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Boardman writes: "Plutonium and other radioactive elements were accidentally released from the only U.S. underground nuclear weapons waste storage site in New Mexico on Valentine's Day 2014. More than three months later, investigators think they've found an underground container that failed - and that there are hundreds more like them, both underground and above ground, at different sites in New Mexico and Texas."

A photograph looking over the top of nuclear waste emplaced at WIPP in drums, waste boxes and overpacks in Panel 7 where the release of radioactive material took place. (photo: WIPP)
A photograph looking over the top of nuclear waste emplaced at WIPP in drums, waste boxes and overpacks in Panel 7 where the release of radioactive material took place. (photo: WIPP)

Radiation Release From Federal Facility Still Stymies Experts

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

24 May 14


New Mexico orders United States to protect people and environment

lutonium and other radioactive elements were accidentally released from the only U.S. underground nuclear weapons waste storage site in New Mexico on Valentine’s Day 2014. More than three months later, investigators think they’ve found an underground container that failed – and that there are hundreds more like them, both underground and above ground, at different sites in New Mexico and Texas. Investigators haven’t yet said exactly what caused the underground failure in February, or whether more than one underground waste container failed, but there have been no reports of further failures among the hundreds of now suspect containers, all of which are thought to contain a dangerous combination of nitrate salt and other chemicals.

This set of circumstances prompted the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to issue administrative orders to federal and private agencies on May 19 and May 20, compelling them to take protective action:

Based on the evidence provided to NMED, the current handling, storage, treatment and transportation of the hazardous nitrate salt bearing waste containers [at various sites] may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment….

This Order addresses immediate steps to isolate, secure and/or treat all nitrate salt bearing waste containers…. [emphasis added]

The Plutonium release into the environment near Carlsbad, New Mexico, on February 14 came from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), the 15-year-old underground storage site for radioactive nuclear weapons waste that was, according to its design, supposed to remain secure for 10,000 years. WIPP did not acknowledge the Plutonium release until February 19, after it was discovered by an independent monitor. The scale of the radioactive release in February is unknown, but it is widely believed to have been relatively small.

How great is the “imminent and substantial endangerment?”

As Memorial Day approached, no one was saying with any assurance how great the danger was from hundreds of containers holding radioactive waste, since only one (or a few) were known to have failed so far.

Half a mile underground at WIPP there are at least 368 identified “nitrate salt bearing waste containers” in two sections of the facility. The New Mexico Environment Department is calling for WIPP to carry out an “expedited closure” of these storage areas to entomb the waste as permanently as possible. It is unlikely entombment can be achieved for months, at least, since WIPP workers have little safe access to the storage areas yet.

Investigators presently believe that the nitrate salt bearing containers all come from the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), where the U.S. has been making atomic weapons for more than 70 years. In recent years, after wild fires threatened LANL’s above ground radioactive waste storage, LANL has been shipping its waste to WIPP. After the February Plutonium release, New Mexico ordered WIPP to remain shut down till it passed a state inspection and WIPP is expected to remain shut down for the foreseeable future.

LANL, however, has a lawful deadline of June 30, 2014, to clear its site of above ground radioactive waste. Because of this, shipments continued after the initial closure of WIPP, resulting in some nitrate salt bearing containers currently being stored above ground at WIPP. Later shipments from LANL went to a facility in west Texas, where they, too, are stored above ground. The LANL website has no information about WIPP issues and a LANL representative declined to comment on whether LANL would be able to meet the June 30 deadline.

New Mexico ordered LANL on May 19 to prepare a “waste container isolation plan” for the 57 identified nitrate salt bearing containers still on the 36 square mile LANL site. In a statement issued May 23, LANL said it “has initiated a series of safety precautions and investigative measures”:

The 55-gallon drums of waste remediated with absorbent have been packed into steel standard waste boxes and moved to a structure equipped with ventilation controls, fire suppression systems for extra protection and thermal monitoring.

On Thursday [May 22], the Lab submitted a plan to the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) describing site actions to isolate, secure and treat waste thought to be a possible source of the February 14 radiation release.

New Mexico has no jurisdiction over the estimated 100-plus nitrate salt bearing containers from LANL stored above ground at Waste Control Specialists in Andrews, Texas.

Is kitty litter somehow to blame for releasing radioactivity?

