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Cheryl Rofer who works at Los Alamos National Laboratory wrote this interesting piece on her blog Phronesisaical.

It strikes at the fear mongering reporting we see not only here at the DK but on every news outlet and every blog where anti-nuclear commentator opine rumor into fact, metamorphicize fantasy into reality. But that's...my opinion...not necessarily facts. Anyway, it's nice to have an actual scientist on the ground...albeit having been made a refugee like thousands of others.

Those Drums at Area G
The Las Conchas Fire has become less threatening to the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and, as I write, the director, Charles McMillan, is talking about how the Lab is planning its restart. So the scaremongers will have to move on from the drums containing low-level waste at Area G to the next sensation. Yesterday I talked to someone who has actually repacked some of the drums and has dealt with the paperwork. I learned some things I didn't know.

The drums are not just any old things from Joe's junkyard, but are manufactured to a list of specifications, including the fit of the covers and closures. Each one has a hepa (high efficiency particulate air) filter so that air can move into and out of it with changes in temperature and atmospheric pressure without carrying waste materials out.

There are no mysterious sludges and uncontrolled chemicals in the drums.

The fabric buildings have fire suppression systems. I realized, some time after yesterday's conversation, that this must be the foam that was mentioned in a few accounts of the drums, frequently disparagingly. Foam is a standard fire-suppression agent. The accounts I saw made it sound like a joke. I don't know whether this was because of the way it was presented by Lab representatives or the way it was reported by people who didn't know what they were talking about.

I'll add a bit about fabric buildings. I'm thinking that they must be made of fire-retardant fabric. There have been too many deadly tent fires, and I think that the laws about such buildings have long been that they must be fire-retardant. They have, however, been standing for some time now, and those properties can change with exposure to the weather. (Also see comment from Anonymous below.)

The drums are there because some of the scaremongers who are saying the drums should be in WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, Carlsbad, NM) are the same people who fought and delayed the opening of WIPP and fought and delayed transporting the waste there.

I'm wondering why the Lab didn't say all these things, perhaps issue a fact sheet, in response to media inquiries. Early Lab responses on the subject were a refusal to comment. But this has long been the way the Los Alamos National Laboratory has handled such things. That's too bad, because it allows the scaremongers to get their fantasies publicized.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (7+ / 0-)

    Dr. Isaac Asimov: "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny ...'"

    by davidwalters on Sun Jul 03, 2011 at 01:53:38 PM PDT

  •  Note that protestors prevented removal of drums (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gary Norton, bryfry
    The drums are there because some of the scaremongers who are saying the drums should be in WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, Carlsbad, NM) are the same people who fought and delayed the opening of WIPP and fought and delayed transporting the waste there.

    Amory Lovins: "Coal can fill the real gaps in our fuel economy....." IPCC: Anthropogenic greenhouse gases will cause extinction of up to 70% of species by 2050.

    by Plan9 on Sun Jul 03, 2011 at 02:41:19 PM PDT

    •  Yes, by 16 years delayed, because of them, (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Gary Norton, bryfry, Plan9

      in fact.

      Dr. Isaac Asimov: "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny ...'"

      by davidwalters on Sun Jul 03, 2011 at 02:58:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  So... it's protestor's for (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jan4insight, Radical def

        the past 16 years that put these things in an ignored tent now threatened by fire?

        You'll have to do better than that, David.

        •  Protesters didn't want waste removed (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bryfry

          from LANL.  They sued to prevent transport of the drums to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

          The drums are safely stored at LANL.  The people who work there and whose families live nearby do not want a radiation release any more than the rest of us do.

          Radiation is naturally released by burning vegetation and coal combustion, but people find that low-dose release acceptable, evidently.  The real harm from the fire is the smoke and particulates.

          For more info, see this excellent roundup of info.

          Amory Lovins: "Coal can fill the real gaps in our fuel economy....." IPCC: Anthropogenic greenhouse gases will cause extinction of up to 70% of species by 2050.

          by Plan9 on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 08:14:37 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Another thing (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bryfry, Plan9

    that bothers me is the insistence of the national media to call it the Los Alamos Nuclear Lab -- rather than it's correct name of Los Alamos National Lab. More scaremongering, in my opinion.

    A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward. FDR

    by grannysally on Sun Jul 03, 2011 at 04:59:49 PM PDT

  •  What's so freaking "interesting" about this? (0+ / 0-)

    Photobucket

    A Los Alamos employee lashes out at "scaremongers", with...nothing.

    I didn't see any alarmism over the fire, especially here on dkos.

    It's a legitimate concern that a major uncontrolled fire was raging in an area that has long been subject to massive contamination...worthy of some attention.  

    Nobody said any more than that, really.

    Gladly, it seems that potential problem has subsided, and we can, indeed, move on.

    That doesn't let anyone off the hook, with the flooding of the Missouri, nor with Fukushima, nor with the many other unsafe nuclear facilities just waiting for a disaster to happen.

    So...what's your freakin' point?  

    Quote industry spam slagging "scaremongers" much?

    Photobucket

    Democracy is the most fundamental revolutionary principle. Information is the ultimate key.

    by Radical def on Sun Jul 03, 2011 at 05:02:23 PM PDT

    •  Raeally? Read *anything* on this site (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FG, bryfry, Plan9

      about the fires. Totally blown out of proportion more scare mongering nonsense. Cheryl tears it apart with fact.

      The WIPP was fought tooth and nail and every single attempt to store the waste underground was fought. So they built these Medium level waste centers. "Outside". Yes, apparently perfectly safe.

      DW

      Dr. Isaac Asimov: "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny ...'"

      by davidwalters on Sun Jul 03, 2011 at 06:36:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I've read *everything* on this site (0+ / 0-)

        ...about the fire, and seen none of what you assert, which I notice neither you nor the diarist can document.

        And no way in Hell is anyone with a brain going to consider it the "fault" of enviros that so much horribly dangerous nuclear waste is piling up all over the place, with Nowhere safe to put it.

        We told you 30 years ago to stop making that shit.

        I don't see what you hope to accomplish by bringing such a ridiculously consistent, unprincipled, subjective, hyperbolic industry line...it can only rob you of all credibility.

        Democracy is the most fundamental revolutionary principle. Information is the ultimate key.

        by Radical def on Sun Jul 03, 2011 at 07:22:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  RadDef...the fires are no ones fault. The fact (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bryfry

          the stuff was slated go to downunder and stopped by lawsuits IS someone's fault. But the main issue is that, as plan9 shows above there is zero threat of radiation. This is the whole point...the smoke and particulate on the one hand and the direct harm caused by the fire on the other is FAR worse than the non-existent problem of the "drums" sitting in fire resistant housing above ground. It's muchado about nothing, pervayed by foolish anti-nukes like your self.

          It goes the larger question of what to do about any nuclear waste and why every solution...BAR NONE...is opposed by the antis because they believe, rightfully, that any solution is a "plus" for nuclear energy. From getting rid of spent nuclear fuel to getting rid of the plutonium in WMD. This is the real underlying issue here.

          Dr. Isaac Asimov: "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny ...'"

          by davidwalters on Mon Jul 04, 2011 at 08:27:00 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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