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  • Federal report: LANL violated environmental requirements, SFNM, 1 Oct 2014
    contractor had no comment about the report By adding organic kitty litter and neutralizer to the nuclear waste LANL violated terms of its operating agreement with the state according to the report The New Mexico Environment Department has regulatory authority over LANL and WIPP as the issuer of their operating permits Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn told a panel of state lawmakers in July that LANL officials had confessed to regulators that they had treated waste in the drum that ultimately ruptured even though such waste treatment was not authorized by the lab s pact with the state There was something put there in direct violation of our permit and certainly on that issue there will be consequences Flynn told the New Mexico Legislature s Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee during a meeting in Los Alamos Flynn s department has authority to halt operations at both sites if the terms of the permit the department issued are violated LANL could face fines up to 3 000 a day for the permit violation it admitted according to the inspector general s report The latest report issued by the Office of Inspector General validates many of the same concerns the New Mexico Environment Department has expressed to the Department of Energy and Los Alamos National Laboratory Environment Department spokesman Jim Winchester said in a written statement NMED continues to examine permit violations that appear to have occurred during the handling of transuranic waste at LANL and will determine consequences corrective actions as dictated by the findings of our investigation The report recommended immediate changes at the lab to strengthen its oversight and reviews of how nuclear waste is handled before resuming those activities Immediate action is necessary to ensure that these matters are addressed and fully resolved before transuranic waste operations are resumed or for that matter before future mixed radioactive hazardous waste operations are initiated the inspector general s report said The lab failed to follow the Energy Department s directions about safe processing of nitrate salt waste and contractor officials failed to ensure that changes to waste treatment procedures were properly documented reviewed and approved and that they incorporated all environmental requirements for transuranic waste processing according to the report Absent these breaches in standards the inspector general found the radiation leak at WIPP could have been avoided Had LANL followed Department direction and provided appropriate subject matter expert reviews it likely would have determined that the changes to its procedures would result in the introduction of potentially incompatible materials to the waste stream the report said Careful review of the potential dangers of adding organic kitty litter to a known oxidizer such as nitrate salts would have turned up Environmental Protection Agency recommendations that warn against it the report said Disposing of oxidizers by mixing them with organic solvents is generally recognized as inherently hazardous according to the 2000 EPA case study cited in the report Clay based kitty litter traditionally has been used to absorb liquid contained in

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/SFNM_1Oct2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Congress pushes nuclear expansion despite accidents at weapons lab, 29 Sep 2014
    for Los Alamos National Laboratory declined multiple requests for comment Safety concerns Opponents of the project cite safety concerns as a primary reason not to ramp up production of the cores which creates various types of hazardous radioactive waste The facility at Los Alamos that the CRS report named as the only plausible place where new pits could be made has been shut for production since June 2013 when a number of safety violations including improper storage of hazardous materials prompted LANL director Charlie MacMillan to close it The laboratory made 29 practice pits between 2007 and 2013 the first created since the late 1980s when the FBI raided fined and finally closed the only facility then making them the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant in Colorado Despite the risks Will Tobey a senior fellow at Harvard s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and a former deputy administrator for defense and nuclear non proliferation at the National Nuclear Security Administration said that producing a certain number of nuclear pits every year is necessary to discourage other countries from ramping up their nuclear programs James Doyle a former scientist in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Division at LANL said that the scale of the proposed project lacks supporting research particularly in the quantity of cores required I ve never seen the justification articulated for the 50 80 pits per year by 2030 Doyle said Doyle a 17 year veteran of Los Alamos was dismissed on July 8 for publishing an article in support of nuclear disarmament that had been approved prior to publication by the laboratory s classification department The National Nuclear Security Administration NNSA and the State Department have since classified the article despite the fact that independent reviewers for the Center for Public Integrity found no plausible breaches The article remains available to the public even after the classification Doyle believes that the timing of his ouster was connected to the congressional push for nuclear weapons maintenance I think the laboratory would like to review for message too he said I would speculate that the message of my article was in opposition to the labs message when searching for funding for the plutonium pit project Doyle believes that the government should turn its focus from weapons component production to a strategic plan for eliminating nuclear weapons by the year 2045 I think there are plenty of people at the lab who share my view that are now even less likely to write an article like that now this has happened to me Doyle said While LANL employees might be unlikely to speak out against the lab the accident at WIPP has prompted strong words from New Mexico s environment department one of the agencies investigating the February 14 accident Department secretary Ryan Flynn indicated that LANL and the DOE have proven inconsistent communicators in the ongoing investigation slow and contradictory in providing information to which the environmental agency is legally entitled Flynn said that the department has already identified