In its May 19 administrative order to LANL, New Mexico identifies waste streams that “contain varying amounts of nitrate salts,” although nitrate salts alone would not be expected to produce heat or explosion under most circumstances. The order goes on to note that the Energy Department has identified that “the primary waste stream, that contains nitrate salts absorbed with cellulose based kitty litter,” also contained the “two suspect LANL nitrate salt containers” that failed. All similar LANL waste containers in that waste stream became suspect in early May when investigators first theorized that the radioactive leak came at the end of a chain of events that began when the waste packer used the wrong kind of kitty litter. A LANL representative declined to answer questions about nitrate salts or kitty litter.

Exploring the kitty litter theory in Forbes May 10, long-time nuclear industry employee James Conca wrote about the issue, without really explaining it:

The wrong kitty litter was probably used to treat some of the nuclear waste recently disposed in the world’s only deep underground nuclear waste repository, near Carlsbad in New Mexico…. Unfortunately, someone working with this waste, before it was to be shipped to WIPP, used a new “green” cat litter, made with materials like wheat or corn. These organic litters do not have the silicate properties needed to chemically stabilize nitrate the correct way…. Recall that WIPP, the only operating geologic nuclear waste repository, had its first minor accident on Valentine’s Day after 15 years of perfect operations.

Conca’s “15 years of perfect operations” omits the February 5 vehicle fire underground that led to the WIPP shutdown that continues into the present. One reason the radiation release of February 14 exposed only 20 or so people was because the underground operation was shut down and no workers were in the cavern. Conca also omits mention of WIPP’s anticipation of perfect operation for 10,000 years.

Conca does note that “Nitrate salt solutions can ignite when they dry out,” but he does not mention the cellulose inherent in the “green” kitty litter. Maybe it’s not relevant, but nitrocellulose, also called cellulose nitrate or flash paper, has long been known as a highly flammable compound. And cellulose is also part of composition of the salt mine in which WIPP is located.

Unanswered questions, uncertain future, unburied radioactive waste

The kitty litter “answer” seems to leave a lot of unanswered questions, such as these, submitted in writing to representatives at LANL and WIPP:

What can you tell me about organic/non-organic kitty litter?

What can you tell me about nitrate salt reaction with cellulose (kitty litter)?

Relevant links would be helpful, if you can’t comment directly.

Is there any official opinion about why one container (or a few) would fail, but the others wouldn’t?

Are there other known failed containers outside of WIPP?

The LANL representative declined to answer any of the questions, suggesting the place to go was WIPP. The WIPP representative declined to answer any of the questions, suggesting LANL was the place to go, and even forwarded the queries to LANL. Submitting the questions to the New Mexico Environment Department produced this answer (in part):

These are the same questions we are also asking WIPP and LANL at this time.

You also have to understand that some of these questions cannot be answered, as the investigation has yet to prove that kitty litter triggered the release.

This is currently a working theory, but still too much is unknown.

The NEMD representative referred to the agency’s administrative orders as “precautionary measures” in case the theory was true, and said WIPP and LANL were cooperating and providing information as it became available. He said no other failed containers outside of WIPP had been reported.

What with one or more underground nuclear waste containers already leaking and hundreds of containers above and below ground posing a threat of leakage, it’s been a bad week for WIPP, LANL, and American nuclear safety. WIPP has had one bad week after another since the February 5 underground fire. Then the February 14 radiation release made the underground inaccessible to humans.

After weeks of careful, painstaking progress, a WIPP re-entry team finally reached underground Room 7 of Panel 7, the presumed site of the accident that caused the Plutonium leak. There the team “determined that the radiological release was not the result of a partial roof collapse in the mine or a bolt falling from the roof and puncturing a container.”

The Energy Department’s WIPP UPDATE of May 9 also said: “Visual examinations in Room 7 of Panel 7 have shown that several magnesium oxide bags, placed on top of waste containers to prevent radioactive material from being released into the environment over a 10,000-year period, were damaged. WIPP is still working to determine what caused the damage to the magnesium oxide bags…. The team is looking at the possibility that a chemical reaction may have occurred within a drum, causing a potential release.” [That turned out to be the nitrate salt/cellulose hypothesis.]

