Sante Fe New Mexican, June 9, 2014: On the night of Feb. 14, waste in an underground salt cavern in Southern New Mexico created so much heat the drum’s lid cracked. Radiation leaked out. [...] The parent waste drum came from a waste stream including [...] two main radioactive isotopes — plutonium-239 [the primary fissile isotope used for the production of nuclear weapons] and uranium-238. [...] “A lot of the drums we opened up had a lot of liquid,” said one former employee familiar with the process, who spoke on condition of anonymity [...] EnergySolutions also switched from a clay-based kitty litter to Swheat, an organic kitty litter, for absorbing fluids. [...] The former employee familiar with the repackaging process said EnergySolutions staff tried to warn the company’s administrators that the switch in kitty litter was a bad idea. The nitrate salts and the wheat-based kitty litter created a combustible mix, according to chemists. The warnings were ignored, the employee said. “They put us in danger, too,” he said. EnergySolutions did not respond to multiple requests for comment [...]
DC Bureau — Natural Resources News Service, by Joseph Trento, June 5, 2014: On Valentines night, one of the now suspect 500 waste drums from DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) blast open inside DOE’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). Casks filled with 3.2 million cubic feet of deadly radioactive wastes remain buried at the crippled plant. That huge facility was rendered useless. Investigators believe the waste drums from Los Alamos were incorrectly packed under DOE supervision and one of them exploded. [...] after the explosion, there are still 367 suspect storage canisters that came from LANL that are still at WIPP. [...] when the explosion took place in Panel 7 [Panel = A "huge storage room"], Panel 6, left open, could still be contaminated. State Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn told local newspapers, “I agree those Panels need to be closed immediately.” If the blast turned into full plutonium flash, other drums in Panel 6 could be affected and the disaster spread, which is why it is vital for workers at WIPP to know what is in the containers and where they are located.
See also: Top Science Journal: "Time bombs" at WIPP nuclear site? "High alert over risk of new explosions" in hundreds of plutonium-contaminated drums -- AP: 4 years may be needed just to seal off area where drums stored -- Experts go down to check if ground 'still stable' (VIDEO)
Published: June 9th, 2014 at 4:59 pm ET