Los Alamos lab begins removing radioactive soil from canyons to prevent contamination from spreading after fire

Published: July 12th, 2011 at 11:51 am ET


Contaminated soil a concern at Los Alamos lab, Reuters, July 11, 2011:

[…] crews at the Los Alamos National Laboratory have begun removing contaminated soil from nearby canyons out of a concern that flash flooding could wash toxins into the Rio Grande [that supplies drinking water for Santa Fe and many other communities] officials said on Monday. […]

The soil in the canyons above Los Alamos National Laboratory […] contains materials with trace amounts of radiation […]

An Assessment of Los Alamos National Laboratory Waste Disposal Inventory, Radioactive Waste Management Associates, November 2009:

Since the beginning of its operations LANL has disposed of millions of gallons of radioactive and hazardous waste throughout the laboratory grounds and in the canyons that surround the laboratory. […]

The waste discharge at LANL began in 1944 during the development of the atomic bomb. Due to time pressures, secrecy of the project, and general lack of knowledge at the time about the dangers of radioactive materials, the laboratory took poor precautions in its disposal of radioactive and other hazardous wastes during its early years of operations. Initially, the waste, in the form of liquids, drums and cardboard boxes, was released into the canyons or deposited into unlined pits completely untreated; poor records were maintained about the volumes and activities of these releases. By the 1960s, the waste disposal practices significantly improved and better records were kept. […]

This report compiles the available information about the waste disposed of at each Material Disposal Area and into the three canyons, including any recent soil and water sampling results. Some of the sites with the highest deposits of radioactive contaminants include MDA’s C, G, and H with respective inventories of up to 49,679 curies, 1,383,700 curies, and 391 curies. Routine sampling of soil and water is regularly performed and radionuclide contamination above background levels is often found at the burial sites (e.g. TA-21). […]

Hundreds of stacks throughout the laboratory released unfiltered gaseous waste directly from plutonium-processing hoods. The LAHDRA Project Team has developed a system of priority indices and determined that between 1944 and 1966, plutonium was the most significant contaminant released. LAHDRA estimated that the total amount of plutonium released by LANL throughout its history, even with the improved filtering systems in later years, exceeded 170 curies. […]

The potential for LANL-origin contaminants to reach the Rio Grande River may vary, depending on the underground formations and the types of waste disposed of at each disposal site. The potential may be quite large, as the 2006 Santa Fe Water Quality Report stated a “qualified detection of plutonium-238”was detected in Santa Fe drinking water supplies4. The US DOE has also reported the detection of LANL radionuclides in Santa Fe drinking water since the late 1990s5. Plutonium is the main ingredient in the core or trigger of the nuclear weapons that were developed and produced at LANL, and approximately 423,776 cubic feet (ft3) (12,000 cubic meters (m3)) of plutonium contaminated waste is buried in unlined disposal pits, trenches, and shafts at the LANL site. This early detection of plutonium in Santa Fe drinking water may be an indicator of an approaching plutonium contamination plume in Santa Fe groundwater. And of course, plutonium is only one of many LANL-origin contaminants. […]

As previously discussed, information pertaining to the wastes disposed of by LANL is not always complete or fully available and so many of the types and quantities of waste disposed of at various LANL technical areas remain unknown.  […]

Published: July 12th, 2011 at 11:51 am ET


Related Posts

  1. Los Alamos lab trying to prevent ‘Cold War-era contamination’ from coming closer as 2 major canyons above lab suffered fire damage July 9, 2011
  2. Whistleblower: Los Alamos groundwater monitoring methods are hiding detection of contamination July 18, 2011
  3. Residents worried about radioactive smoke plume if fire reaches radioactive waste: “If it gets to this contamination, it’s over — not just for Los Alamos, but for Santa Fe” June 29, 2011
  4. AP: 33 underground canals of radioactive waste were beneath barrels of plutonium contamination threatened by Los Alamos fire October 2, 2011
  5. State Official: Trees and soil in Los Alamos area can have nuclear contamination — “If they get heated and that stuff goes air borne, then we are concerned” (VIDEO) June 30, 2011

60 comments to Los Alamos lab begins removing radioactive soil from canyons to prevent contamination from spreading after fire

  • jump-ball jump-ball

    Removing it to where?

