Coverup? Safety manager at Washington nuclear site: Criticality could be probable — Worried about hydrogen explosion — Up to 13 times more plutonium than thought, like 20+ Nagasaki bombs

Published: January 17th, 2012 at 10:14 am ET


Title: Hanford Nuclear Safety Manager Questions Waste Treatment Plant : NPR
Source: NPR
Author: Anna King
Date: Jan 17, 2012

Transcript Excerpts (Emphasis Added)

Waste in underground tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation may have much more plutonium than previously thought. […]

Here is why you should care about what Donna Busche says. She told me she’s the manager for environmental and nuclear safety at Hanford’s waste treatment plant.

“I’m where the nuclear safety buck stops,” Busche says. […]

[The] tanks near the Columbia River are in danger of leaking more radioactive sludge into the ground, or worse, one could rupture. […]

“We continue to build it even with these big, huge lingering issues”, say says. “Like:

  • Is criticality safety a concern?
  • Do I have fire protection programs that will actually make sure my systems perform as they’re intended?
  • Do I have a control strategy to make sure my pipes don’t blow up from a hydrogen explosion?”

At least 3 times more plutonium sludge than thought

Listen to these numbers: Hanford engineers used to think they had 10 kilograms of plutonium in the tanks. They now believe they’ve got between 30 and 130 kilograms. […] The nuclear bomb at Nagasaki had about 6 kilograms of plutonium.


“Since day one of the project, many years before I got here, the project has designed the plant assuming criticality was incredible. Which means criticality it would never happen, never,” Busche says.

A criticality is when radioactive atoms release a burst of energy.

“So this new information that we have received, that was prepared by very smart people, looking through old records, has given us new information meaning criticality could be probable in the plant. We don’t know what the design solutions are, but they could be significant,” Busche says.

Hydrogen Explosion

Here’s another of Busche’s concerns: That radioactive sludge can create hydrogen gas. If it builds up in a closed space it can blow up. And Busche worries the plant’s complex system of pipes isn’t robust enough to withstand hydrogen explosions. And once the plant starts working, it’s not like you can go in and fix those pipes. […]

The plant’s black cells are where the waste is pretreated and processed, and they will be so radioactively hot that they’re impossible to enter. Imagine fixing a leaky kitchen sink without opening the kitchen cabinets.

Asked to change answers by managers

Busche raised her concerns to her supervisors, and to their supervisors. She even testified at a major two-day hearing of the national Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board in 2010.

During her testimony to the board she gave different answers than top-level officials with the Department of Energy and contractors Bechtel National and URS. Afterward, she says her managers asked her to change her answers. Busche said “No.” […]

Listen to the full report here

Published: January 17th, 2012 at 10:14 am ET


Related Posts

  1. High-level whistleblower: Plutonium may cause explosion at Washington nuclear facility — Design manager warns of ‘dire’ consequences November 22, 2011
  2. NPR: Newly leaked report warns plutonium levels at Hanford may be much higher than claimed — “The Columbia River is at stake, all of that area and its vitality” says Washington Governor January 18, 2012
  3. Whistleblower on MSNBC: Criticality possible at Hanford — We could end up with explosion like Fukushima — Warns of larger release of radioactive material (VIDEO) December 18, 2011
  4. “Very significant” explosion at dam next to U.S. nuclear site — ‘Plasma’ created due to tremendous amount of heat — Same type of phenomenon as lightning — Nuclear site’s fire department responds to blast (VIDEO) December 1, 2015
  5. USATODAY: Official concerns over uncontrolled nuclear reaction risks inside plutonium facility near Portland January 18, 2012

35 comments to Coverup? Safety manager at Washington nuclear site: Criticality could be probable — Worried about hydrogen explosion — Up to 13 times more plutonium than thought, like 20+ Nagasaki bombs

  • khaake

    This is insanity. The nuclear chickens are preparing to come home to roost, and we obviously have no viable way to accomodate them. We need to shut these plants down, now.

    • Only a matter of time, an accident waiting to happen !
      TIC TIC TIC !

    • milk and cheese milk and cheese

      I don’t know if it is possible to truly shut these horrible things down. As we know, “cold shutdown” is a very elastic term. Even the reactors that are ‘out of commission’ still contain fuel rods, whether used or new; two of the units at Fukushima were technically not running at the time of the earthquake/tsunami. This whole nuclear thing was an open ended science project conducted on the entire earth, with no control–in more ways than one.

  • BreadAndButter BreadAndButter

    *B&B applauds Donna Busche

  • bmurr bmurr

    What kind of human being hears these concerns about criticality and hydrogen explosions, and ignores them? Is it over confidence? Or do they just not mind the gamble?