The Energy Department has released a one-minute video with natural sound but no narration, titled “Phase 3 Activity 8, May 15, 2014.” The video apparently shows a dozen or more underground containers that have eroded and allowed their contents to ooze out the top in the form of what looks like a gooey, granular, doughy substance. Apparently referring to these or similar pictures, the WIPP UPDATE of May 16 said, “In the new pictures, the LANL container has a cracked lid and shows evidence of heat damage. Workers will continue investigating to determine what caused the container breach and if any other containers were involved or damaged.” (Another video from April 30 shows one of the rooms nearly filled with waste containers looking pretty much intact. Other videos are linked from the WIPP website.)

The WIPP re-entry team took more video and photographs in Panel 7 Room 7 on May 22, confirming the identification number of the failed drum. Stay tuned.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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+10 # DaveM 2014-05-24 22:08
The making of nitrocellulose requires the saturation of cellulose with fuming (pure) nitric acid. The resulting reaction can explode spontaneously, and nitrated cellulose WILL spontaneously combust unless rinsed to remove all traces of nitric acid. A nitrate salt, however, is the end product of a reaction involving nitric acid and another substance (or another nitrate). All nitrates are soluble, but none are reactive in and of themselves in the way nitric acid is.

That said....several nitrates are flammable or potentially explosive (they're a basic component in gunpowder and several explosives). There is no need for cellulose to become involved at all. To my knowledge, no nitrate salt is spontaneously explosive. Should a solution of nitrate salt saturate cellulose, the cellulose will only absorb it and spread it out, reducing any potential concentration.

This is a bad enough situation as it is, given the potential for radiation leakage into the environment. There is no need to bring in a largely illusory bit of scarefare over a chemical reaction which cannot occur.
+4 # WBoardman 2014-05-25 15:48
The cellulose aspect has been put forward
primarily by LANL and WIPP.

NMED considers it only a theory, as I reported.

For all I know, it is "a largely illusory bit of scarefare,"
as DaveM puts it, and it's not necessarily better to know
that "a chemical reaction that cannot happen"
is being offered as an explanation by two federal agencies.
+3 # WBoardman 2014-05-25 16:51
Here's James Conca again, in Forbes, May 25


Conca is unabashedly pro-nuke.
+16 # Lucretius 2014-05-24 22:20
It must be serious because I read in a local newspapers, the Carlsbad Argus or Tribune that the DOE itself has ordered New Mexico to seal the facility immediately.
+24 # Nominae 2014-05-24 23:08
Yessiree -

The underground storage "guaranteed" by the nuclear industry to be "safe forever" has lasted all of 15 years before offering to kill and contaminate the citizenry, air, crops, livestock, land and water above.

Couldn't *be* sweeter.

Way to go nuke boosters - *way* more exciting than the now cost competitive, totally safe, no deadly output, already being mass produced wind and solar power.

No scientist on earth knows how to safely handle nuclear waste, and the 99% honest majority freely admit to that fact.

Why must we continue to put up with lies and bullshit until people lay dead and survivors live with their genetics permanently altered, just so some freakin' clown can make a buck from a proven-to-be- deadly industry ?

Yeah, we need more nuke power. Maybe we could just start shoveling people directly into the reactors as "fuel". It would make just as much sense as what the nuke industry is now doing (or, more accurately, failing to do).

Where are the comments from all of our pro-nuke cheerleaders ?

Yeah, I get it shills, ... pretty tough house to preach to when this kind of subject comes up. I feel your pain.
-15 # ericlipps 2014-05-25 08:46
Of course you do realize that the horse is out of the barn already. We HAVE to learn how to permanently, safely store nuclear waste, because even if every nuclear plant on Earth were shut down right now, all nuclear scientists killed and all books on the subject burned to prevent the industry's revival, the waste which already exists would still have to be dealt with.

I sometimes feel that antinuclear zealots don't WANT this problem solved, because if it were, that would take out of their hands a big stick they've used for decades to thump supporters of nuclear power.
+6 # Douglas Jack 2014-05-25 11:22
ericlipps, Yes, "we have to learn how to permanently, safely store or transform nuclear waste, . . ." but not through generating more as with Thorium, fusion etc. I tend to think of your comments as wanting long-term solutions, but your statement, "Antinuclear zealots don't WANT this problem solved" is paranoid to say the least.

Such as the thousands of children (doubling) with leukaemia which medical researchers in Europe determined is directly linked to populations living downwind & downstream from standard nuclear power plant releases, uranium mining & processing or the inevitable 'storage-sites' . These long-term studies caused Germany to place its moratorium on Nuclear Energy, has even caused consternation in pro-Nuclear France & if it weren't for near-total North-American press-blackout would be raising public dialogue about solutions here.