  • Like we thought, little oversight or precautions years before with disposal of hazardous waste !

    “You boy’s run the pickup truck of debris up the road and throw it in a ditch somewhere, and hurry back we got plenty more to get rid of !”

  • We are so lucky there has been no flash flooding in the past 60 years to wash that stuff to god knows where ! geesh !

  • odiez1 odiez1

    We have our own Mayat.

  • There seems to be a huge problem found and their actions are speaking volumes ! They may know it is much worse then anything we can imagine !

    • WindorSolarPlease

      I would say they found a problem, or they would not be doing this.

      If they get monsoons, they have had to had flash flooding’s before.

      Where are they, going to put it?
      Hmm .. Good question.

  • I saw on maps last month there is a huge town not far from there, appears to be down hill ??

    Many photo’s

  • dodge

    my concern is that removing this soil, makes what remains completely vulnerable to erosion, both water and wind. Would be nice to have specifics of the kinds, and levels of contamination found, and/or removed.

    • WindorSolarPlease

      Good luck on finding correct stats on that. I think that is National Security information.

    • Weather has already been moving much of this for years,
      “Initially, the waste, in the form of liquids, drums and cardboard boxes, was released into the canyons or deposited into unlined pits completely untreated;”

  • I foresee housing prices to plummet exponentially overnight in this area !

    • WindorSolarPlease

      I heard China is in the market of buying property, maybe they would be interested in it.

      • I have some dear Chinese friends in China, lovely people ! Been there twice for stays in 06 and 07 for a number of months. Absolutely beautiful country and hardest working folks ! Fireworks for the New years are fantastically unbelievable all over the country for weeks, you will KNOW there is a celebration !

      • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

        We don’t want China to buy that land. Their record for clean up of pollution in their own country isn’t good. I’m particularly thinking of the computers from the US which are sent there for recycling. How about melamine in baby formula?

        • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

          How about lead paint on the toys of toddlers?

          • The paints we sold them when it was outlawed here ?
            They had tremendous growth in a few short decades and no oversight by gov. much like here for many years, many of the workers there had no clue as the the chemicals and other harmful things they were dealing with, much like here for many decades, were do we dump our DU now ?
            Dioxins, look at our history for pesticides that all most wiped out our wildlife in many areas ! None of us seemed to know what they were doing ! How about what this article is about ??? BP oil Gusher ? Then Corexit ? Seabrat4 ? That is clean up ??? Kill 50% of sea life in 24 hours, no studies done after 3 days ?? how many lived past 3 days ???
            None of us have a near clean record, look at all the nuke threats now destroying all, did anyone stop at the 1st accident ?

        • Dr. Anne Lee Tomlinson Maziar anne

          xdrfox, NO NUKES
          I’m not talking about individuals who immigrate here. I’m not in favor of a totalitarian government buying the land around Los Alamos. No matter how awful our government is, their government is even worse. At least we have the freedom to criticize our government and greater freedom to search the internet. No matter how wonderful individuals are, I don’t want to live under the present Chinese government. If I wanted to live under a certain foreign government I would immigrate there.

          I lived for 8 years in Canada during the Vietnam War. I came back to the US because our system of government is better than theirs and our education system is better than theirs, in my opinion and I wanted my children to be educated in the US and to have the advantages of living in the US.

          I will be calling be calling Senator Udall to urge him to vote NO NUKES in response to the following e-mail which I received tonight (see below). No one will arrest me. No one will harvest my organs because I am a political dissident. No one will arrest me because my religious beliefs.
          6930 Carroll Avenue, #340, Takoma Park, MD 20912; 301-270-6477; nirsnet@nirs.org; http://www.nirs.org
          ACT NOW!


          July 12, 2011

          Dear Friends,

          We have learned that on Thursday, the Senate Energy Committee is slated to vote on several bills, including its first post-Fukushima nuclear legislation.

