4 Nuclear Stories This Week That Will Make You Sleep With The Lights On


Hanford’s Toxic Mystery Gas
Workers have been complaining for a long time about exposure to toxic gasses from the decaying tank farm at the Hanford nuclear site in Washington state. In the last year multiple workers had been taken to the hospital after smelling odd smells while working at the tank farm. A some workers have come forward after being so disabled and ill they could not longer work. Meanwhile DOE and the contractor that manages the work on the tank farm insisted there was no risk and that they were not liable because gas masks were available on site.

A new study by a 3rd party group of experts from the Savannah River nuclear site found that there is a risk and that workers were likely exposed to toxic gasses that were either not properly detected or were explained away by the process the contractor used to record monitoring data.

King 5, a local TV station that has been conducting ongoing investigative work on Hanford listed these findings from the new report:

Some of the findings include:

• Hanford managers are in denial over the enormity of the vapor problem.
• Small bursts of chemical exposures can cause adverse health effects, including organ damage.
• Workers are being exposed to chemical concentrations above acceptable occupational levels.
• The federal government’s contractor is in violation of federal regulations that require a workplace free of known hazards that can cause illness or death.
• WRPS is using flawed science to measure how serious the exposures are to employees.
• The site has inadequate vapor monitoring systems.
• WRPS nor the Department of Energy know exactly what chemicals their employees are inhaling when exposed to tank emissions.

Workers who have been exposed have serious respiratory and neurological problems after being exposed to these vapors. Even more disturbing, the committee found that even brief exposures could seriously injure someone. DOE and the contractor also do not know what is in these toxic chemical vapors that are escaping the tanks.


Metropolis Plant Leaks Uranium Gas
Union workers in the midst of a labor dispute and lock out witnessed a release to the environment of uranium hexoflouride gas from the Metropolis Honeywell uranium fuel plant in Illinois. There are no nearby publicly available radiation monitors that might have picked this up so the extent of the release is currently unknown. The worker strike at the plant is over benefits related to health care and retirement related health care. With concerning numbers of workers at the plant with cancer, many of them fatal, assuring workers have health care access is seen as crucial by workers.

Residents are obviously worried about the releases and if they posed a danger to the public. Honeywell issued blanket denials and had initially insisted the release was water mist but has now admitted it was uranium gas after the NRC began to investigate. This is also not the first uranium gas leak at the plant. It has happened many times before.


Germany’s Nuclear Disaster Drill Flops

A disaster drill was recently held in Germany to enact a warning and evacuation in the event of a nuclear disaster. The drill ended up in chaos after breakdowns in communication and technical failures. They found that millions would have been exposed to a radioactive cloud released from the plant. Warnings to evacuate came too late as officials struggled with proper and timely communication and teleconference equipment failed. They also found that the time between a meltdown and the need to act to protect the public was extremely short.


UK’s Ancient Outdoor Spent Fuel Pools Pose Huge Risk 
People have been justifiably concerned about TEPCO’s unit 4 damaged spent fuel pool at Fukushima Daiichi for the risk it posed if the pool failed or drained. TEPCO was worried too, enough so that they shored it up with concrete and fast tracked removing the fuel from the pool. There is a spent fuel pool far scarier that unit 4. At Sellafield, the massive nuclear weapons complex in the UK there are two aging decrepit overloaded spent fuel pool, outdoors and above ground. Yes, you read that correctly.

These pools are similar to a big concrete dumpster full of water and failed nuclear fuel from the 1950’s to 1970’s. The pools have been officially abandoned since 1976 after the fuel cladding degraded making them useless for reprocessing. Recent photos showed degraded concrete, weeds growing in the structures and seagulls swimming in the radioactive pools. These 60 year old decaying pools pose a very real threat if one were to fail, drain or be damaged by sabotage (or garden variety stupidity).

Photos first came out in the Ecologist from a whistle blower. Now the Guardian has picked up the story. The paper was able to obtain some statements from the entities responsible for the facility. All dismissed the looming problem as something they want to continue to ignore and do nothing about.

We were able to spot both pools on satellite images via Google Earth. They are indeed out in the open and appear to have no physical restriction on someone driving near them if they were on site.

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