Cat Litter’s Role in Nuclear Leak Still Unproven

June 30, 2014, 8:35 a.m.

U.S. labor­at­or­ies failed to rep­lic­ate a cat-lit­ter re­ac­tion hy­po­thes­ized to have rup­tured a stor­age drum in an un­der­ground nuc­le­ar-waste dump, Re­u­ters re­ports.

Neither Los Alam­os Na­tion­al Labor­at­ory in New Mex­ico nor any of the na­tion’s oth­er atom­ic re­search cen­ters have pro­duced the type of thermal re­ac­tion tent­at­ively blamed for a Feb­ru­ary con­tam­in­a­tion re­lease at the Waste Isol­a­tion Pi­lot Plant, En­ergy De­part­ment spokes­wo­man Lind­sey Geisler said on Fri­day. The breach was the­or­et­ic­ally caused by a cat-lit­ter and ni­trate-salt pack­ing mix placed in hun­dreds of waste bar­rels at the Los Alam­os fa­cil­ity.

“There’s still a lot we don’t know,” Geisler said. The waste com­plex near Carls­bad has re­mained largely off-lim­its since the re­lease spread ra­dio­act­ive particles to 22 work­ers earli­er this year.

The En­ergy De­part­ment is ex­amin­ing pos­sible al­tern­at­ive meth­ods of deal­ing with ma­ter­i­als pre­vi­ously sched­uled for ship­ment to the re­pos­it­ory, Geisler ad­ded.

Fully re­sum­ing op­er­a­tions at the sub­ter­ranean stor­age site may re­quire up to 36 months, ac­cord­ing to over­sight of­fi­cials. A lengthy re­cov­ery peri­od would raise ques­tions over how to handle waste con­tain­ers pre­vi­ously slated for ship­ment to the fa­cil­ity from Los Alam­os, Idaho Na­tion­al Labor­at­ory and oth­er loc­a­tions, ac­cord­ing to Re­u­ters.

Mean­while, the pos­sib­il­ity of a con­tam­in­a­tion threat from prob­lem­at­ic waste drums has fo­cused new at­ten­tion on a leg­al ac­tion against New Mex­ico’s state gov­ern­ment, the Santa Fe New Mex­ic­an re­por­ted on Fri­day. The South­w­est Re­search and In­form­a­tion Cen­ter’s 2-year-old law­suit chal­lenges New Mex­ico’s de­cision to per­mit use of a new type of waste con­tain­er without first con­sult­ing the pub­lic.

State en­vir­on­ment per­son­nel stood by their ac­tions in court last week, ac­cord­ing to the New Mex­ic­an.

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
When It Comes to Mining Asteroids, Technology Is Only the First Problem
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Obama Reflects on His Economic Record
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Reagan Families, Allies Lash Out at Will Ferrell
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."

Source:
PEAK CONFIDENCE
Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-ex­pec­ted primary battle be­hind her, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (D) is no longer go­ing on the air in up­com­ing primary states. “Team Clin­ton hasn’t spent a single cent in … Cali­for­nia, In­di­ana, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and West Vir­gin­ia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “cam­paign has spent a little more than $1 mil­lion in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone back­er in the Sen­ate, said the can­did­ate should end his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign if he’s los­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton after the primary sea­son con­cludes in June, break­ing sharply with the can­did­ate who is vow­ing to take his in­sur­gent bid to the party con­ven­tion in Phil­adelphia.”

Source:
CITIZENS UNITED PT. 2?
Movie Based on ‘Clinton Cash’ to Debut at Cannes
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."

Source:
×