The Center for Public Integrity recently published a series of articles on nuclear safety lapses in plutonium pit production at the Los Alamos lab that captured a lot of national attention. Plutonium pits are the fissile cores of nuclear weapons that initiate the thermonuclear detonation of modern weapons. The articles were largely based on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s annual contractor Performance Evaluation Reports. Those reports are publicly available only because Nuclear Watch New Mexico successfully sued for them in 2012. The former plutonium pit production site, the Rocky Flats Plant near Denver, was shut down by a 1989 FBI raid investigating environmental crimes. A special grand jury indicted both Department of Energy (DOE) officials and the contractor, but a federal judge quashed the indictments at the urging of the local federal attorney general. It was only by sheer luck that a major plutonium fire on Mother’s Day 1969 didn’t contaminate Denver with highly carcinogenic plutonium.
Albuquerque Journal 21st July 2017 read more »
Two Democratic lawmakers urged the U.S. Energy Department to move faster with a research program on converting nuclear reactors in the Navy’s submarines and carriers from bomb-grade uranium to a safer fuel, a letter viewed by Reuters showed. Last year, Congress approved $5 million in defense policy and spending bills for the Energy Department’s office of Naval Reactors to research whether naval reactors could convert to using low-enriched uranium. The fuel, enriched to under 20 percent uranium, is far safer than what the Navy currently uses: highly enriched uranium, or HEU, which is enriched to above 90 percent and was originally produced for use in nuclear bombs.
Reuters 21st July 2017 read more »