At Planet Waves, we keep a close eye on nuclear issues and the horoscopes of nuclear events. If you’re curious about the topic, I can share with you an article we published in November called Notes from Downwind. There is a central chart to track these issues, called the Nuclear Axis. Right now, Neptune is the most active chart in the Nuclear Axis chart — which means that we will be seeing a lot more news about radiation leaks, and radiation in water. This week we have several such stories, researched by Elizabeth Michaud and Chad Woodward. –efc
There’s a place in New Mexico used as a nuclear dump, with a fancy name: a Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP. Located near a town called Carlsbad, it’s basically a deep hole leading to a facility beneath the magnificent New Mexico landscape.
There, the government deposits waste materials left over from research and production of nuclear bombs, many of which were tested in New Mexico. The dump is located deep within an area excavated out of a thick layer of salt in the Earth’s crust, about 2,200 feet down.
It’s supposed to hold out for 10,000 years.
But two weeks ago, managers of the privately-run facility noticed that there was a radiation leak, which means radioactivity being released from the nuclear waste containment area to the outer environment. It went from hundreds of feet under the ground clear to the surface, where it was detected. This is no ordinary leak — it contains plutonium, the bad boy of nuclear materials. Officials there claim to not know how it happened, but it may be that a ceiling collapse crushed radioactive waste barrels.
The current series of problems goes back to Feb. 5, when a fire broke out in an underground vehicle used to haul salt. That was in a non-radioactive area. Then on Feb. 14, radiation detectors went off, leading to the plant’s management issuing a shelter in place order for all employees. On Feb. 28, the facility’s owners admitted that 13 people had been contaminated.
The website Veterans Today is reporting that there is an active fire in the dump, and that enough radiation to kill 35,000 people had been released. If we are talking about plutonium, which has escaped from the underground dump, that would be the equivalent of about a grain of sand or less.
Whatever is happening inside this place, the radiation took a lot less than 10,000 years to get out. And that is the nuclear problem. No matter how safe anyone claims it is, radiation is extremely difficult to contain. And it’s so toxic it’s difficult to imagine its potency.
Helen Caldicott, a doctor and one of the world’s leading anti-nuclear activists, says that just one microgram or plutonium, or one-millionth of a gram, will cause cancer if it lodges in someone’s lung. A gram is about the weight of a paper clip, so we’re talking about a particle of dust.
And now this stuff is once again loose in the environment, and scientists who operate the waste dump have no idea how to stop it from escaping. They claim to not even know exactly where it’s coming from within their own facility.
One last bit: the place is called a “pilot plant” because it’s part of creating a protocol for making such facilities in the future. Nice experiment.
TEPCO Admits Biggest Leak in Months
TEPCO, the company that owns the Fukushima Daiichi plant in eastern Japan, admitted that the largest leak in recent history had occurred earlier this month, releasing 100 tons of highly radioactive water.
But they claim it is unlikely the radiation would reach the Pacific Ocean. They seem oblivious to what humans have known forever: water always finds a way to the ocean.
Earlier this month, TEPCO disclosed that freezing temperatures may have caused a crack in the concrete floor of a water storage tank used to store water for cooling the damaged reactors.
Workers on patrol discovered two cracks in the concrete and that contaminated water from the melting snow surrounding the tanks may have seeped into the ground. Just last August, TEPCO reported that 300 tons of contaminated water had leaked from water storage tanks nearby.
…and will be re-analyzing old samples for radiation
TEPCO has recently said that it will be re-analyzing 164 samples taken at Fukushima last year. Due to errors in its testing of beta radiation (which includes Strontium-90, a radionuclide linked to bone cancer), TEPCO claims that previous readings significantly undercounted radiation levels.
New tests of the samples taken from April through September of 2013 will be run and the results featuring the corrected beta radiation levels will be published. Earlier this month, TEPCO admitted to withholding record high radiation levels detected in a groundwater sample taken 25 meters from the ocean last September.
…as radiation once again found off of North America
Radiation from the Fukushima disaster has been detected in water offshore Canada. Researchers at the annual American Geophysical Union’s Ocean Sciences meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii, said that Cesium-134 and Cesium-137 have been detected offshore of Vancouver, British Colombia.
While the levels are below the government’s safety limit for drinking water in Canada, that limit does not take into account that there is no safe dose of radiation, nor that each dose adds to whatever is already in the body.
Multiple sources have confirmed that the radioactive plume released in 2011 is now reaching the west coast of North America. Predictive computer models show that a plume of radiation will reach the U.S. West Coast in early 2014, peaking in 2016. And nuclear industry officials are doing nothing, as of yet, to ensure that the public is informed or prepared.