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60 Years Since the Largest U.S. Nuclear Accident and Captured Federal Agencies

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/07/13/60-years-largest-us-nuclear-accident-and-captured-federal-agencies

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Thank you Robert Dodge and CD for posting the story and the petition. The tsunami of information that verifies the lies, deceit and manipulation FOR PROFIT has the side consequence of these operators believing that life on earth is not worth a clear conscience and healthy planet.

These operators need to be made to live in the messes they create. The monies hoarded placed in cleanup and prosecution. I for one am damned sick and tired of the argument that life would not be as great as we know know it without them. Bullshit and balderdash. Time for comeuppance. The sheer degree of destruction from the predatory capitalist rationale for operating is defunct. Fair and honest markets are the operative CORE DESPITE these parasitic excuses for human activity. Time to put a solid, implacable NO MORE headstone and bury the practices once and for all!

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I worked for the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management of the Department of Energy in the 1980s. The Nuclear Cult is amazing. The level of cognitive dissonance one must self-deploy to work in the industry is phenomenal. Statistical models for safety planning are based upon assumptions that could never be truly quantified, yet there were several significant figures in the model results. Most of my work was related to Yucca Mountain on the Nevada Test Site. Given the fact that no site would ever be perfect for the disposal of high-level waste, it was a pretty good choice in my opinion. Nevertheless, problems with simply moving the wastes throughout the country are confounding. (We were even considering terrorists attacks back in that time.) Clearly there are political problems with siting such a facility as a radioactive waste repository. Additionally, and probably more significantly, there are many who profit from not burying potential bomb fuel (it would, of course, have to be enriched). Ignorance is truly bliss when it comes to nuclear technology and I am cursed with a lot of experience, so bliss is out of the question.

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What prospective waste for Yucca Mt. could be turned into bomb fuel with enrichment?

A well-written and alarming article that I almost skipped because the original headline made no sense to me when I first read it.

My first full-time job after graduating from college was at RocketDyne’s SSTF analyzing the rocket fuels used in the “tens of thousands of rocket engine tests conducted over the many years of operation.”   Our “protection” when handling these chemicals – monomethyl- and unsymetrical dimethyl hydrazine, along with nitrogen tetroxide – consisted of white cotton lab coats, gloves and goggles, rather than the fully enclosed “space suits” used at Cape Kennedy when fueling the vehicles headed for the moon.

The intake for the office area’s air conditioning was on the roof of the building, not far from the vents from the hoods in which our tests were conducted — this was made abundantly clear one day when I conducted a one-off test involving n-Butyl Mercaptan (essence of Skunk) and then moved from the lab area to my office to write up the results . . .   How many clerical and other non-lab personnel were ex­posed to the carcinogenic fumes from the chem lab?

I worked at North American’s (now Boeing’s) Rocket­Dyne less than two years.  More than two decades later I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, from which I am – at least for now – in remission.  If any attempt has been made to compensate those of us who were endangered by RocketDyne’s dis­regard for adequate safety procedures at the SSTF, I have yet to hear of it.

p.s. I too, like Dr. Dodge, live in Ventura, CA.

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Second that !

Glad to hear your story.

My father, a former US Marine WW2, was working at Chalk River when I was two. We had moved to Ottawa from Montreal, as my dad was working for Northern Electric at the time, I think as an installer.

In December 1952 the main reactor there, NRX, suffered a partial meltdown, still Canada’s worst muclear accident, and I believe the first major nuclear accident known. Jimmy Carter was called in for the cleanup, which almost sterilized him.

My dad died at 35 of heart disease. Yes, he was a smoker, but then so were his three brothers and two sisters, and they all lived into their seventies and eighties.

Coincidence ?

I doubt it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chalk_River_Laboratories

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In my second last year of University (geology), I thought I might go look for uranium - seemed like a good, modern technology.

But I decided to do some research first. What I found so disgusted me that I went into the oil patch instead (that would have been ca 1978).