    • many moons

      Money Money Money…I guess you can fool most of the people most of the time with plenty of MONEY

      • James Tekton James Tekton


        They call it god…every one worships it…who here can live with out it?


        As long as man holds the god money up above all things material…he will never know the true riches of all things spiritual. One comes and goes, and one goes with us. One is temporary at best, the other eternal. We all bow down to a Higher Power of a material nature, or One of a Spiritual Nature.

        Who is your Master?

        • milk and cheese milk and cheese

          Some people have a fatal inability to connect cause and effect. They also believe that bad things will happen to others, not themselves, as a consequence of their actions. Sometimes these people are called sociopaths, or psychopaths.

        • john lh john lh

          Yes, so it is not just a Fuckshima problem, but crisis about truth and facts.

          The comments now more concentrated on the spiritual , philosophic part of our life on this earth.

          Yes, it is now the life changing, history changing time for all of man kind.

          For me this accident is just that massacre at the evening in Tiananmen square 1989, 3 years after Chernobyl.

          The tragic and sad reality is that, people do not want to seek, to see, to knock ,to find the truth and facts.

          Just want to worship the gold cattle, living a life of living dead.

    • HoTaters HoTaters

      As Dr. Helen Caldicott says (and I’m fond of quoting), “They have a serious defect in the reptilian brain.” That’s the part that is supposed to sense danger and warn you to keep yourself safe ….

      • WindorSolarPlease

        Hi HoTaters

        They know they can buy anything, even a safer place, or maybe new medicines that we don’t know about.

        Who knows, maybe they are from a different place and they can survive radiation??? We are finding new planets.

        I’m just keeping an open mind, not totally crazy yet.

        There has to be a reason why, they think this could not effect them.

        Greed – Deadly Sin

  • xstatic


  • enoughalready45 enoughalready45

    Holy atomic pile, Batman! – Robin

    Come on, Robin, to the Bat Cave! There’s not a moment to lose! – Batman

    Yes, real quotes from the T.V. show Batman & Robin from when I was a kid.

    Sorry, just seems like we are in need of some superheros the more we learn about the mess that the atomic age has left us.

  • hbjon hbjon

    There are alot of batmen right here on enenews, but the corporations and government took our batmobiles, listening in on our batphones, foreclosed on our batcaves, repo’d all our batscooters. Then they give us a batcomputer to pump full of bad lies and misleading bad information.

  • dharmasyd dharmasyd

    Hanford was one of the earliest and worst nuclear criminals:

    Thousands of people who were exposed to Hanford’s radiation filed suit in 1990 against former contractors, such as DuPont and GE, which operated Hanford for the U.S. government.
    January 2012 Update
    The mediation tracks established by the Court have ended. Within our client group, some settlements have occurred, but most claims have not been resolved.

    So, expect no help from your government.

  • James Tekton James Tekton

    Remembering back to the early days of this catastrophe we see that the readings around that area were off the hook. It was obvious that this place has over the years contaminated lands all the way to the east coast with Montana and all those beautiful southern parts of Washington being hit the hardest.

    We remember the readings were off the hook BEFORE the ongoing disastrous horrible event in fukushima, and were actually higher than those that were being recorded by the same equipment at the same place there in Washington later.

    This is a huge issue that was put out there to all time and time again and yet, did anyone actually investigate this FACT? Was anyone even interested in WHY there were so many places up north there that were reading such high radiation counts before fukushima? The problem now is, the data is hard to find and the charts are long gone just like all the other real plume maps and dispersion charts for america.

    People still do not care enough to stop it. They continue to exist and slowly die up there in lower eastern Washington and Montana. Is ignorance really bliss, or is it just a killer no one cares about?

    How many of you remember these charts from the way back machine?

    Richland, WA:

    Billings, MT:

    Pierre, SD:

    Rapid City, SD:

    Colorado Springs, CO:

    Grand Junction, CO:

    Denver, CO:

  • ion jean ion jean

    YESSIR plutonium sludge SURE CAN cause criticality and it has back in the early days…they have tanks that must constantly stir the sludge…if too much builds up…eerie blue glow…then everything’s so hot, no human will go near it…just like a certain triple meltdown…it may already be too late for remediation.

  • pacific


    “A criticality is when radioactive atoms release a burst of energy.” That’s a little incomplete and minimizing, in the original NPR piece.

    I’m sorry to ask for your time, but would it be possible to add a better description above of what a criticality is, since it’s so central to the story?

