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 »
"The Senate approved the Republican-proposed budget Thursday night, a major step forward for the GOP effort to enact tax cuts. The budget, which now moves to the House, is projected to expand the deficit by $1.5 trillion over 10 years. Its passage will allow the GOP to use a procedural maneuver to pass tax legislation through the Senate with 50 or more votes, removing the need for support from Democratic senators."
"President Donald Trump overrode his own advisers when he promised to deliver an emergency declaration next week to combat the nation’s worsening opioid crisis ... Blindsided officials are now scrambling to develop such a plan, but it is unclear when it will be announced, how or if it will be done, and whether the administration has the permanent leadership to execute it, said two administration officials. 'They are not ready for this,' a public health advocate said of an emergency declaration after talking to Health and Human Services officials enlisted in the effort."
"The number of U.S. adults without health insurance is up nearly 3.5 million this year, as rising premiums and political turmoil over 'Obamacare' undermine coverage gains that drove the nation’s uninsured rate to a historic low. That finding is based on the latest installment of a major survey, released Friday. The Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index asks a random sample of 500 people each day whether they have health insurance."
The initial data Twitter gave to the Senate's Russia Probe was "a batch of tweets that the Kremlin’s English-language news network paid the company to promote, The Daily Beast has learned. That’s just a sliver of what investigators believe to be Russia’s propaganda campaign on the social network—which helps explain the dissatisfaction that followed those first disclosures."
"Senate Democrats on Thursday failed in their first attempt to save the state and local tax deduction, which helps many residents of California and other high-cost states reduce their federal income tax bills. The Republican-controlled Senate voted 52-47 to reject an amendment that would have prevented the Senate from considering any bill that repeals or limits the deduction as part of a planned tax overhaul."