After Fukushima, more research into nuclear, and I found Dr. John Gofman’s book 'IRREVY", written in 1979, a year after I had already decided nuclear was a definite no go.

As regards Regulatory Capture, lies and deceipts, first rate dissembling, misinformation and expert Darth Vader PR - my hat is off to the nuclear industry !

No one, not Exxon, not Big Tobacco nor Big Pharma - is even in the same league.

Never was I so glad to see Greenpeace on the scene at Fukushima - where at least some of the truth was made public.

Below a link to 'IRREVY".

You can get a second hand copy cheap, download pdf, etc.

Google Dr. Gofman on Wikipedia or other - John was Manhattan Project, in on the first synthesis of plutonium for the bomb, later a medical doctor (for real), and an anti nuclear activist for the remainder of his long life.

The last chapter of IRREVY has a section on jurisprudence, worth easily the price of the book even if nuclear is not your thing, as Dr. Gofman, a world expert on nuclear, was prevented time and again from testifying in defence of nuclear activists by our vaunted, and corrupt as the day is long, judicial system, where only milk thieves go to jail.

Irrevy: An irreverent, illustrated view of nuclear power : a collection of talks, from Blunderland t

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“Spent” fuel rods still have U-235 (itself fissile) and Pu-239 (which is formed when U-238, the primary isotope of uranium, captures a neutron and then undergoes beta decay in the fuel rod. U-235 was used in “Little Boy” (Hiroshima, 6 August 1945) and Pu-239 in “Fat Man” (Nagasaki, 9 August 1945).

You can’t use that 260 times 3-mile island garbage statistic to explain this. You should say 1/1,000,000,000 of Chernobyl unless you’re TRYING to instill fear and ignorance with this article. 260 times 3-mile island?? What’s 260 times zero negative health effects? It’s still zero

We’ve come very close to disaster at other Nuke sites too.

In the 1970’s the book “We Almost Lost Detroit” came out about the 1966 partial meltdown in a Detroit reactor

We Almost Lost Detroit , a 1975 Reader’s Digest book by John G. Fuller[1], presents a history of Fermi 1, America’s first commercial breeder reactor, with emphasis on the 1966 partial nuclear meltdown.[2][3]

It took four years for the reactor to be repaired, and then performance was poor. In 1972, the reactor core was dismantled and the reactor was decommissioned. America’s first effort at operating a full-scale breeder had failed.[2]

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists felt it was “a significant book and it is well worth reading.” They felt it explained how the accident happened but not why.[4] Kirkus Reviews called it “the heaviest broadside against the Atomic Energy Commission in years”.[5]

I remember it as very tense reading.

Then there was Three Mile Island

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Yes, but that doesn’t mean it is a good candidate for enrichment into bomb fuel. First, the fuel pellets would have to have the cladding removed, then you have to separate out the uranium while contending with other, highly radioactive, isotopes mixed in, and even then, what you wind up with is uranium that is roughly 0.85% U-235, but also about 0.4% U-236, which is a nuisance contaminant that can’t be separated from U-235 by any of the enrichment methods we currently have. That makes it impossible (with current technology) to enrich the U-235 in spent fuel to weapons-grade (over 90%). Natural uranium, on the other hand, has nearly as much U-235, hardly any U-236, it doesn’t have to be declad, and there are no highly radioactive fission or transmutation products to deal with. It’s also abundant and cheap and not subject to the audit tracking that spent fuel is.

“and Pu-239”

The Pu-239 will be reactor grade, mixed with Pu-240 (also some Pu-238 and Pu-241). Reactor grade Pu is typically less than 60% Pu-239, while weapons-grade is more than 93% Pu-239. Here too, enrichment is not a practical way to concentrate the Pu-239 up to weapons-grade because the isotopic weights are too close.