    “When a critical reaction is achieved unintentionally, a criticality accident occurs…. An accidental increase of nuclear chain reactions in a fissile material, such as … plutonium.

    “This releases a surge of neutron radiation which is highly dangerous to humans and causes induced radioactivity in the surroundings…. Nuclear explosions do not occur.”

    [includes this example of a criticality accident, it only took 200 microseconds to release 4-5,000 rads!]
    “On 30 December 1958, the Cecil Kelley criticality accident took place at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Cecil Kelley, a chemical operator working on plutonium purification, switched on a stirrer on a large mixing tank which created a vortex in the tank. The plutonium, dissolved in an organic solvent, flowed into the center of the vortex.

    “Due to a procedural error, the mixture contained 3.27 kg of plutonium, which reached criticality for about 200 microseconds. Kelley received 3,900 to 4,900 rads according to later estimates. The other operators reported seeing a flash of light and found Kelley outside, saying “I’m burning up! I’m burning up!” He died 35 hours later.[13]”

    • ion jean ion jean

      @Pacific thanks for researching and posting, thatks just the accident I was talking about…DING DING DING Kelley died a horrible death within months of this, meanwhile Gen. Groves of the US Army kept denying denying denying…Oppenheimer et al. Knew from the beginning that the military specifically should NOT control Atomic Energy…the US became a military police state before I was even born!

  • pacific

    hi IonJean, Thanks, it’s an ongoing thing, trying to understand this stuff! I’ve learned so much from you all posting here. Did Kelley live for months after his criticality accident? Wikipedia listed him only making it for 35 hours. Either way, horror!

    I just got fired up imagining someone coming here and not knowing what a big deal a criticality is.

    “A burst of energy,” that sounds like a good thing! Who doesn’t like getting a “burst of energy” from time to time? 🙂 NPR amazes me with their ability to report news without letting the real meaning through, sometimes. Maybe they stuck with that phrase since one of their sponsors lately is Five Hour Energy drink, lol.

  • W8R W8R

    From my Forum Thread “The Nuclear Debate”..
    On Hanford:

  • W8R W8R

    To again harp a point…
    Exposure vs Ingestion…

    Exposure, what is reported by Geiger readings,
    is X # of free particles colliding with a tube…
    IE. Radiation…
    X collisions times amount of time = X exposure…

    Ingestion, what they cannot measure,
    is X # of free particles colliding with neighboring cells..
    IE. Forever…
    X collisions times lifetime = X exposure…

    Not to mention, and I YELL this:
    All of these heavy elements are TOXIC.. Regardless of radiation..
    Think Arsenic..
    Headaches, nosebleeds, nausea, diarrhea, etc… Death…
    So again, Ingestion and Inhalation of dust, moisture, snow, etc reading anything @ ALL is 100 times worse than standing next to # 3 for a few minutes… Heavy particles act like calcium, heading “for the bone” and contrary to the MSM, do not tend to flush out…
    Heavy metal toxicity is treated with “Prussian Blue”…
    Apparently the pigment attaches to them, and flushes them out…
    Blueprint blue.. Who`da thought…
    So please…
    Think poison as well as radioactive….
    We have to quit breathing… COL (Crying out Loud)
    Hundreds of pounds of things which take about 20 pounds, properly dispersed, to make the modern era a memory, to put it nicely, have been aerosolized into the environment..
    Gotta love the ability to ignore, which the world has adopted..
    “If I dont acknowledge it, it wont effect me”
    The proverbial “Head in the Sand”…
    God forbid the info is accurate…
    Because it is Catastrophic….
    A life changing event in the history of mankind…
    Even if, by some miracle, they could shut it all off, dead, today..
    The damage done is horrible..
    Ongoing Criticality = ongoing dispersion..
    And they compare it to Chernobyl..
    Days of one, non MOX reactor, vs a year of 3-6?? containing WE Dont Know Really, and Maybe even the other 4 up the road, and the other one reported lately to have blown in Nov…
    Hell, we just dont know.

  • W8R W8R

    Consider the ADMITTED amount of fuel at Fukushima, and compare it to any other disaster, ever… Even the reactor in the Ukraine in the `50s, EBR-1, none can compare…
    Fukushima has Hanford volumes of material, in variously dangerous situations, and the potential for a much larger dispersal looming…
    Leaking casks along a river.. Bad…
    Broken Fuel, in pools 60ft above ground, in severely damaged structures, and possibly 3 cores melting the bottom of the buildings away, spell a more immediate disaster, than any other of the horrific nuclear waste dilemmas mankind faces at the moment…
    And several of them are no laughing matter themselves…