          Unfortunately, this legislation (as we noted a few weeks ago) isn’t about nuclear safety; it isn’t about implementing safe, clean alternatives to dirty, dangerous nuclear power; it isn’t following the lead of Germany, Italy and elsewhere in ending the threat of nuclear catastrophe in the United States.

          It’s about pretending Fukushima never happened. It’s about building more nuclear reactors in the U.S. And it’s absolutely unacceptable.

          Tell the Senate now: We will not accept more nuclear power in the U.S., whether small or large, and we certainly won’t pay for it!

          There are three bills the Senate Energy Committee is likely to consider on Thursday:

          S. 512 would require the Secretary of Energy to carry out programs to develop and demonstrate two small modular nuclear reactor designs, one of 300 MW maximum and one of 50 MW maximum. By comparison, new reactors being ordered by utilities are 1,000 MW or more, but several problematic early U.S. reactors–like Yankee Rowe, Big Rock Point, LaCrosse and others–were actually smaller than 300 MW. Fukushima Unit 1 was only 460 MW–not a lot larger than these “small modular” reactors.

          Here is a factsheet from our friends at IEER & PSR on some of the problems with “small modular reactors.”

          S. 1067 would waste $250 million taxpayer dollars over the next five years on a hopeless effort: it would create a new Department of Energy program to try to reduce the manufacturing and construction costs of both large and small new reactors.

          And the Committee also may resume consideration of CEDA (Clean Energy Deployment Administration) legislation. This would set up a “clean energy” bank to provide taxpayer loans and loan guarantees to eligible technologies. This legislation does not yet have a bill number, and we haven’t seen the full text yet. While there appears to be some improvement over earlier versions (it may not allow unlimited taxpayer loans), it still perpetuates the fiction that nuclear power and some types of coal are “clean energy.” Until these dirty and dangerous technologies are removed from the definition of clean energy, this type of legislation must be opposed. Otherwise, the “clean energy bank” will simply become another mechanism to channel taxpayer dollars into large, polluting and irresponsible companies that produce lethal radioactive waste, destroy mountains and generally are not deserving of any support.

          You can take action here to tell the Senate that none of these bills are acceptable. Note: while only the Senate Energy Committee is considering these bills at this point, we are targeting the entire Senate because Senators do talk to each other…. But if one of your Senators is on the Energy Committee (list below), we encourage you to also call his/her office (202-224-3121) to register your opposition to these bills.

          Finally, we want to thank everyone who has taken action over the past few months against President Obama’s proposal for a $36 Billion increase in the taxpayer loan program for new reactor construction (100,000 letters to Congress so far this year!). Your actions have been working: the good news is that the energy appropriations bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee does not contain any increase in the nuclear loan program! We will continue to monitor the situation closely as the bill goes to the House floor and through the Senate and let you know if there is a need to take more action.

          Thanks for all you do,

          Michael Mariotte
          Executive Director
          Nuclear Information and Resource Service

  • WindorSolarPlease

    How much did it spread from the fire?

  • WindorSolarPlease

    I really don’t believe that this is the only National Lab that disposed of nuclear waste like that.

    What about all the other Labs?

  • Is this not the first mention of radioactive materials?

    Anyone know what the hot particle count might be right now for the Pacific NW.

    Apparently, I need some exercise, but afraid to go out:

    We need this guy selling our cause:

  • arclight arclight

    best not forget the other contaminants and thier effects on health and society!! canadian, but the wind and water travels!
    Uranium – film reveals impact of uranium mining on indigenous people
    thanks again nuclearnews.net!

  • Mark

    Remember the news story reporter asks Los Alamos official “any radio-active waste dumped in Bandelier National Park? No comment.” The Bandelier National monument was created in 1916 but closed during WW2 as the lodge was used to house people working on the Manhattan project. The surrounding area wasn’t designated a wilderness park until 1971. 50% of that park has been burned by the recent fire.

    When I tried to get to the link generating the story ( a local TV station) my browser froze and I had to reboot computer. After the story was taken off TV station page. My guess is that the problem is bigger then what authorities state and so I pray for those of you down-wind from the fire.