Or are you talking about those zealots who have been 'blessed' by living downwind/stream from nuclear accidents at Windscale's fire, Three-mile-isla nd, Chernobyl, Fukushima plus hundreds of others unreported accidents in MSM? Are you suggesting that the rest of us energy users show no concern or solidarity with folks in the direct line of our nuclear energy releases? Are those who conserve energy, research for better solutions & as well have concern for the devil modern colonial societies have let out of the atom called zealots?
+8 # WBoardman 2014-05-25 15:56
The first step in solving the nuclear waste problem
is pretty simple: STOP MAKING MORE OF IT.

Ericlipps seems to engage in a bit of projection in
saying anti-nukers are the zealots who don't't want to
solve the problem.

The argument is illogical and self-contradict ory.

No nuclear power plants should have been built until
the waste problem solution was more than a
salesman's promise and a huckster's illusion.

Even then we would have been left with the nuclear
weapons waste that WIPP was supposed to
seal off safely for 10,000 years
(which wouldn't make the waste safe, but would
be a start).
-7 # jdd 2014-05-25 13:00
No scientist? The "nuclear storage problem' is peculiar to the USA as it was created when the Carter administration banned recycling, under the rational of protection from nuclear terrorists. Recycling, which is still done by our navy, takes (the misnomer of) "nuclear waste," and converts it into fuel. 96% of this resource is recycled and the remainder,which is of a very low-level of radiation, is easily disposed. France, which generates 77% of electricity via
fission reactors, has been doing it for years.
-6 # jdd 2014-05-25 13:01
-23 # jdd 2014-05-25 06:13
It is the continual barrage of article like this which have kept our economy in a backward state and have prevented the nuclear age, as envisioned by Eisenhower and JFK, from becoming a reality. We should have already progressed to a fusion-based economy in which energy supply and cost is no longer an issue.
+11 # tedrey 2014-05-25 06:40
Couldn't the continuing revelations of actual incidents like this have something to do with the barrage of articles?
-20 # jdd 2014-05-25 07:23
Nuclear power remains the safest, cleanest and most by far the efficient energy 's source, but just as importantly it raises the entire technological level of the economy, the anti-nuclear hysteria serves only those who seek to keep the majority of the world's people in perpetual poverty and backwardness.
+10 # RODNOX 2014-05-25 07:44
even if nuke power was safe--which it never will be---they will always find a way to charge us for it and base the economy on its use --so the cycle will continue--and it will never be safe--or cheap---utter environmental destruction to produce and use.....also if governments werent so determined to keep making weapons the nuke industry would not be subsidised as heavily and would go away because it is not a viable -safe energy producer--nor are its medical uses legitimitely usefull
-12 # jdd 2014-05-25 08:40
Environmental destruction? Safest...not safe. No energy source can be completely safe....Nuclear weapons are a different matter. Israel has the world's 4th largest nuclear arsenal but no commercial energy plants, yet as the case of Iran demonstrates, the US/British are determined to deny it nuclear energy. If nuclear war comes, it will be not be due to the peaceful use of nuclear power. As for the commercial viability, there is simply no substitute for most of the world. Perhaps you would prefer the deaths caused by coal mining or by the explosions and wars caused by oil...... or just the inability of the third world to meet its energy needs.
+6 # Douglas Jack 2014-05-25 09:43
1st sign/symptom of "hysteria" is the inability to engage one's sisters/fellows on specific points or issues. Those with hysteria focus upon broad categories, issues or imaginings without direct response to the points being raised in a conversation such as this comment section.
2nd symptom is reversion to dogma such as "Nuclear power remains the safest, cleanest and most by far the efficient energy 's source" without specifically addressing details.
3rd symptom is despondent pessimism attributing negative intent against one's fellows thereby negating intelligent dialogue with them. ". . . anti-nuclear hysteria serves only those who seek to keep the majority of the world's people in perpetual poverty and backwardness."

