contaminate the entire world. Then a couple of 'em burned for days, just because they could.

                        There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. - Will Rogers

                        by Joieau on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 03:59:30 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

          •  Actually there is no evidence for this. . . . (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mamooth
            Plutonium is a bone-seeker, but is known to lodge in lungs, liver, blood filtering organs, and to cause cancer in miniscule amounts.
            There are reports that Soviet workers with long term exposure to plutonium do have slightly elevates rate of lung cancer (approximately one in a hundred workers were affected) but there is no dosimetry involved.

            These workers likely received much higher than "miniscule" doses, and over long periods of time.  And yet, only one out of a hundred were afflicted with unexplained lung cancer.

            •  Wow! Next you'll be telling us (0+ / 0-)

              that half of the people who get an LD50 dose (of anything lethal, including radiation) DO NOT DIE of that dose!!!!!

              What'll they think of next?

              There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. - Will Rogers

              by Joieau on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 04:25:39 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  The thing is, there is no known LD50 value (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                mamooth

                for plutonium, so any claims of its extreme toxicity are unfounded (as are claims of its extreme carcinogenicity).

                Actually performing the experiment (by deliberately dosing test subjects with known amounts of plutonium) would be unethical of course.

                And evidence from "accidentally" exposed persons has largely been inconclusive because of uncertainties in what does the people were exposed to.  However, because the health effects were typically rather mild, hyperbolic claims of toxicity/carcinogenicity often found on the internet are rather troubling, if not down-right misleading and dishonest.

                •  For pity's sake. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Roadbed Guy

                  I never specified Pu (or anything else) in my quip about LD50. It was just a quip to your silly "but... but... some people don't die!" apologetic. It's absurd, and you know it.

                  As for dangers plutonium DOES represent, the NRC has things to say...

                  Most people will never come into contact with plutonium. But for scientists and engineers that have worked with it, it is important to know about the potential health effects. The most common form of plutonium is plutonium oxide—a compound of plutonium bonded with oxygen. In this form, plutonium does not easily dissolve. Plutonium oxide's impact on human health depends on how it enters the body. If someone eats or drinks it, a large percentage will be eliminated rapidly as waste. If plutonium oxide is inhaled, some of it remains in the lungs. Between 20 and 60 percent can remain, depending upon the size of the particles and other factors. The rest is eliminated from the body within several days. Of the plutonium remaining in the lungs, about half will be removed each year. Some is excreted, some lodges in the lymph nodes, and a very small amount migrates, settling in other organs but mainly in bones. If plutonium oxide gets into an open wound, it may move directly into bones and other organs, mainly the liver.

                  The next most common form is plutonium nitrate—a compound of plutonium, oxygen and nitrogen. This chemical dissolves somewhat more readily than the oxide. Plutonium nitrate behaves much like plutonium oxide in the body but moves out of the lungs more rapidly.

                  Research shows plutonium can be chemically toxic and contribute to tumor development. But the most common form of plutonium has more radiological than chemical toxicity.

                  and...
                  Over 1,600 metric tons of plutonium has been produced worldwide, some for weapons use and most of the rest in electricity production. A commercial power reactor creates plutonium in its many isotopic forms, including Pu-239, Pu-240, Pu-241, and Pu-242. This is known as "reactor-grade" plutonium. In contrast, "weapons-grade" plutonium is almost pure Pu-239 (over 90 percent). This form requires a specially designed and operated reactor. Plutonium production reactors operated by the U.S. government during the Cold War have all shut down.

                  With the end of the Cold War, the United States and the former Soviet Union began dismantling thousands of nuclear weapons. This work created a surplus of high enriched uranium and plutonium. To keep the surplus from falling into the wrong hands, the U.S. and Russia agreed to mix their plutonium with uranium to make mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for power reactors. Irradiating the "weapons-grade" plutonium in a commercial reactor makes it "reactor-grade" and no longer useful for weapons. There would be no reprocessing or subsequent reuse of the MOX spent fuel. It would be disposed in a deep geologic repository along with other high-level nuclear waste.

