On February 27th, 2014, AlertsUSA issued the following
Flash messages to subscriber mobile devices:
Live feed of DOE presser went dead 5 min into event… DOE rpts at least 13 on surface exposed, ongoing probs with ventilation sys, cause of release unknown.2/27-a
Dept. of Energy press conference on radiation emergency at NM nuclear waste storage site. LIVE FEED: http://bit.ly/1lnWR9v
On Thursday of this week AlertsUSA subscribers were notified via text messages to their mobile devices that the Department of Energy has announced at least 13 employees at the plant had been internally contaminated with radioactive materials from a unexplained event within the underground nuclear waste storage facility. And there may be more. All of the contaminated employees were working in above ground facilities and exposed to an atmospheric release. The Dept. of Energy also states that no one has yet been able to reenter the storage area located 2150 feet below the surface due to high radiation levels.
Additionally, despite ongoing claims that the atmospheric release was minor, the Dept. of Energy’s own sensors located more than 20 miles away in Carlsbad, New Mexico registered the presence of radioactive materials in the air.
As no one has yet reentered the underground complex, it is impossible for any determination to be made with certainty if the danger has passed.
As reported in last week’s issue of Threat Journal, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, also known as the WIPP, is the nation’s only licensed deep geological nuclear waste repository. The WIPP facility is the nation’s solution for permanent disposal of the Department of Energy’s cold war legacy transuranic waste that has been stored at 23 former nuclear-weapons-complex and generation sites located across 13 states.
At a press conference held Thursday afternoon (for which the live news feed from ABC conveniently died 5 min into the meeting), WIPP Project Manager Farok Sharif indicated there were ongoing problems with the underground facility’s ventilation system requiring significant repairs. It is the ventilation system that filters the contaminated air coming from the underground storage area.
Additionally, according to Don Hancock, director of the Nuclear Waste Safety program at the Southwest Research and Information Center, “The WIPP [air filtering] systems right now are in the guinea pig stage [...] they have never been tried.”
Despite Department of Energy and EPA ongoing claims that the levels of radiation released are extremely low and not a danger to the public, we would like to point out how such statements are, at a minimum, willfully disingenuous.
While the reported radiation levels may not pose a danger in terms of “external exposure,” a much more significant threat is posed if these airborne contaminants are breathed in or otherwise ingested. This is the precise reason for their concern about the contaminated workers at the plant.
The Dept. of Energy has already publicly reported that both Plutonium-239 & Americium-241 were released into the atmosphere. The EPA’s own radiation protection website clearly states that when either Plutonium or Americium are inhaled, the materials can stay in the body for decades, continue to expose the surrounding tissues to radiation, and dramatically increase your risk of developing cancer.
The EPA site also clearly states that both Plutonium and Americium, when ingested, tend to concentrate in the bone, liver and other organs, again exposing the surrounding tissue to radiation.
Read the EPA Radiation Protection Page on Americium (Am)
Read the EPA Radiation Protection Page on Plutonium (Pu)
At this point, it is important to point out some realities about the issue of public notification during radiation emergencies. While federal, state and local agencies, as well as nuclear plant operators and power companies, go to significant lengths to try to assure the safety of the general public, the simple truth is that no one should ever realistically expect to be told the entire truth about the severity of accidents or mishaps. And the reasons for this are quite simple: Tremendous liability for personal injury and property loss, enormous legal bills, public outcry and activism, the impact on company stock prices, pressure on public officials, the ruining of personal careers, potential for being hauled in front of Congressional hearings when an incident becomes a political tool, and on, and on, and on.
As unfortunate as it is, the very fact that our constitution and legal system offer substantive methods of recourse weighs heavily on these decisions. Add to this the fact that in many instances it can take years for physical ramifications to manifest, it should not be difficult to see how the players can arrive at the decision to withhold information from the public. This has been repeatedly demonstrated by a myriad of other industries in the past. Why would one expect the nuclear industry be any different?
Given these and many other poignant realities, the singular logical conclusion one can arrive at is self reliance instead of government reliance. Start by evaluating where you have consciously chosen to live. Is this anywhere near a nuclear power station or radioactive waste disposal site? If so, your best protection starts with educating yourself.
1. Know where these facilities are located and have have a solid exit plan.
2. Have preparedness items on hand such as a good radiation detector for your person as well as your home.
3. Take some time to learn about radiation and the nature of the threat. Back during the cold war and the days of duck and cover drills and civil defense shelters, this was common knowledge. There is no reason it can not be learned with relative ease.
4. Stay Informed and Get on With Life