Both opportunity & the devil are in the details:
-8 # jdd 2014-05-25 12:12
I am sorry, but it is not I who is hysterical. Having been an advocate of nuclear power since my engineering school days of the early 70's I've found it very difficult to discuss that subject rationally with the so-called green crowd. Our young people no longer study chemistry or physics in school, but environmentalis t mantra which now passes for science. I remain a Kennedy Dem. i.e. a new dealer with a belief in human science and technology. Prometheus was punished by the Gods for bringing fire to mankind, would you do the same? The fact of the matter is that without nuclear power generation most of the world will not be able to afford to meet its energy needs. If you have an alternative for them, perhaps you could clue us all in.
+4 # Douglas Jack 2014-05-25 12:58
jdd, Its good to correspond with you. I've given an e-link above to Complementary-E nergy interdisciplina ry analysis. Have you had contact with the thousands of scientists & energy specialists who have given deep analysis to Nuclear Energy/Armament s only to reject it. Discussion is a two way street or a better analysis is inter-disciplin ary as a 3-dimensional orchard. The discussion/ debate we need is 'dialectic' (many-sided') point-by-point, formal, equal-time, recorded & published. Formal scientific 'debate' (French 'de' = 'undo' + 'bate' = 'the-fight') has most often been rejected by our government financed nuclear industry.

Part of the problem is innumeracy or inability to do mathematical calculations by single discipline engineers. Amory Lovins helps folks to see across disciplines. Here's an e-link to one of his Rocky Mountain Institute downloads. Soon you will find out about the power of life itself as an engineering science.
+4 # Texas Aggie 2014-05-25 19:12
If you can't discuss the subject rationally with the so-called green crowd, it isn't their fault. Maybe if you would go outside your little world where nothing goes wrong, and enter this one where things go wrong all the time, you would have a better idea of what rational discourse is like.
+4 # ericlipps 2014-05-25 08:50
Quoting jdd:
It is the continual barrage of article like this which have kept our economy in a backward state and have prevented the nuclear age, as envisioned by Eisenhower and JFK, from becoming a reality. We should have already progressed to a fusion-based economy in which energy supply and cost is no longer an issue.

Of course the technical difficulty of igniting a fusion reaction (without using an atomic bomb as a trigger as in H-bombs) can't possibly have anything to do with it.
-5 # jdd 2014-05-25 12:37
You are speaking of an H-bomb. Apparently you are not familiar with experimental fusion reactors which use magnetic confinement or laser ignition. Your comment is indicative of the lack of understanding of the issues at hand.
+9 # NAVYVET 2014-05-25 16:06
To Readers: Engineers DON'T study physics or nuclear chemistry & can't be expected to know much about the basics. They are technologists, a mental set with a tendency to be arrogant, while most theoretical scientists follow the open-ended scientific method & are the most flexible people I've ever known.
JDD: You are dogmatic. I began college as a physics major, changed to linguistics but kept taking science & math & ended with a minor in physical science. I wandered away to get further degrees in Medieval studies and theology & I've published books in those fields as well as technology, but still follow science avidly, especially physics.
As a teenager I was a big supporter of nuclear power for peace--until I learned about its costs and perils, not just wastes but non-failsafe engineering that leads to disasters like Fukushima. When I got out of the Navy in 1968 I began a 13-year career as a tech writer and illustrator in renewable energy, pollution control & environmental education. Then when Reagan destroyed energy sanity I moved to computers and medical publishing, from which I'm retired.
You seem fixated on an adolescent dream of fission power, which many of us had. Then we held favorable views of fusion's possibilities, but most of us got over both. You're probably younger than I, but no spring chicken. Isn't it about time you began learning how to apply the scientific method to your reasoning, which will enable you to look at evidence and change your mind?
+4 # Texas Aggie 2014-05-25 19:28
I offer a second on the motion. Shall we vote?
0 # tclose 2014-05-25 20:33
NAVYVET: Your comment: "Engineers DON'T study physics or nuclear chemistry & can't be expected to know much about the basics. They are technologists.. ." is pure BS. Top tier engineering schools include many courses in physics and chemistry, which with mathematics form the foundations of the engineering curriculum. Clearly you know a small sample of engineers.
+6 # WBoardman 2014-05-25 16:11
jdd is hystericall/fun ny.

Has anyone here read the pre-nuclear age writings on
the imagined promised land? Very funny stuff.

jdd still seems to beliefe that the promise of
"electricity too cheap to meter" is just over the next hill –
which is what they promised over 60 years ago.

As for Navy re-cycling – could we have some sources on
that? especially sources addressing the scale of
Navy recycling compared to US/global recycling need.

