A specialist thinks he has pinpointed the cause of a February radiation leak at a federal atomic waste dump — a packing material similar to kitty litter.
The firm responsible for preparing containers of radiation-contaminated materials for shipment from the Los Alamos National Laboratory to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant for underground storage changed the type of absorbent material in packing the containers, says Jim Conca, who previously worked at both the nuclear weapons facility and in environmental monitoring for the New Mexico repository.
The absorbent material is used to sponge up any liquid in the drums and remains in the containers when they are stored in the tunnels of the nuclear waste dump, the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reported Conca as saying. This switch from a clay-based absorbent to a wheat-based filler material could have produced nitrate salts that caused a “mild” explosive reaction to occur in one of the drums, according to Conca, a science columnist for Forbes.
Officials from the Energy Department, which is still investigating the cause of the February leak, did not respond to Conca’s theory, nor did officials from Los Alamos or the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. Underground operations at the waste site have been halted since the leak occurred. An Energy Department statement earlier this month indicated that a chemical reaction in one of the drums sent over from Los Alamos could be responsible for the emissions release.
The official in charge of the recovery effort at the WIPP facility last week said it would probably take between 18 months and three years to fully reopen the nuclear repository.
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Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.