The collapse of a tunnel used to store radioactive waste at one of the most contaminated U.S. nuclear sites has raised concerns among watchdog groups and others who study the country’s nuclear facilities because many are aging and fraught with problems. “They’re fighting a losing battle to keep these plants from falling apart,” said Robert Alvarez, a former policy adviser at the U.S. Department of Energy who was charged with making an inventory of nuclear sites under President Bill Clinton. “The longer you wait to deal with this problem, the more dangerous it becomes,” said Alvarez, a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, where he focuses on nuclear energy and disarmament. A 2014 Energy Department audit noted a high risk of fire and groundwater contamination at the shuttered Heavy Element Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which is surrounded by homes and businesses near California’s Bay Area. Problems have also been identified at active facilities including the Savannah River Site, a nuclear reservation in South Carolina. A 2015 report by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board found “severe” erosion in concrete walls of an exhaust tunnel used to prevent release of radioactive air.
Reuters 12th May 2017 read more »
Hanford Tunnel Failure, What You Need To Know: A storage tunnel at the Hanford National Lab collapsed Tuesday. This tunnel was built in the 1950’s and was used to house rail cars carrying radioactive fuel. That fuel would eventually be processed in the PUREX building to extract the plutonium for nuclear weapons. The tunnel was taken out of service in the 1960’s and used to store broken or outdated highly radioactive equipment from the PUREX building. The tunnel collapse happened in a section of tunnel #1 near the junction of two storage tunnels. This raised concerns that not only was the radioactive equipment in tunnel #1 now open to the environment but also what was stored in tunnel #2. Some of the materials in tunnel #2 included pieces that appeared to be reactor parts and end pieces of spent fuel rods. The site was evacuated when the collapse was discovered. Those on site took shelter and were eventually instructed to leave the site. A public tour was also taking place on site at the time. Many working outside do so without any form of protection or masks. It is unclear if anyone was exposed during this incident. No program to specifically test workers for exposure has been mentioned. Later reports showed a robot taking radiation readings near the tunnel and admissions that there was some contamination on site from the incident.
Simply.info 11th May 2017 read more »
The manufacture of nuclear weapon triggers at the Rocky Flats Plant from 1952-1989 dispersed varying levels of radioactive plutonium, uranium and other toxic chemicals into the soil and groundwater. Some of those contaminants have since spread onto the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge — 4,883 acres of open space surrounding the former facility site, which sits 10 miles south of Boulder. The question isn’t whether pollutants exist on Refuge lands, but whether they’ve accumulated to levels high enough to warrant keeping the public out. And though the Refuge’s public opening in 2019 seems inevitable, some community members and organizations disagree with government agencies that contaminants on the land pose no threat to future visitors.
Boulder Weekly 11th May 2017 read more »