  • Novamind

    Check this article out, with the helicopter radiation scans in Washington State going on-what is it they are not telling us!


    • alasanon

      Saw the story…and stories on other green initiatives in that area… My sympathies & highest tribute to all the AWESOME enviros. in the Pacific NW. You truly have made life better for this nation many times over!!!…
      Thank you!
      Check out the S.E. There are some huge enviros out here, too! (they would value your help!)… I’m such a fan & admirer of WA, OR, etc. 🙂

    • Mark

      Thanks for post Novamind. They are saying don’t worry Iodine 135 has brief half life what about other isotopes? If they found one did they test for others? Wouldn’t others be in rain-water? I’m just north of Seattle in Vancouver. Canadian gov doing no testing. Canadian people just like majority of Americans, focused on economic hamster wheel, sports and other distractions.

  • americancommntr

    Soil on average weighs 2 million pounds (1,000 tons) per acre furrow slice (layer 6″ deep).

  • Alex2245


    The nuclear industry and nuclear regulators worldwide, as well as specifically in the United States, have continually covered up disasters and radiation releases as if they never happened or posed no danger to the public.

    To begin to understand the corruption of the nuclear power industry and the danger we are in because of it, you must first realize that they actually fund their regulators, The NRC in the United States and the IAEA for the world.

  • WindorSolarPlease

    I am tired of the cover ups and the protection of the corporations, instead of warning the people and protecting the citizens of this Country.

    I remember a time when people with influence, wealthy people, ministers, actors, and songwriters gathered, gave speeches, demonstrated, with the media putting it all on the news. Great songs and movies even came out of the problems of the world.

    The ones who people really listened to, were the ones who were organized, they did things peacefully, and legal.

    Right now we are in a serious mess.
    We have layers radiation coming in and our nuclear plants are in trouble, and yet they are still running.
    All nuclear plants need to be shut down, so does drilling
    The lack of public information, with holding tests results.
    The lack of environment protection.
    The lack of getting environmentally products made
    The homes and farm lands that are being flooded.
    Our privacy and constitutional rights are, slowly being taken away.
    The wealthy in charge now want the poor mans social security, medicare, and medicaid.
    Our economy is not where it should be.
    We don’t make things in the US any more.
    The oceans are contaminated.
    Look at what has happened to the gulf and the gulf people.
    I could go on.

    My point is, where are the people who can make that difference, an impact?
    Are they all dinning with the ones who created this mess?
    Where are the people, who others listen to?
    I remember a time, oh yes there was a time, when people came together from all walks of life, and they made a difference.

    Quote: We must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
    We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.
    Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
    Somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
    Even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

    This is how people came together, and was heard.

    I have a dream today, that people again, will come together to inform others, to change things for the betterment of this country and for the world.

    This earth will not heal, until we make changes.
    The economy will not heal, until we make changes.
    The elderly, sick, and children will be in the streets, if their benefits are taken away.

    A corporation is not a person, it does not breath, eat, love, or have feelings
    A corporation is a place of business looking for profits
    A corporation can add to the growth of it’s Country,
    A corporation is not a country, and should not have power over a Government

    Some have forgotten that this Country is under God.
    This Country is of the people, by the people, for the people

    We have the right to know officially what is happening in our Country and to our well being, things should not be with held to the public.

  • bigisland bigisland

    Darn Skippy Right On WSP! Couldn’t said it better! +1 Here Shinning On!!! C’mon the rest of the U.S. population 311,750,723 and who ever else is left in the World 6,948,572,794!

  • SteveMT

    Crisis management at its worst, IMO. How many YEARS has this contaminated soil been there…as long as 70? All has already been contaminated, and in fact it may be better to just leave this soil alone undisturbed. The surface soil may well be somewhat decontaminated already. The surface radiation has already been taken away by ‘tincture of time.’ What about all of the birds, bugs, animals, plants, and all of the PAST RAINS over the past 70 years? That has not meant shit to them. Why touch any of it, when moving this soil may only make matter worse, i.e. stirring the lethal radiation pot? Only now are they wanting to do the right thing, because they are being forced to do so. Conclusion: They are not very nice people.