Nuclear Hotseat WIPP Interview with Don Hancock: Still risks of additional events happening (June 2014)

Nuclear Hotseat #156, with host Libbe HaLevy, M.A., June 16, 2014 ­ Hancock (at 28:45 in):

"I think the evidence is pretty strong that there has to be more than one breached container. But the container that is breached there are 54 other containers from that waste stream in the same room

Im pretty convinced and other people that have looked at the data are pretty convinced that theres got to be more than this one container that has leaked there could be another container nearby that in fact caused the breach and because of its explosion, that forced this other container to leak. […] This morning the House Appropriations Committee, the US Congressional House released a draft report that will be considered by the full committee tomorrow morning in which they in essence say that their understanding is the ventilation system at WIPP and the exhaust shaft are so contaminated that they can never be used again a new ventilation system and new exhaust shaft [are needed] clearly theyve said some things to members of the Houseand people in the House believe that theyre not going to be viable to us those parts of the WIPP anymore. […] At this point there are still risks of additional events happening its going to keep going on and on and on for quite some time.

Watch Nuclear Hotseat Interview with Don Hancock here

Northwatch | Box 282 . North Bay . P1B 8H2 | Tel 705 497 0373 |

Feds launch safety inquiry following WIPP leak (June 2014)

Posted: Tuesday, June 24, 2014 8:50 pm | By Patrick Malone, The New Mexican

A new investigation by federal regulators into possible safety violations associated with a radiation leak detected in February at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad could have drastic consequences for the nations only below-ground nuclear waste storage site and the contractor that manages it.

The U.S. Department of Energys Office of Enforcement notified WIPP and the contractor, Nuclear Waste Partnership, about the investigation in a letter dated June 16. It will focus on the facts and circumstances associated with potential programmatic deficiencies in the nuclear safety, radiation protection, emergency management, quality assurance and worker safety and health programs in light of the Feb. 14 radiation leak and a truck fire at WIPP mere days earlier, according to the letter.

A separate investigation into the cause of the leak already has been commissioned by the National Nuclear Security Administrations Accident Investigation Board and is underway.

If the latest probe uncovers that Nuclear Waste Partnership failed to protect the public and workers at WIPP, the immediate consequence could be fines and penalties, but even the lucrative contract the company holds could ultimately be jeopardized by the regulators findings, according to the head of a watchdog group that monitors WIPP.

It could have implications for the entire contract, said Don Hancock, director of the nuclear waste safety program at the Southwest Research and Information Center. This investigation is not going to make that determination, but it can play into some of that determination. The penalty can be from zero up to some dollar penalties up to ultimately losing the contract.

Since 2012, Nuclear Waste Partnership has been operating WIPP on a base contract of $109 million annually. Bonuses and incentives have elevated the contractors compensation by DOE closer to $130 million per year.

Hancock said the developments in February could pose a barrier to the company collecting bonus and incentive money.

There should be major problems with them getting their money because they havent complied with even the minimal requirements of their contract, he said.

A spokeswoman for Nuclear Waste Partnership declined to comment Tuesday, instead deferring to DOE.

As with the previous investigation, WIPPs federal and contractor workforce will continue the highest level of cooperation and openness to help the Office of Enforcement collect all of the information necessary to complete its investigation, WIPP spokesman Ben Williams said in a written statement.

WIPP has ceased receiving waste since the leak was detected. When it will resume accepting shipments of the hazardous remnants of decades of nuclear weapons development from Los Alamos National Laboratory and other sites remains uncertain. Estimates range from one to three years, but until the extent of the contamination from the February radiation leak can be determined, a true target date for WIPP to restart activities is anybodys guess, New Mexico Environment Cabinet Secretary Ryan Flynn recently told a legislative panel.

Assessing the magnitude of contamination within WIPP has been difficult because hazardous conditions created by the leak have made human entry to the facility tenuous.

The investigation into the cause of the leak is ongoing. It has focused on a waste stream sent to WIPP from Los Alamos. Federal investigators have determined that the suspect waste stream was highly acidic and contained an organic kitty litter as an absorbent, as opposed to the standard clay-based variety.

Photographic evidence suggests a drum of waste from that stream burst following a chemical reaction. It is at the center of the investigation. Five more containers from the same waste stream are housed at the Waste Control Specialists site in Andrews, Texas, near the New Mexico border.

Email messages exchanged last year between a LANL official and employees of the contractor that packaged the suspect waste there, EnergySolutions, raised questions about whether the lab sufficiently considered whether changes in kitty litter and acid neutralizers mixed with nuclear waste were likely to create a volatile mix.