I will claim no knowledge of the “economic” feasibility of reclaiming and enriching the resources, as I have never investigated such in a scientific manner. Furthermore, I do know that chemical processes at that end of the periodic table are quite complex due to the electronic orbits being so distant from the nuclei as to render many valences possible. I only meant to imply that bomb-relevant isotopes were present and therefore that it was theoretically possible for them to be exploited. My overarching concern is that safety is subservient to money, and only the rarified benefit from the money while the safety affects the majority.

The economic feasibility would seem to be central to the claim that “there are many who profit from not burying potential bomb fuel”. And for bomb fuel purposes, the issue of enrichment goes beyond economic feasibility. It is not technologically feasible to enrich either U-235 or Pu-239 in spent fuel to bomb fuel grade.

“Furthermore, I do know that chemical processes at that end of the periodic table are quite complex due to the electronic orbits being so distant from the nuclei as to render many valences possible.”

Isotopic enrichment is not a chemical process.

“I only meant to imply that bomb-relevant isotopes were present and therefore that it was theoretically possible for them to be exploited.”

Not for bomb fuel. Not with any current or incipient technology.

“My overarching concern is that safety is subservient to money,”

That is a sensible concern in any industry where safety costs money (which is pretty much all of them). It definitely applied to the appalling on-the-cheap waste “disposal” (more accurately, dispersal) practices at Santa Susana–which violated dozens of regulations in effect at the time.

And actually, with regard to spent fuel, there very well could be a profit motive for not putting the spent fuel into a permanent repository like Yucca Mt.–not because a tiny fraction of the spent fuel matches the isotopes used in bombs but because a huge fraction (roughly 96%) would be perfectly usable fuel in fast reactors which are currently being developed. If we choose the option of consuming the spent fuel in reactors, that means we’d only need intermediate-term storage, which would be much cheaper than million-year storage, it would give the waste-disposal fund time to grow, if the cost of storage can be brought in below the fund value, the rest of it is pure profit for somebody, and burning the fuel would produce an enormous amount of revenue-generating energy.

“and only the rarified benefit from the money while the safety affects the majority.”

Money is very likely to be a major factor in deciding which course of action we will take, but it isn’t apparent to me how the financial case for using spent fuel productively is in any inherent conflict with safety.

This shall be my last post to you because I don’t really relish picking nits as a hobby. Chemical manipulation of the elements involved with nuclear energy is required to get them to forms by which the isotopes may be separated. Going no further than the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (pre-centrifuge era) that was built during the Manhattan Project to separate U-235 from U-238 required both isotopes to be chemically altered to uranium hexafluoride (a.k.a. “hex”) in order to allow the mechanisms best espoused by Einstein’s (1905) Investigations On The Theory Of The Brownian Movement to work their charms, let’s agree that uranium is not mined as uranium hexafluoride and therefore must be chemically altered in order to achieve isotopic separation.

The purpose of this web site is not to provide encyclopedic knowledge about every topic discussed, but rather to deal with the political realities in which Big Decisions need to be made. Have a very great day and as many as the current state of things may provide for you!

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Posting defective or misleading information should also not be your hobby.

“Chemical manipulation of the elements involved with nuclear energy is required to get them to forms by which the isotopes may be separated.”

It’s still a distinct process from enrichment–which goes right to the heart of the feasibility of enriching spent fuel up to weapons-grade bomb fuel. The chemical separation part would be easy and straightforward, but the isotopic enrichment part is why it can’t be done. Being able to do the precursor to a given process doesn’t mean the process itself can be done.

“The purpose of this web site is not to provide encyclopedic knowledge about every topic discussed,”

Says the person who was just talking about electron orbitals and valences. And one of the things I value about the comments section here is how readers will frequently add more depth, detail and expertise to the content of the articles. Indeed, why did you mention that you worked for the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management if not to establish that you had some experience and qualification in this area?

“but rather to deal with the political realities in which Big Decisions need to be made.”

Anyone who doesn’t understand how isotopic enrichment is not like chemical processing will not be in a good position to understand what is going on in Iran right now.