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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After more than a month of back and forth, a failed bill, and GOP embarrassment, the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus has announced that it will support the Obamacare replacement legislation in its most recent iteration. Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the caucus, said the roughly 30 members of the caucus view this compromise as the best option short of a full repeal. A recent amendment, authored by Meadows and Rep. Tom McArthur, co-chair of the more moderate Tuesday Group, would allow states to apply for waivers exempting them from provisions forbidding insurers from charging higher prices to those with pre-existing conditions if the state set up a high-risk pool. The plan's passage in the House is not a done deal though, as a number of moderate lawmakers have resisted supporting the amendment.
"A U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer fired a warning flare toward an Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessel coming near it in the Persian Gulf. The incident happened Monday as the vessel closed to within 1,000 meters of the USS Mahan, "despite the destroyer trying to turn away from it." After attempting to contact the Iranian vessel and sounding its whistle, it deployed the flare. After that, the ship had had enough and turned away.
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