Also sources on French waste disposal.

jdd appears to be wrong about that.

According to a BBC report in March 2014:
"France generates around three quarters of its electricity from nuclear power but despite decades of activity it is no nearer a solution to the perils of nuclear waste."

Seems to me there's no "barrage" of articles like this,
where a writer tries to get the facts right despite
his longstanding judgment that nuclear power was a really
bad idea from the start, for a variety of reasons.

There has certainly been no significant national coverage
of WIPP, much less any "barrage." Or if there has been,
Google seems to have mi
+11 # RnR 2014-05-25 06:14
Is it not time to hold the shills accountable? I mean everyone of them up and down the line and somebody has to do some serious time.

The inmates are in charge of the asylum.
+13 # cordleycoit 2014-05-25 06:31
If one examins the cancers of the Peubleo Tribes boardering the labs in New Mexico one finds childern born without optic nerves and many other 'birth defects' and cancer clusters. One day the tribes will rise up against being used as test animals.
0 # ericlipps 2014-05-25 08:52
Quoting cordleycoit:
If one examins the cancers of the Peubleo Tribes boardering the labs in New Mexico one finds childern born without optic nerves and many other 'birth defects' and cancer clusters. One day the tribes will rise up against being used as test animals.

And will be shot down like mad dogs, just as so many of their ancestors were. Gee, now that's a smart move.
+3 # tomtom 2014-05-25 10:41
10,000 year guarantee? Unless something goes wrong or suicide bombers and employees going postal don't occur. It looks to me like our Plutonium producers are proving to be our own tax-paid suicide bombers Jesus is great/Alla Akbar.
+2 # WBoardman 2014-05-25 16:22
The waste in WIPP s roughly half a mile underground,
making it pretty much immune to suicide bombers,
who would have much more impact with a successful
attack on any nuclear fuel pool at any reactor in the world.
Not saying that's likely.

Postal employees are more problematical, in theory,
but what one or more could actually do with accessible
waste underground may or may not be much.
+4 # Nominae 2014-05-25 19:35
Quoting WBoardman:
The waste in WIPP s roughly half a mile underground .....

Good points all, but naturally what the WIPP is *not* "immune to" is simply the natural shifts and movements of the Earth itself.

Given the literally incomprehensibl e number of years in half-life on this nuclear waste, even if we don't immediately kill ourselves, we are planting literal biological weapons underground to be "enjoyed" by future generations any time there are tectonic movements, or even considerable tremors.

Given the obvious ineptitude exhibited by the present "handlers" @ WIPP, the apparent immediate danger seems to be less from nature itself, than from bone-headed human error.

Waste containers that *don't* hold ?

Were they supplied by the peacetime equivalent of war profiteers ?

Nuclear waste is not something to be entrusted to people (Waste Container manufacturers and purchasers) who are willing to "cut corners".

And, if they did *not* "cut corners", it is even more intimidating to consider the possibility that they had *no* concept regarding the power of nuclear waste to literally, and in a very short period of time, *defeat* their silly damned containers.

I am a former Inflight Bombardier who flew and handled Nuclear Weapons during the Cold War.

The second we loose "respect" for anything in the nuclear pantheon, including waste and power plants, we do so at our own irreversible planetary peril.

Just ask TEPCO.
+3 # Texas Aggie 2014-05-25 19:23
So now Andrews county waste disposal is being given the "honor" of taking care of this mess.

The story behind that particular waste disposal site is that Harold Simmons, now deceased, was the second major contributor to Gov. "Goodhair" Perry's campaign fund after Bob Perry, also recently deceased. He wanted to put in a nuclear waste site in Andrews, TX, because it would make him huge piles of money, but the technical staff on the licensing board unanimously voted, not just "no", but "HELL, NO!" because the site sits right on top of the Ogalalla aquifer that supplies water to most of the southern plains states.

Gov. Goodhair, never one to let a buddy down, overruled the technical staff through his political appointees on the commission, whereupon the technical staff quit en masse. Through a massive public relations campaign, Simmons and Goodhair managed to convince almost all the inhabitants of Andrews that this would be some sort of economic miracle for their community at no risk to themselves. Then Simmons got permission not just for low level waste from TX, but now his company gets it from all over the US and it looks like not so low level anymore.

I once saw a picture of the place. A big shallow hole with a bunch of rusty 55 gallon drums sitting around.

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