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/Guardian_29Sep2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • WIPP radiation leak leads to LANL shakeup, ABQ JRNL, 27 Sep 2014
    and whether LANS could still bid for cleanup work under the new arrangement A statement from a DOE spokeswoman said the switch will allow LANS to focus on the core national security missions The lab has faced intense scrutiny after a waste barrel from LANL that had been sent to WIPP popped open in February because of a high temperature chemical reaction causing a radiation leak that has shut down the storage facility indefinitely Some radioactivity also was released into the atmosphere but not at levels that can cause harm officials have said The cause of the reaction still isn t known but the lab has said the mix of waste and other materials in the barrel including an added wheat based kitty litter that hadn t been used in the past and a lead laden nuclear worker s glove possibly helped set it off Other barrels at WIPP and in Texas also are considered at risk including one with the same mix of materials and a glove Being self critical McMillan sent lab workers a memo Friday that said in part It is time for us to be introspective and self critical to ensure we fully learn from this event In the coming days and weeks we will be taking additional actions to ensure we address the underlying causes and strengthen our processes to prevent future upsets or events Understanding the breached drum at WIPP continues to be a significant challenge to the Laboratory but I believe we have our best people working on these issues McMillan wrote He said deputy associate lab director Enrique Kiki Torres will serve as acting chief of environmental programs while the Lab works with DOE to develop a path forward Although the exact causes of the leak are still under investigation I have

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/ABQJRNL_27Sep2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Lab, Energy Department revamp waste cleanup, SFNM, 27 Sep 2014
    for regulatory management McMillan said that although the cause of the February leak is still being investigated I have determined that today s changes are necessary now as part of our continued recovery actions McMillan told lab workers he had very few details on the move of the legacy cleanup work from the National Nuclear Security Administration to the Office of Environmental Management but would do whatever is needed to ensure a smooth transition It s time for us to be introspective and self critical to ensure we fully learn from this event he wrote In the coming days and weeks we will be taking additional actions to ensure we address the underlying causes and strengthen our processes to prevent future upsets or events Nuclear watchdogs contend shifting responsibility of legacy waste management from the National Nuclear Security Administration to the Department of Energy s Office of Environmental Management will resolve few of the lab s problems The reason this change is happening is because Los Alamos National Security errors shut down WIPP said Greg Mello of Los Alamos Study Group Los Alamos National Security LLC manages the lab This event has shed a glaring light on dangerous violations of hazardous waste law at the lab Los Alamos National Security has been desperately trying to focus on uncertainty and mystery when the role of the Los Alamos National Laboratory drum in shutting down WIPP has been clear for a long time Mello said Dr McMillan is probably right to take drastic action but the problems at LANL go deeper than a few individuals The lab and the National Nuclear Security Administration have been working for almost a decade under a court order with the state Environment Department to remove millions of cubic feet of radioactive contaminated waste from more than 2 000 contaminated sites around lab property and in nearby canyons The waste has been generated by nuclear weapons research at the lab back to 1943 as scientists rushed to create the atomic bomb About 3 706 cubic meters of the waste was lab equipment clothing gloves and debris contaminated with radioactive materials and stored in containers above ground at Technical Area G After a wildfire burned close to the waste storage site in 2011 the state and lab reached a nonbinding agreement to get the legacy waste out of Los Alamos by June 2014 and all new radioactive waste out by December All but a few dozen containers of the waste had been shipped to WIPP when the container from the lab burst and leaked radiation in the underground repository Investigators haven t confirmed the cause of the breach but evidence is pointing to a combination of nitrate salts a wheat based organic kitty litter an acid neutralizer and a lead tainted glove as the likely culprit in a reaction that generated so much heat a portion of the drum melted A June 18 report noted a small area of the breached drum reached temperatures between 340 and 870

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/SFNM_27Sep2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Gas buildup in waste drum prompts state order to Los Alamos, IHS Energy Daily, 26 Sep 2014
    has elevated concentrations of hydrogen gas and carbon dioxide Flynn told top Los Alamos officials in the letter Los Alamos officials have informed NMED that they had been collecting daily headspace gas sampling and hourly temperature measurements for container SB50522 On August 28 2014 Los Alamos verbally informed NMED that they had reduced the frequency of headspace gas sampling on this container from daily to twice per week Los Alamos shall resume daily headspace gas sampling of this container effective immediately said Flynn He also said the lab told the state on August 28 that it had reduced the frequency of gas monitoring on another waste container identified as 68685 and Flynn ordered the resumption of daily monitoring on that as well Flynn also detailed the hydrogen gas levels in container SB50522 saying Los Alamos had found hydrogen concentrations as high as 28 000 parts per million ppm or about 70 percent of the lower explosive level calculated for that drum Los Alamos also said carbon dioxide levels in the container had reached as high as 76 000 ppm Flynn said Los Alamos officials believed that the ratio of hydrogen to carbon dioxide in the waste container indicated that the elevated gas levels were the result of radiolysis the normal radioactive decay of waste materials in the drum Flynn in his August 29 letter asked for an explanation of why Los Alamos thought radiolysis was responsible for the elevated gas levels in the drum and what the lab would do if hydrogen concentrations went higher He said Los Alamos officials have stated that 35 000 ppm approximately 87 5 percent of the lower explosive level for hydrogen is an action level but did not describe any specific actions that will be taken Flynn also ordered modifications to Los Alamos plans for safeguarding waste drums similar to the breached WIPP drum He directed the lab to conduct daily gas monitoring of any drum reaching 20 000 ppm of hydrogen and to lower its action level to 30 000 ppm and explain what specific actions it will take if hydrogen concentrations rise to that level in a drum Beyond the elevated hydrogen gas levels Flynn once again asked Los Alamos to explain its recent action reclassifying dozens of nitrate salt bearing waste drums at the lab as potentially containing ignitable or corrosive wastes The lab wrote NMED last month to provisionally reclassify the drums which Los Alamos previously believed did not contain wastes with those potentially dangerous characteristics Los Alamos was required to notify NMED of the reclassification under the hazardous waste permit granted to the lab by NMED Officials at WIPP also reclassified Los Alamos waste drums containing nitrate salts that are disposed of in underground chambers at that facility and Los Alamos also recently told NMED it was reclassifying drums it sent to Waste Control Specialists a commercial low level nuclear waste disposal facility in Texas The broad reclassification of drums is important because it may indicate that other drums

