Archive for February, 2014

DGR Open House in Brockton (February 2014)

Friday, February 28, 2014 3:57 AM by Kevin Bernard
Second of two Open Houses being held in Walkerton for proposed DGR.

(Walkerton) – The second of two Open Houses on a planned Deep Geologic Repository is being held in Walkerton on Friday.

Nuclear Waste Management Ontario (NWMO) is holding Open Houses in several communities, as it begins the process of narrowing down possible locations for a site to store high level nuclear waste

It’s a huge project, that will see somewhere between 16 and 24 billion dollars invested in a facility that would house spent nuclear fuel underground for centuries.

Brockton residents have a chance to hear from several experts at the Open House including geo scientists and social researchers.

Read more at : http://www.bayshorebroadcasting.ca/news_item.php?NewsID=64325

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13 workers exposed to radiation at New Mexico disposal plant

By Tom Watkins, CNN

updated 8:45 AM EST, Thu February 27, 2014

(CNN) — Nearly two weeks after a radiation leak was reported at the Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant outside Carlsbad, New Mexico, 13 employees have been notified that preliminary test results show they were exposed to radiation, officials said.

“It is important to note that these are initial sample results,” DOE’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant and Nuclear Waste Partnership, its contractor, said in a statement Wednesday. “These employees, both federal and contractor, will be asked to provide additional samples in order to fully determine the extent of any exposure.”

The release did not quantify the initial estimates of the exposure. “We can’t release that information,” said Nuclear Waste Partnership spokesman Donavan Mager, who cited the HIPAA privacy rule. But, he added, the preliminary results indicate that the employees were exposed to americium, a man-made, radioactive metal.

He said a news conference would be held at 4 p.m. ET Thursday.

On Monday, DOE reported that tests on samples collected from numerous areas in the plant three and four days after the February 14 incident had found “slightly elevated” levels of airborne radioactivity.

“These concentrations remain well below a level of public or environmental hazard,” the department said.

Dose assessment modeling of the leak “showed a potential dose of less than one millirem at each of the environmental sampling locations,” about a tenth of the amount a person would receive from a chest X-ray, the DOE statement said.

“The average person living in the United States receives an annual dose of about 620 millirem from exposure to naturally occurring and other sources of radiation,” it said.

According to its website, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) “safely disposes” of the nation’s defense-related radioactive waste.

Waste shipped to WIPP, which is 26 miles outside of Carlsbad, is “permanently” disposed of in rooms mined out of a salt formation 2,150 feet (0.4 miles) below the surface of the desert.

The waste generally consists of clothing, tools, equipment, sludge, soil or other materials contaminated with man-made radioactive elements that are heavier than uranium.

An alarm late on February 14 indicated higher than usual levels of airborne radiation and led to a first-of-its-kind response since the nuclear disposal facility began accepting waste in 1999.

An air monitor at the plant detected the spike in an isolated area below ground, which prompted the shutoff of filtered air from the facility into the environment around it.

“This is the first time we had to close off air filtered by the facility to the outside,” Energy Department spokesman Gregory Sahd told CNN last week.

The radiation was first detected at 11:30 p.m., according to Sahd. He said the facility’s ventilation system, which monitors air quality, automatically switched to “filtration mode” when the leak was discovered.

Because of the location of the incident, Sahd said, there was little risk to employees. Those who were inside the above-ground area of the facility were quarantined until radiological control technicians cleared them to go home.

“No one was underground when the alarm went off,” Sahd said. “And everyone that was in the facility (at the time), we know where they are and we’ve tested them.”

Since the incident, access to the site has been limited to “essential personnel,” and employees are checked for any external contamination when they leave.

Source: http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/27/us/new-mexico-radiation-exposure/

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Plutonium detected half-mile outside New Mexico nuclear waste facility

February 20, 2014 11:00AM ET
Aljazeera America

Disclosure comes four days after leak at same underground storage repository; officials say no threat to human health

Four days after a radiation alert shut the nation’s only underground nuclear waste facility, an independent monitoring center said Wednesday it found radioactive isotopes in an air sensor about a half mile from the southeastern New Mexico plant.

A filter from a monitor northwest of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad had trace amounts of plutonium and americium, said Russell Hardy, director of the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center.

“It’s still below what EPA considers actionable levels, but it’s important to know that some material d

Worker-rides-electric-car-past-air-monitoring-equipment-underground-WIPP_undated

id get out of the facility,” Hardy told the Albuquerque Journal.

The levels are the highest ever detected at or around the site, he added.

A WIPP air monitor detected airborne radiation underground late Friday night, setting off an alert, the Journal reported. WIPP reported the next day that its ventilation system had immediately switched to filtration mode, minimizing any potential release of radiation.

WIPP said in a statement Wednesday that its filters remove at least 99.97 percent of contaminants from the air, “meaning a minute amount still can pass through.”

“There is a lot more that needs to be known,” Don Hancock, director of the Nuclear Waste Safety Program at the Southwest Research and Information Center in Albuquerque, told local media.

“The big problem is, does anybody really know what happened in the underground and how much was released or is continuing to be released? And, therefore, how much is being captured by the filters and how much is getting into the environment?”

WIPP said Wednesday that it is developing a plan to safely re-enter the underground facility and that radiological professionals from other Energy Department locations and national laboratories will assist in the recovery.

Department of Energy (DOE) officials say most operations remain closed, but they have not released any further information.

