Saturday, January 17, 2015

USA Memorializes Its Creation of Nukes

                                               CastleBravo test; Bikini Atoll; 1 March,1954

The following has been excerpted from: "The Nuclear Past is Present", by Dawn Stover, in The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (issue of 1/6/15.)
President Obama signed legislation on December 19, 2014 to create the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, which will include portions of the Hanford Site in Washington state, Oak Ridge in Tennessee, and Los Alamos in New Mexico.

Unfortunately, the way in which the Manhattan Project park was created is characteristic of a dysfunctional and regressive Congress that has slashed funding for parks, abused the defense budget authorization process, failed to meet its obligations to clean up nuclear waste, and allocated billions to breathe new life into the nuclear arms race of the Cold War.

Meanwhile, the federal government is underfunding the cleanup of Hanford and other defense sites contaminated by nuclear waste generated during weapons production. Cleanup has been Hanford’s main mission since the late 1980s, with more than $40 billion spent so far, but the 30-year cleanup plan is way behind schedule, and completion is not expected for 70 years or more. The Department of Energy has already announced that it won’t meet the agreed-upon deadline for emptying leaking waste tanks at the

The creation of the Manhattan Project park reflects the last Congress’ warped values, which unfortunately are not likely to change under the new one. The most worrisome thing about the park is not that it celebrates the development of nuclear weapons, but rather that it suggests such activity is a thing of the past.

The same Congress and president that approved the creation of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park also approved huge new expenditures to refurbish nuclear weapons and keep the nation’s weapons laboratories at full operation. As the Bulletin noted last year, “post-Cold War reductions of nuclear weapons have slowed” and “the nuclear nations have undertaken ambitious nuclear weapon modernization programs that threaten to prolong the nuclear era indefinitely.” The Obama administration approved an upgrade to the B61 nuclear bomb that will effectively create a guided standoff weapon. Its price tag is expected to top $10 billion.

These are clear signs of a US government lacking in leadership and foresight when it comes to nuclear weapons.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Start of Year 2015 Thoughts

Recapping some of DOE's recent doings:

The DOE Office of Enforcement issued a Notice of Intent to investigate potential nuclear safety noncompliances at DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory.

November, 2014 --- The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a Notice of Intent to investigate to Los Alamos National Security, LLC, their decision to conduct an investigation into the facts and circumstances associated with the remediation of selected transuranic waste drums at Los Alamos National Laboratory and its potential relationship to the airborne radiation release and subsequent shutdown at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

... OK, good!

Review of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Conduct of Maintenance Recovery Plan

December, 2014 --- The Office of Nuclear Safety and Environmental Assessments, within the U.S. Department of Energy’s independent Office of Enterprise Assessments, conducted a limited scope review of the current status of Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) plans and activities outlined in the WIPP Recovery Plan in the area of Conduct of Maintenance and the associated planned maintenance program enhancements, including engineering support program. The onsite portion of the review occurred during June 23-27 and July 21-25, 2014.

... OK, also good!

Review of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant Recovery Plan for Operating Diesel Equipment with Available Underground Airflows.

December, 2014 --- The Office of Nuclear Safety and Environmental Assessments, within the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Enterprise Assessments, conducted an independent review of the adequacy of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant plan for safely operating diesel equipment underground to support ongoing recovery and rehabilitation efforts during significantly restricted underground airflow conditions. The onsite review was conducted during the period of June 10-12, August 12-13, and October 14-16, 2014.

... OK, again good!

Energy Department Issues Path Forward for Closing Additional Radioactive Waste Storage Tanks in H Tank Farm at Savannah River Site

December, 2014 --– The Department of Energy reached a major milestone in efforts to clean up the Cold War legacy at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina, and took a step forward to closing additional radioactive tanks at the site.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz signed a determination today that allows SRS to complete cleanup and closure of the underground liquid waste tanks in the H Tank Farm as they are emptied and cleaned.  Prior to the determination, the Department and SRS conducted extensive technical environmental analysis, public review and comment, and consultation with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The State of South Carolina and the Environmental Protection Agency also provided input as part of the review process.

“Today’s announcement is an important step in the effort to close tanks at the Savannah River Site, and is a result of hard work and sustained collaboration between partners at the local, state, and federal level,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “We are now able to move forward to safely, effectively and efficiently clean up and close these tanks in the H Tank Farm, as we work to achieve the key mission of cleaning up the environmental legacy of the Cold War.”

The first tank closed in the H Tank Farm will be Tank 16, which is the only one at Savannah River that historically leaked to the environment.  This will be followed by the closure of Tank 12. The determination also allows for the closure of 27 additional tanks after cleaning, following public review and state approval.

Workers have removed more than 99 percent of the waste in Tanks 12 and 16.  Next steps include grouting the interiors with a cement-like material to stabilize the tanks and immobilize the remaining residual waste, to minimize future risk and protect human health, safety and the environment.

SRS was constructed in the early 1950s to produce basic materials used in the fabrication of nuclear weapons in support of our nation's defense programs.  Tanks 12 and 16, two of the many nuclear facilities constructed at the site to support the United States Cold War effort, were built in the 1950s to store radioactive liquid waste generated through the site’s nuclear weapons material processing (spent fuel reprocessing.)

... OK, now this seems especially good!

But, wait a minute!

 As 2015 gets underway, DOE remains focused on its clean up of legacy waste, and on its efforts to eliminate system failure from its legacy waste operations (the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics notwithstanding.)

 But, what has DOE been doing recently about the clean up of nuclear waste generated by US commercial nuclear power plants? In fact, this technically pressing matter has been given short shrift by the present Administration. Could the politics of nuclear waste depend on whether the waste was generated in secret, by public money (nuclear bomb waste,) or generated in the open by private money (nuclear waste from electric power generation)?

 We have to go back two years in order to find traces of any new US government policy regarding high-level nuclear waste: DOE Strategy for the Management and Disposal of Used Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste

January, 2013 --- The DOE Strategy for the Management and Disposal of Used Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste is a framework for moving toward a sustainable program to deploy an integrated system capable of transporting, storing, and disposing of used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste from civilian nuclear power generation, defense, national security and other activities.

Testimony of Ernest Moniz, Secretary of Energy
Before Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
 7-30-13_Ernest_Moniz FT SENR.pdf

Testimony of Ernest Moniz, Secretary of Energy
Before the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy - House Energy and Commerce Committee
 7-31-13_Ernest_Moniz FT HEC.pdf

 But, since 2013 there's been no progress on this issue. For example, today, on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's website we find a notification of vacancies for part-time administrative judges, which has not been changed since July, 2013.

 This seems in accord with fact that the present Administration has not accomplished anything on the important subject of nuclear waste disposal from commercial nuclear power plants since Ernie Moniz's spoke at House and Senate hearings in July, 2013!

 Does the President really have a plan for disposing of high-level nuclear waste? Maybe he has a plan, but it's  too "deep" to be shared publicly?

 Meanwhile, some of the president's supporters could find themselves recalling that old tune:

 Oh well, I'm uh, sitting here la, la
Waiting for my ya, ya, a hm, ahm ...

Lee Dorsey 1961 /