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/IHS_Energy_Daily_26Sep2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Changes ordered at Los Alamos over nuke waste leak, WAPO, 26 Sep 2014
    New Mexico is a high priority for the Department of Energy the department said in a statement NNSA and EM will work together to evaluate all elements necessary for an effective transition including federal oversight acquisition strategies and quality safety and security Watchdog Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group said the leak has shed a glaring light on dangerous violations of hazardous waste law at the lab Lab officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment A lab official who was not authorized to discuss the issue and asked to remain anonymous said the reassigned managers were Dan Cox deputy associate director of environmental programs Jeff Mousseau associate director of environmental programs Kathy Johns Hughes director of the lab s transuranic waste program and Tori George program director for regulatory management Mousseau declined comment The other three did not immediately respond to emails Officials have yet to pinpoint what caused the barrel of waste from Los Alamos to breach Feb 14 in one of the half mile deep rooms at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico One theory has focused on a chemical reaction in highly acidic waste that was packed with a

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/WAPO_26Sep2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • DOE EM to take over cleanup work at LANL, LA Monitor, 26 Sep 2014
    cleanup work from NNSA to EM This will align the focus and accountability of cleanup work with the Department s environmental management program and enable the Los Alamos site prime contractor Los Alamos National Security to continue its focus on the core national security missions at the site NNSA and EM will work together to evaluate all elements necessary for an effective transition including federal oversight acquisition strategies and quality safety and security The NS D Monitor reported that LANL director Charlie McMillan relieved several managers of their duties The Associated Press meanwhile reported they were reassigned This came on the heels of LANL s waste processing problems in relation to the radiological release at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad The trade publication reported that the managers involved were Dan Cox LANL deputy associate director of environmental programs Jeff Mousseau associate director of environmental programs Kathy Johns Hughes Director of the LANL TRU Program Tori George program director for regulatory management LANL s cleanup program has under scrutiny after a drum processed at LANL was found to be the source of the radiological release and the New Mexico Environment Department has cited LANL for permit violations One of the conditions for the restart of WIPP operations was that cleanup work at LANL had to be managed by DOE EM According to a statement from Mark Whitney the acting EM Assistant Secretary this change will align the focus and accountability of the cleanup with EM and enable the Los Alamos site prime contractor Los Alamos National Security LANS to continue its focus on the core national security missions at the site EM and NNSA will work together to evaluate all elements necessary for an effective transition including federal oversight acquisition strategies and quality safety and security DOE remains committed

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/LAMonitor_26Sep2014.html (2016-02-16)
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  • DOE Breaking Out Cleanup Work at Los Alamos, LANL Cleanup Managers Relieved of Duties, NSDM, 26 Sep 2014
    but will be addressed in the transition plan that is expected to be completed in mid November This change will align the focus and accountability of the cleanup with EM and enable the Los Alamos site prime contractor Los Alamos National Security LANS to continue its focus on the core national security missions at the site Whitney said EM and NNSA will work together to evaluate all elements necessary for an effective transition including federal oversight acquisition strategies and quality safety and security Four LANL Managers Out LANL Director Charlie McMillan this week relieved four managers of their duties in relation to the site s waste processing problems WC Monitor has learned The impacted managers include Jeff Mousseau associate director of environmental programs Dan Cox LANL deputy associate director of environmental programs Kathy Johns Hughes director of the LANL TRU Program and Tori George program director for regulatory management LANL referred requests for comment to DOE headquarters which declined to comment In July the New Mexico Environment Department cited LANL for treating some WIPP bound waste without the proper permit While LANL is allowed to process waste under its permit it cannot take further steps that would be considered treating the waste The noncompliances involved adding neutralizers and absorbents to some extremely acidic waste containing nitrate salts LANL has also improperly assigned waste codes to some waste sent to WIPP according to NMED Additionally NMED has experienced communications issues Notably the management changes at Los Alamos are the first to involve outright removal of personnel in response to the WIPP incidents URS demoted the former head of WIPP contractor Nuclear Waste Partnership Farok Sharif to TRU Waste Program project manager and brought in Bob McQuinn as NWP s new president in response to the WIPP release and an earlier Feb

    Original URL path: http://lasg.org/press/2014/NSDM_26Sep2014a.html (2016-02-16)
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