                  WIPP is that "deep geologic repository" where they bury "weapons grade" as well as production process plutonium waste, from weapons production, along with other high level nuclear waste.

                  This is a leak of plutonium and other high level nuclear waste from that "deep geologic repository." They've completely evacuated the facility, above and below the ground. For weeks already, scheduled for some weeks more. They are telling the neighbors there's no issue.

                  If you lived next door, would you buy that? ...really?

                  There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. - Will Rogers

                  by Joieau on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 05:26:07 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Good information! (0+ / 0-)

                    It's more in line with the scientific consensus that plutonium - while clearly should be dealt with with all due respect - is far from massively toxic/carcinogenic like you originally claimed.

                    •  It's more than just plutonium. (0+ / 0-)

                      Americium, curium, neptunium, einsteinium... it's that whole off-to-itself bottom row (usually red) on the periodic table chart. And, because these isotopes decay just like all other radionuclides decay, their ugly step-daughters as well. Because some of them decay by fission (i.e., plutonium), there's neutrons as well, some activated dross (i.e., cobalt-60), and some neutron capture transmutants.

                      Now, I don't believe DoE when they claim there's not enough gamma (or neutrons) to be concerned about. It's just that the concentration should be in the vicinity of the leaking barrels. If it's primarily alpha and beta, protective measures are possible. Obviously it's worse than they're telling the neighbors. It always is.

                      There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. - Will Rogers

                      by Joieau on Wed Feb 26, 2014 at 07:03:45 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

      •  Well if you don't have any evidence (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FarWestGirl, mamooth

        you can always try ridicule. I hear that's very convincing. Tea Partiers use it all the time.

        Sheesh. I would have thought Democrats would be able to have a civil discussion of a scientific issue. Apparently some cannot.

        We are all in the same boat on a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty. -- G.K. Chesterton

        by Keith Pickering on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 02:04:34 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I just look at video footage from 1998 (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau, Just Bob

    of the underground facilities, how they drilled out the storage areas (cavern rooms) and how they tested the sturdiness of the metal drums. Unfortunately without any sort of explanation, no sound, but the images are pretty horrifying. They don't help me though to judge any of it.

    Thanks for posting this. I hope more will come out to shed light on what exactly the situation is.

    Washington DC needs a Moral Heyday - Let's organize one - Laborday 2014

    by mimi on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 10:52:42 AM PST

  •  Thanks for the post, Joieau. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau, FarWestGirl

    I've only seen a chyron or two on this, and no details.  Thanks for the 'banana' explanation as well

    Is it just me or does a lot of life these days seem to belong in a season of X-Files?

    Will trade sig line for beer or for rum and coke, if it is Friday.

    by theBreeze on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 12:37:31 PM PST

    •  Heh. I'm pretty sure (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      theBreeze

      the next thing we hear from DoE is that it's all from those damned aliens when they crashed down the road in Roswell. §;o)

      It's really not so hard, I wish the Doe (et al.) would try - just try to be honest with people for once in their existence. This is nasty shit - worst of the worst - and WIPP met with considerable objections when it was proposed and the entire time it's existed. People in the area are wide awake and concerned. Why not simply tell them the truth?

      I wrote a little book called "Home Health Physics" when Fukushima melted down. Hardly anybody bought it, but it was really quite cute. And useful, I refer to mine quite often to make sure I've got the conversions straight. Here's a nifty graphic based on it, that would make a great wall poster for WIPP-local residents to have taped to their kitchen doors -
      How to Survive a Nuclear Holocaust
      ...and this isn't even a holocaust. It's just an actinide leak. Not enough (they say) to require evacuation of residents, but residents who know these particulate nasties are things you definitely want to avoid at all costs could quite easily protect themselves with the basics. And would do so if alerted with a "you may wish to." What's the harm in that?

