Once again there has been a radioactive leak at a nuclear waste storage dump in New Mexico. This time 22 workers were contaminated at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Could kitty litter be the cause?
The Los Alamos National Laboratory does, in fact, use kitty litter in the storage of radioactive nuclear waste. The problem may be found in the difference between organic and inorganic kitty litter.
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The 22 Los Alamos workers were contaminated after a radioactive waste storage barrel leaked. Officials say a switch by Los Alamos from inorganic to organic kitty litter may have helped fuel the “heat event that popped the lid off the barrel.”
This switch may have caused the radiation of 22 Los Alamos workers and an indefinite shutdown of the nuclear waste dump. The Department of Energy (formerly known as the Department of Defense) has shuttered indefinitely the government’s “only permanent repository” for nuclear waste left over from decades of nuclear bomb building.
Watchdog Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group said the “leak has shed a glaring light on dangerous violations of hazardous waste law at Los Alamos National Laboratory.”
Officials have yet to pinpoint what caused a barrel of waste at Los Alamos to breach, but the contractor running the lab at the time of the “mishap” has been pulled from the project and reassigned to focus on “core national security interests.”
This is curious. What can these core national security missions be?
In any case, one theory about the radioactive leak focuses on a chemical reaction in highly acidic waste packed with a lead glove and organic kitty litter to absorb moisture. Officials say a switch by Los Alamos from inorganic to organic kitty litter” may have helped fuel the “heat event that popped the lid off the barrel.”
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz ordered the program be moved from the National Nuclear Security Administration to Office of Environmental Management. And, as a result of the radiation leak, four of the facility’s directors have been reassigned.
A lab official who asked to remain anonymous said the reassigned managers are:
- Kathy Johns-Hughes, Director of Transuranic Waste Program
- Tori George, Program Director for Regulatory Management.
- Dan Cox, Deputy Associate Director of Environmental Programs
- Jeff Mousseau, Associate Director of Environmental Programs
Earlier this year at the neighboring Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico, a fire and then radiation leaks that contaminated workers also forced a plant shutdown at that ill-fated waste dump.
As the investigation at Los Alamos continues, hundreds of other barrels of Los Alamos waste with similar contents and “organic cat litter” are being closely monitored at not only Los Alamos, but also at WIPP and a temporary site in West Texas.
Remember, it doesn’t take a large-scale accident at a nuclear power plant like Fukushima in Japan, Chernobyl in Russia, or Three Mile Island in the United States to release radioactivity into the air, water, and soil. Radiation is also released in the form of liquid, gaseous, and solid radioactive wastes from not only nuclear plants, but from nuclear waste dumps (repositories) as well.
Cases in point – leaks at Los Alamos National Labs and WIPP in New Mexico. Comments appreciated.