Could ‘Kitty Litter’ Be to Blame for Atomic Dump Radiation Leak?

Global Security Newswire Staff
Add to Briefcase
Global Security Newswire Staff
May 13, 2014, 9:01 a.m.

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.

What We're Following See More »
Trump Deposition Video Is Online
16 hours ago

The video of Donald Trump's deposition in his case against restaurateur Jeffrey Zakarian is now live. Slate's Jim Newell and Josh Voorhees are live-blogging it while they watch.

Debate Commission Admits Issues with Trump’s Mic
17 hours ago

The Commission on Presidential Debates put out a statement today that gives credence to Donald Trump's claims that he had a bad microphone on Monday night. "Regarding the first debate, there were issues regarding Donald Trump's audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall," read the statement in its entirety.

Trump Deposition Video to Be Released
18 hours ago

"A video of Donald Trump testifying under oath about his provocative rhetoric about Mexicans and other Latinos is set to go public" as soon as today. "Trump gave the testimony in June at a law office in Washington in connection with one of two lawsuits he filed last year after prominent chefs reacted to the controversy over his remarks by pulling out of plans to open restaurants at his new D.C. hotel. D.C. Superior Court Judge Brian Holeman said in an order issued Thursday evening that fears the testimony might show up in campaign commercials were no basis to keep the public from seeing the video."

Chicago Tribune Endorses Gary Johnson
21 hours ago

No matter that his recall of foreign leaders leaves something to be desired, Gary Johnson is the choice of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board. The editors argue that Donald Trump couldn't do the job of president, while hitting Hillary Clinton for "her intent to greatly increase federal spending and taxation, and serious questions about honesty and trust." Which leaves them with Johnson. "Every American who casts a vote for him is standing for principles," they write, "and can be proud of that vote. Yes, proud of a candidate in 2016."

USA Today Weighs in on Presidential Race for First Time Ever
1 days ago

"By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump." That's the message from USA Today editors, who are making the first recommendation on a presidential race in the paper's 34-year history. It's not exactly an endorsement; they make clear that the editorial board "does not have a consensus for a Clinton endorsement." But they state flatly that Donald Trump is, by "unanimous consensus of the editorial board, unfit for the presidency."