      There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. - Will Rogers

      by Joieau on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 01:09:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Even on DKos, you might consider editing the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau

    title to include 'radiation leak in New Mexico' for greater clarity and more views. At first glance I thought that members of a Greek crime family had gone over a wall somewhere. ;-)

    Thanks for posting.

    Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. ~The Druid.
    ~Ideals aren't goals, they're navigation aids.~

    by FarWestGirl on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 03:38:58 PM PST

    •  Oh, it's well off the list now. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FarWestGirl

      I don't mind, just wanted to log it in my CV of diaries to nuclear subjects, to be linked and referred to down the line when more information becomes available. §;o)

      I never thought of a Greek crime family. Almost Ludlem-esque! I'd bet there's a novel in there somewhere for a plot-twister far younger than me!!!

      There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. - Will Rogers

      by Joieau on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 04:10:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  ARGH! Ludlum. (0+ / 0-)

        Spelled it wrong with my anxious fingers. And I'm reading the anthology now, past The Scarlatti Inheritance and The Osterman Weekend into The Matlock Paper (three to go, re-read the Bournes in sequence last summer. Ah, well.

        There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. - Will Rogers

        by Joieau on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 04:16:14 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  any shutdown of this length (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau

    it's a big deal.

    probably the fire damaged a container or
    caused a ceiling collapse.

    the problem is if the fire lit up something.

    it may be very hard to fix.

    what we don't have is where the fire was, or can they get
    some robots down there.

    •  The fire was in the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      patbahn

      north section, labeled on diagrams as "experimental" - whatever that means in context, apparently not barrel/cask storage. Yet, anyway, it's still being mined. It was a salt truck, used to move salt from the diggers to the equipment shaft for transport topside. So, if the diagrams are accurate, no waste in the area of the fire.

      The south end has 2-3 miles' worth of long mined 'chambers' with 7 'rooms' in each, separated by several meters of solid salt left in place. The #7 chamber is second to last going south, extending west. #7 room is farthest west to the solid basin. So the leak is in the far southwest corner of the underground, should be fairly contained (the worst of it, anyway). Though it seems pretty clear they're not telling all they know per evacuation and such.

      I mean, it's not like this waste is just going to decay away over a few weeks like iodine-131 would do. Many of these actinides have half-lives measured in millions of years.

      There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. - Will Rogers

      by Joieau on Wed Feb 26, 2014 at 07:16:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Also, at the Carlsbad public (0+ / 0-)

      meeting one of the DoE officials mentioned a "seismic event" in passing. Since we haven't heard there was a notable earthquake in the vicinity, it kind of makes me wonder if they weren't getting a little shake from the east - west Texas - where they've been fracking everything in sight.

      At any rate, if ceilings are collapsing at WIPP, I should think DoE would call an immediate halt to all fracking activity in the region. Wonder if they did... Anybody in west Texas/southeast New Mexico/Oklahoma panhandle notice a sudden halt to fracking operations recently?

      There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. - Will Rogers

      by Joieau on Wed Feb 26, 2014 at 07:55:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  It always just stuns me, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau

      to store for 10,000 years and now I find out the roof of the salt caves has plates, cause the ceiling is prone to falling.
       Beyond absurd.