To date, LANL has not been notified of any pending regulatory investigation by DOE, and messages Tuesday for heads of the Office of Enforcement to determine whether a parallel investigation will take place at the lab were not returned.

As the contractor at WIPP, Nuclear Waste Partnership shares in the responsibility to assure that the waste arriving from LANL and other labs does not pose an extraordinary risk, according to Hancock.

They are responsible by contract for all the operations at WIPP, and theyre responsible for the waste characterization at sites, including Los Alamos, he said. So clearly, theyre responsible for what happened with the fire and the radiation release in so far as they relate to operations at WIPP.

No WIPP workers were underground when the radiation escaped, but 22 employees tested positive for internal contamination, though none were exposed to levels that the DOE deem harmful. Hancock said he is hopeful that the regulatory investigation will scrutinize how employees exposure to radiation from the leak was handled as well as the circumstances that led to their exposure.

State regulatory action against WIPP or LANL is in a holding pattern until clearer details of the leaks cause are identified, but Flynn told state lawmakers last month that enforcement action against the DOEs permits for the two sites is likely.

Unlike state regulatory penalties, which are capped at $10,000 per day for environmental violations, federal regulatory punishments are open-ended. Hancock said that leaves open the possibility of consequences ranging from leniency to high fines. Regardless of any penalties that could be imposed, he welcomed the new investigation by regulators and the public report that it will generate, even though its completion could be far into the future.

Its hard to tell how big of a deal it is, Hancock said. It could be a very big deal, because in my view the investigation should be asking some really hard questions.

Contact Patrick Malone at 986-3017 or pmalone . Follow him on Twitter @pmalonenm.

Northwatch | Box 282 . North Bay . P1B 8H2 | Tel 705 497 0373 |

WIPP Interview with Don Hancock: Sstill don’t know how many containers are involved (June 2014)

Insight New Mexico interviews Don Hancock, director of the Nuclear Waste Safety program and administrator at Southwest Research and Information Center, June 12, 2014 (at 4:00 in):

"They havent been able to physically get to the one or more containers that exploded, or had some kind of a deflagration. They had pictures of one container thats clearly breached, has holes, the lid is off, there are signs that theres melting around, small amounts of fire, etc So clearly something major happened.

"We still dont know how many containers are involved, I think its very likely that its more than the one the reason I think theres probably more than is while this particular container has 16 or 17 curies of plutonium and americium [592 billion to 629 billion becquerels] in it, which is a much larger amount than what the average container is, there are containers including ones sitting right beside it that have more radioactivity.

"We dont know how much came out, but from what we do know, it looks to me that it was more than what could have come out of a single container..

Full interview with Don Hancock

Northwatch | Box 282 . North Bay . P1B 8H2 | Tel 705 497 0373 |

Group Led Nipigon Waste Fight (June 2014)

Letter to the Editor – Thunder Bay Chronicle -Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Re: Nipigon Off Nuke Waste Host List.

As good as it is to know that Nipigon is no longer being considered a nuclear waste site, I am deeply troubled by the way it has been presented in the media. There is no mention of the newly formed group, Citizens Against Nuclear Waste in Nipigon (CANWIN), and the critical role they played in this whole messy and manipulative process.

I sincerely doubt Mayor Richard Harvey and his fellow councillors would have opted out of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization process if this group consisting of Nipigon citizens and Red Rock Indian Band members hadnt repeatedly challenged them.

They not only got a petition together, but they all worked hard at educating people in the area about the unquestionable dangers of transporting and storing nuclear waste.

So for all those concerned and distressed people living in or near communities that are still in the selection process to become a nuclear waste site, dont lose hope. As CANWIN has shown, when people band together, they can make a difference.

If anyone out there is interested in more information on this issue, please feel free to email me at kc.
Kim Casey

Northwatch | Box 282 . North Bay . P1B 8H2 | Tel 705 497 0373 |

Congratulations to Township of Nipigon and Lake Helen Residents (June 2014)

Letter to the Editor – Thunder Bay Chronicle – Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Congratulations are in order to the township of Nipigon and Lake Helen residents who are standing up for their rights to protect their environment from being a nuclear waste dumping ground.

I am against the Nuclear Waste Management Organizations (NWMO) plans. I do not want nuclear waste stored in Northern Ontario and I do not want nuclear waste transported through Northern Ontario.
As a concerned citizen, I do not understand how anyone with a sane mind can even contemplate that nuclear waste can be stored or transported safely. Take a look at Japan.

Its my understanding that towns with no infastructure are considering the nuclear waste option because of the money that is being offered by NWMO.

No amount of money is worth the damage to our enviroment and future. I applaud Nipigon for standing up for their people and hearing their voices that say no to nuclear waste.
I also applaud Lake Helen residents for standing up for their land and the welfare of their people and the future of their children.