In early February, a truck hauling salt in an underground mine at the site caught fire, shuttering operations for a few days. Officials said that fire was in an area separate from where nuclear waste is stored. In both instances, the DOE has said public safety has not been threatened.

Hardy said his center, an arm of New Mexico State University that monitors air, ground, and water samples from in and around WIPP, didn’t get the filters from the underground radiation sensor that was activated Saturday until Tuesday. He said he expects to have a reading from air sampling station closer to the plant next week.

He also noted that a second air sampling station 11 miles from the plant showed no radioactive particles.

WIPP is the nation’s first and only deep geological nuclear facility. It takes plutonium-contaminated waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory, and other defense projects, and buries it in rooms cut from underground salt beds.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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WIPP: Underground operations suspended pending federal review

Posted: 02/06/2014 05:23:56 PM MST

Current-Argus file photo This aerial photo shows the Waste Iso
Current-Argus file photo This aerial photo shows the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, 26 miles east of Carlsbad.

CARLSBAD >> It’s too early to know when normal operations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant might resume after an underground vehicle fire on Wednesday prompted an emergency evacuation of the nuclear waste repository.

Department of Energy spokeswoman Deb Gill said a federally appointed team of investigators will need to evaluate the site before workers at WIPP will be allowed to resume accepting shipments of transuranic waste. WIPP, located 26 miles east of Carlsbad, is the nation’s first transuranic nuclear waste repository, used to permanently dispose of low-level nuclear waste from government sites around the nation.
Current-Argus file photo In this footage provided by WIPP, bla
Current-Argus file photo In this footage provided by WIPP, black smoke rises from the salt mine shaft at the site.

A truck used to haul salt from the mine caught on fire Wednesday morning, resulting in the evacuation. Six employees were later treated for smoke inhalation at Carlsbad Medical Center. No other injuries were reported.

The underground will remain closed until the investigators sign off on the site, Gill said.

Read more at http://www.currentargus.com/carlsbad-news/ci_25079914/wipp-operations-suspended-pending-federal-investigation

By Brandon Bowers

bbowers@currentargus.com

@BrandonBowers on Twitter

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Fire prompts evacuation of nuclear repository

February 5, 2014 5:29 PM

CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — Emergency crews battled a fire Wednesday at the southeastern New Mexico site where the federal government seals away its low-grade nuclear waste, including plutonium-contaminated clothing and tools.

Six people were taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation after a truck hauling salt caught fire at about 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M.

All employees were evacuated and none of the radioactive waste was impacted, plant officials said.

Authorities said Wednesday afternoon that they weren’t sure what caused the blaze.

Melissa Suggs, a spokeswoman for the Carlsbad Medical Center, said the six people brought there were all in stable condition.

At an afternoon news conference, officials said the fire occurred on a truck hauling salt in the north mine, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reported. Nuclear waste is stored in the south mine, officials said.

Officials said fire suppression systems were immediately activated, all waste handling operations were suspended, and rescue teams were deployed.

The repository takes plutonium-contaminated waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory and defense projects. The waste is then buried in rooms cut from underground salt beds.

WIPP is the nation’s only deep geological nuclear repository, and its license gets renewed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency every five years, said Rod McCullum, the director of used-fuels programs at the Nuclear Energy Institute.

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Schreiber Takes Next Step in Nuclear Site Selection Process

Terrace Bay-Schreiber News

February 4, 2014
Peggy Ireland Staff

Schreiber council joined the community liaison committee and a delegation from Pays Plat to meet with representatives of the NWMO on Thursday evening.

NWMO staff were in town to provide an update on the future steps in Phase 2 of the nuclear waste site select ion process.
Schreiber has been selected as one of four communities which will move forward with more detailed suitability studies.
The key questions the NWMO will be looking at are safe site, the well – being of the community, and the local citizenry’s interest in hosting the site.

Next Steps

This summer geologists will be conducting air – borne geophysical surveys to determine the suitability of the rock in this area. The two main areas they will be looking at are northwest of Schreiber, north and west of Winston Lake Road, and north of Schreiber at the north end of Crossman Road.

These airborne studies will be followed up by environmental and geological field mapping. The studies will allow engineers geologists to determine if the rock in this area is stable enough to allow for the long-term storage of Canada’s nuclear fuel waste which has been accumulating in various stockpiles across the country. Up to 10 geologists and expert consultants are expected to be working on the project over the summer.
The NWMO will also be hiring summer students and local guides with knowledge of the area to assist with the studies.

Dialogue

The NWMO plans include extensive consultation with local residents, Aboriginal groups, and Community organizations.
Funding is being provided to Schreiber’s Community liaison committee to assist the town in participating in the ongoing process.
Aboriginal and Metis groups are being asked for their input, to provide their knowledge of the land and their opinions on the process.
Open houses and outreach programs are being planned for the next several months to update local residents about how Step Two will affect them.

Year 2+

If the initial geological studies are promising, future summers will include further engineering studies to determine if and where the facility and its infrastructure might fit.

Although the facility’s total footprint will only be 500 x 500 meters, engineers will be boring four or five boreholes to the depth of 800 to 1000 meters. This could take up to two years, during which geologists will analyze the rock cores and the fractured network of the bedrock. Hydrotesting and geochemical testing will follow.

Working Together

Pays Plat’s Raymond Goodchild suggested that Schreiber explore the possibility of a partnership agreement between the two local groups. Mayor Don McArthur agreed to begin the process. 

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