    March AGAINST monsatanOHagentorange 3/25/13 a time warp

    by 3rock on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 05:36:47 PM PST

  •  Hi Joieau (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau

     So appreciate you. Knowing for someone like myself who is forever optimistic.
      Is it feasible for Fukushima to build the BIGGEST MONUMENTAL concrete box, pyramid, round peg, whatever. I mean HUGE. Could add rocks, maybe lead somewhere in the mix. Point of hope that it would compress the entire areas soil (it's landfill) so water would go around and wouldn't be contaminated. I thought maybe the first ten feet of could shore up the buildings.
       I had posted a short version of this in "Evening Blues"
       My mind has raced since then in how such a concrete structure would be built and function. What I wonder about, is if a square was left around each reactor, if the bottom wet soil would rise, lifting the corium into the planned HUGE HUGE HUGE sarcophagus, layer by layer.
       I think what if above the square a huge tube filled with lead pellets or having a huge lead plate to drop down would lessen a bit the fallout, in the event of an ("the") earthquake.
       I just think the cost of a HUGE amount of concrete has to be a lot less than 40 years of $ & "NO" earthquakes.
       It seems reasonable enough to me that the at whatever  weight and size needed to compress the soil & stop contaminated water from the seas around Japan would be well worth the cost. One of the interesting things is when the Twin Towers were built, a guy came up with a way to pour concrete against wet soil.
      How hard could it be to crowd source from other countries or our "good" 1%er billionaires a fuckin massive amount of concrete? I think the new Chernobyl sarcophagus is a billion or two or three.  
     

    March AGAINST monsatanOHagentorange 3/25/13 a time warp

    by 3rock on Tue Feb 25, 2014 at 06:19:59 PM PST

    •  PS (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joieau

        The other thing in thinking is I can't remember a poll in the US, at least in the last couple years with the simple question, "Do you support or oppose the construction of Nuclear Power?"
         I wish you would do a poll, alerting everyone in Nuclear Free DKOS, to tweet or email or facebook.
         The absurdity of how controlled the "media" is. The HUGE amount of people who are against nuclear power for decades, are now silent? I don't believe they are. After Fukushima if some had doubts, I'm sure they have come back into the fold.
         It is so astonishing to me that a massive amount of people are now non voiced. Can we make our own media awareness?
         It would help raise awareness and most importantly give strength to the Japanese anti nuke peoples.
         I think all the Pacific nations could have a voice. I'm not giving in to corporate at the demise of civilization. I think WE are better than that.

      March AGAINST monsatanOHagentorange 3/25/13 a time warp

      by 3rock on Wed Feb 26, 2014 at 12:07:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  For Fuku, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      3rock

      I'd have all the industrialized - especially all the nuclear - nations contribute $, equipment and materials, and labor. Build the Mother Of All Seawalls out past the last groundwater sink (where the corium contaminated groundwater comes up into the Pacific). At the same time build the cofferdam uphill toward the mountains to divert the groundwater around the facility entirely. Drop all the buildings (and their leaky, nasty spent fuel pools) and quickly - within 10 hours or so - cover with sand, galena ore sand and zeolite. Then asphalt, while at the same time filling in the entire lagoon with the same mixture. Then built the solar system's biggest pyramid covering the entire thing, faced with the blackest of black engineered graphite and carbon rocks, with a nice indented white rock skull and crossbones on all four faces of the apex. That can easily be seen from the moon.

      Pyramid is the stablest of structures, and eventually the whole mess will slide under the Pacific Plate into the mantle, though humans aren't likely to still be around at that point.

      ...and promise to never do anything so fatally foolish as a species ever again.

      There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. - Will Rogers

      by Joieau on Wed Feb 26, 2014 at 07:30:37 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ditto (0+ / 0-)

           I've always thought if pyramids were built in a zig zag along say the San Andreas fault, earthquakes would be minimal and a whole different energy. Ah, but that's for planets that want to build paradises worth traveling experience.

        ...and promise to never do anything so fatally foolish as a species ever again.
          optimism continues :)
          It's weird but I actually have an inclination that the younger gens can accomplish the healing needed.
           I'm stunned at their spiritual strength. Time moves forward.

        March AGAINST monsatanOHagentorange 3/25/13 a time warp

        by 3rock on Wed Feb 26, 2014 at 04:52:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Bananas for all (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joieau

    Thx for the article.

    I myself also collected some info here.

    Seems like the situation is very serious and they dont know or dont want to tell, what is happening inside the facility ATM.

    Link to my article on justpaste.it

  •  Here is a link (0+ / 0-)

    to the KSVP Pecos Valley video of the Carlsbad open meeting [2 hours], if you have enough bandwidth to watch it.

    There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves. - Will Rogers

    by Joieau on Wed Feb 26, 2014 at 07:46:14 AM PST

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