Money and a few jobs are not worth the impact that this nuclear dump will have on the enviroment.
When asked why the nuclear waste cannot be stored where they process it, the answer by NWMO was that southern ontario does not want the nuclear waste in their backyard. (I was at the meeting and heard the answer with my own ears). I say we all stand up as one and let NWMO and our towns know that we dont want it in our backyard.

Surely our town will listen as we make our voices heard loud and clear. We dont want nuclear waste in our backyard, on our roads, on our railways, or anywhere near the gem of the North.
I am calling out to all the people of Northern Ontario to stand up for your land and waterways. Save our environment and our future.

Wendy Morriseau
Terrace Bay

Northwatch | Box 282 . North Bay . P1B 8H2 | Tel 705 497 0373 |

Nuclear waste storage opponents present petition to Terrace Bay council

2014-06-17 at 11:44 –

TERRACE BAY, Ont. — The council of this Northwestern Ontario municipality heard from opponents of storing nuclear waste in Schreiber.

Schreiber is currently being considered as a potential host community for a deep geological repository for nuclear waste. The plans have met strong opposition across the region.

Along with a presentation Monday night, the group known as Citizen’s Concerned About Nuclear Waste in Schreiber gave councillors a petition with more than 1,000 signatures.

Kyle Gilbert is the groups spokesman, and says they are opposed to any plan for storying nuclear waste anywhere in the area.

(CKPR Radio)

Northwatch | Box 282 . North Bay . P1B 8H2 | Tel 705 497 0373 |

Nipigon Withdraws from Nuclear Waste Burial Study

June 19, 2014, Nipigon The Township of Nipigon has withdrawn from the nuclear industrys investigation of multiple communities as potential nuclear waste burial sites. The municipality was one of ten in northern Ontario remaining in the process. An additional 3 communities in southwestern Ontario and one in northern Saskatchewan are also on the list of candidate sites.

The municipal council passed a resolution at its meeting on Monday stating that the Township of Nipigon believes it has sufficient information to make an informed decision about continued involvement in the site selection process as a potential host community and requesting that it that it no longer be considered in the site selection process as a potential host community.

Nipigon Mayor Richard Harvey had requested an interim report from the Nuclear Waste Management Organization last month, part way through the first stage of a preliminary study which the NWMO conducts in Step 3 of its nine step study of communities who have agreed to be studied as possible hosts for a series of underground caverns in which all of Canadas high level nuclear fuel waste would be stored and eventually abandoned.

The interim reports, one focussed on geology and the other on social considerations, identified uncertainties about Nipigons ability to meet siting criteria. In addition to substantial geological uncertainties in the Nipigon area that reduce the likelihood of identifying sites that will satisfy the NWMOs geoscientific site evaluation factors the reports also points to vocal concern and opposition by some individuals and more formal opposition by some organizations and notes the establishment of the group Citizens Against Nuclear Waste in Nipigon earlier this year.

Were very pleased with the decision of Council, said Rob Swainson, a spokesperson for Citizens Against Nuclear Waste in Nipigon. The people of Nipigon made it very clear to Council that they were overwhelmingly opposed to continuing in the process.

Its time for Nipigon to focus on positive initiatives that align with the aspirations of the community.

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization is an association of the three provincial utilities who generate high level nuclear waste through the use of nuclear reactors to produce electricity. Ontario Power Generation has majority control, and owns more than 90% of the waste. Internationally, there is no precedent for deep burial of high level nuclear waste, although several countries have explored the idea, including the U.S.A., where the controversial Yucca Mountain project was cancelled by President Obama during his first term of office.

This notion of placing a hundred thousand tonnes of high level nuclear waste deep below the surface is technically unproven and scientifically unsound, said Brennain Lloyd, project coordinator with Northwatch.

Not even the nuclear industry claims that the containers will remain intact for the hundreds of thousands of years even millions in some cases – that these wastes will remain radioactive. Its not the future we want for northern Ontario.

Northwatch is a northern Ontario based environmental coalition that has been working on the issue of safe management of nuclear waste for more than 25 years.

The northern Ontario municipalities of Ignace, Schreiber, Manitouwadge, Hornepayne, White River, Blind River, Township of the North Shore, Spanish and Elliot Lake remain in the NWMO siting process, along with three communities near the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station in southwestern Ontario and one community in northern Saskatchewan. Nipigon is the eighth municipality to be removed from the NWMO process.

– 30

For more information:
Rob Swainson, tel 807-887-2073
Brennain Lloyd, tel 705 497 0373

The resolution and interim reports are available online

Northwatch | Box 282 . North Bay . P1B 8H2 | Tel 705 497 0373 |