in u.s. cleanup efforts, accident at nuclear site points to cost of lapses - drum storage
Earlier this year, a factory in New Mexico that stored waste generated during the manufacture of the plutonium bomb had a fierce chemical reaction, opened a storage bucket and sprayed the waste into the air, causing the repository to close.
Fortunately, the incident took place on February.
4 Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near N. CarlsbadM.
, On a limited night of action;
In addition to very small radiation exposure, no worker was injured and only a very small amount of radioactive waste leaked into the environment.
But the reaction to forcing the site to close was a blow to the country's efforts to clean up old nuclear weapons manufacturing sites and forced the government to take special measures to prevent recurrence.
According to the Department of Energy, the reopening of waste storage will last until next year, costing at least $0. 551 billion.
Prices may jump higher.
New Mexico is about to make a decision to impose a fine on Doe's security breach in the warehouse
Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New JerseyM. —
At the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the way the waste is packaged in plutonium eventually leads to an accident.
As part of the clean-up activity, the storage bucket is one of many filled barrels.
In addition, the Department of Energy has taken special precautions against dozens of similar containers in case they burst and squirt their contents.
Some of them are buried in the warehouse, buried in the room now sealed, and others are buried in a reinforced temporary warehouse in a place designed to reduce the temperature
Levels of waste near Tex Andrews.
This mistake reflects a problem that has plagued the weapons complex for many years --
Radioactive substances should not be mixed with organic chemicals, because radiation can produce explosive gases.
It raises the question of whether the energy sector has the ability to apply the knowledge it has learned in decades of hardship and error
The management of nuclear bomb manufacturing leftovers has a long way to go.
"I do not know how you view the facts themselves or any subsequent investigations, or what serious questions you have about the effectiveness of the management and supervision of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and WIPP, said Ryan C.
Flynn, Minister of Environment, New Mexico.
As the Department of Energy violated a state environmental permit, his staff was in an unusual position when drafting a proposal to impose fines on the federal government.
According to the documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, DOE does not know what is in many waste containers it has filled over the years.
The department has begun a review of how it can package plutonium waste in Los Alamos, Idaho, and its laboratories and Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Frank masinovsky, deputy assistant secretary for waste management, said.
Recently, Los Alamos's control of waste packaging has shifted from the Energy Department's weapons program to the environmental management department.
The leak in February also raised questions about Doe's safety calculations.
Nuclear waste experts, former special assistant to the Minister of Energy, Robert Alvares, said that the safety analysis carried out prior to the opening of the repository predicted that such incidents would occur every 200,000 years;
The mine has been open for 15 years.
"What makes this incident so disturbing is that the radiation has risen by half a mile along the shaft into an open environment," he said . ". Twenty-
Two workers were exposed to a small amount of radiation. Mr.
Alvares said he was surprised by the security issue.
He said he thought the warehouse could be a place to deal with a lot of weapons.
Grade Plutonium, long-
Radioactive waste sent to recycling.
The Department of Energy plans to convert weapons plutonium into reactor fuel as a way to dispose of weapons plutonium and to break ground at a factory in South Carolina for conversion.
But the Obama administration recently decided that the factory was too expensive to stop production. Now Mr.
Alvares said he was not sure if the funeral was safe at WIPP.
"I think I drank Kool-Aid,” he said.
Some of the maintenance costs of the warehouses that have been closed since February are highly uncertain, including the new ventilation system, with an estimated cost of $65 million to $0. 261 billion, and a new shaft for discharging air from the plant, the cost was $12 million to $48 million.
A brief analysis of the safety cost of the factory is $5. 4 million;
Under the department's recovery plan, an independent assessment of the readiness will cost $10 million.
No one is talking about expanding the repository, which has grown from a smooth-running model to another department of energy plant that is in trouble.
The incident of February was not the first explosion of the drum in Los Alamos;
One was done in the lab in November 2008.
According to a report by the Department of Energy Inspector General last month, the event
Technically speaking, this is a "deflagration", a very fast combustion not far from the explosion --
It is caused by a mixture of "known inherent hazards.
"Some waste is liquid, and technicians have been using a clay commonly used as cat litter to solidify them for burial, but later switched to organic compounds, this leads to a chemical reaction that leads to the accumulation of hydrogen.
According to the report, several opportunities to seize the error were missed.
Although "The incident does not seem to involve an explosion", it generates enough heat to break the lid and damage the surrounding objects, the report said.
An independent accident investigation committee is still working.
But the Department of Energy is preparing to reopen the repository in 2015.
When workers fill underground rooms with barrels and then seal them, the new plan is to seal the rooms immediately in case more barrels explode.
But work will be done slowly.
The working area of the mine must deliver air from the surface through a pipeline.
Now the underground area is polluted and the air has to pass through high
Before it is drained back into the desert, efficiency filters that can handle a limited number.
Therefore, according to the department, it takes a series of steps to clean up and reopen the mine, which can only be done in sequence.
Part of the cost is for new ventilation.
At the same time, the department has limited capacity to package and handle waste left behind by decades of nuclear weapons production.