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A possible nuclear radiation leak has occurred at a Department of Energy nuclear waste plant near Carlsbad, NM, in the south east corner of the state, Raw Story and Reuters report. The story reports that there have been several false positives in the past; however, this one is likely the real thing:

“They (air monitors) have alarmed in the past as a false positive because of malfunctions, or because of fluctuations in levels of radon (a naturally occurring radioactive gas),” Department of Energy spokesman Roger Nelson said.

“But I believe it’s safe to say we’ve never seen a level like we are seeing. We just don’t know if it’s a real event, but it looks like one,” he said.

While much of the debate on nuclear weapons focuses on the possibility of worldwide annihilation or nuclear terrorism, this is the unintended consequence of our reliance on the military industrial complex to keep us safe. When we engaged in a massive nuclear buildup in the name of stopping communism, nobody stopped to consider where all the waste would be put. The DOE has to hire 139 people at this particular plant just to make sure that this waste will not leak, meaning that any nuclear weapons program will cost taxpayer dollars generations into the future.

At the time of this writing, we don't know if this will blow up into a major international story or whether this story will fall into the dustbin. But what we do know is that there are many more accidents like this waiting to happen as long as we rely on nuclear weapons to keep us safe. The only alternative to relieve future generations from this kind of burden is to work for a worldwide ban on nuclear weapons.

The University of Michigan looks at our failed policies regarding nuclear waste cleanup:

Cleaning these sites has proven to be costly, time consuming, and dangerous for the human workers involved.  Although the Cold War ended in the late 1980s many of the 113 nuclear sites remain unsafe for humans and continue to damage the environment. The United States government failed to create formal programs for the cleaning of these sites until the 1980s when they were forced to by two law suits for failure to comply with the Resource Conservation Recovery Act (Macdonald, 1999).  Aside from the facilities already mentioned, there are an estimated "10,000 contaminant release sites" also requiring cleanup (Macdonald 1999).
If the government is serious about reducing the deficit and getting people back into the workforce, then let them negotiate a worldwide convention to eliminate nuclear weapons. Then, use the savings from not having to have any more nuclear weapons to open cleanup facilities at all 10,000 of these contaminant release sites. Then, pay people to get training and degrees so that they could work at these places and protect our country against future accidents such as this one. If we hired 140 workers to work at each one these places and multiply the salaries by $50,000 a year, then that would come out to $70 billion. That would be far less than what we are currently paying to maintain our nuclear weapons.

President Obama once said:

"As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act," Obama told a crowd of more than 20,000 in Prague's historic Hradcany Square. "We cannot succeed in this endeavor alone, but we can lead it."

His speech in Eastern Europe in front of the spires of a medieval castle came as Eastern Europeans mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of communism, ending the Cold War that for decades defined American relations with the world.

"The existence of thousands of nuclear weapons is the most dangerous legacy of the Cold War," Obama told the crowd. "Today, the Cold War has disappeared, but thousands of those weapons have not."

It is time for Obama to follow through on that promise.

Originally posted to Stop the Police State! on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 10:32 AM PST.

Also republished by New Mexico Kossaks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I have been following this story ( I'm in NM), and (12+ / 0-)

    the impression that I am getting is that they are trying VERY hard to keep the information under wraps. I hope we are going to able to know the truth of this...

    •  That was quick (4+ / 0-)

      I just found about this waste disposal site last week wondering WTF were they thinking when it was decided to seal high level nuclear waste 1/2 mile underground in a friggin' salt dome?  And, with all the public "hell-raising" about Yucca Mountain, it sounds almost unbelievable that it was allowed in the first place.  Wonder if they have a plan to remove this stuff if necessary. And, while it's beside the point, can you imagine trying to decontaminate a site of this magnitude anywhere, but 1/2 mile underground?  

      Mr. Boehner, where are the jobs?

      by Tx LIberal on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 11:41:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks eternal hope. The article I read about his (21+ / 0-)

    last night, was sort of odd. Almost every other sentence was "nothing to be alarmed about."  

    Including a statement that none of the workers was exposed to contamination. But, then in the next paragraph they reported that none of the workers were tested.

    Another important barely mentioned aspect of this particular site is it is the one used for Plutonium, some of the isotopes of which have half-lives of over 200,000 years.

    One general rule of thumb, I seem to remember from a course on radiation exposure I was fortunate enough to cross register for at the Harvard Medical School, is that radioactive waste needs to be kept isolated from living things for 10 to 13 times the half life of the elements involved.

    The longest living continuous civilization so far on planet earth, is the Chinese at 5,000 years. So our plans to keep these nuclear bomb related plutonium waste isolated for a 250,000 to several million years is totally theoretical.

    I taught a course in systems thinking and computer simulation modeling at the Idaho National Labs about 20 years ago to one of the group responsible for this problem.

    One of the projects there were trying to develop ways to communicate to whomever might be around 250,000 years or more from now that these repositories are dangerous and should not be pillaged or excavated, but with no presumption that any of the same languages may exist any longer and we may not even be dealing with the same species.

    None of these cost were adequately taken into account in the "cost-benefit' analysis of these programs, which in this case are more weapons related than energy generation, but the issues are the same.

    We still have no long-term final depository for nuclear waste. The one that was almost approved for Nevada got nixed with the help of our Senate Majority Leader.

    So, nuclear waste is being stored at nearly every power reactor around the country, rather to risk release during transportation accidents temporary storage that will have to be moved again.

    In none of the licensing hearings, and EPA studies did any of these reactors get approved of as being nuclear waste holding dumps for the amount of time and quantities that are occurring now.

    As of a few years ago, 30 of these site still have open storage of the sort at Fukashima, which are "dirty bombs" waiting to happen, if a terrorist were to strike them with airplanes loaded with explosive, homemade drones, or even artillery shells.

    If we include even minimal estimates for the external cost of nuclear power generation it is not cost-competitive with the other options and never was. In order for utilities to site any of them they required the artificially low Price-Anderson liability caps (sorry if I got the name wrong, I remembering this off the top of my head from 2 to 3 decades ago.)

    When we compare future sources of energy generation, or even weapons systems we must include full systems, full life-cycle, real total costs including external cost for long term nuclear waste storage, and risk of terrorism. Including military protection of the storage sites from terrorists, organized crime gangs, corporations, or rogue nations, and others who may want access to it.

    Remember, at a global level we have similar, less well protected repositories in former Soviet Republics, third world countries, and places where government stability is measure in years, and decades.

    How do we quantify the geopolitical risk of extremist jihadi groups taking over Pakistan and gaining access to its nuclear warheads?  I'm aware of the "secret" emergency plans we have in place for those specific warheads in this scenario, but what about their nuclear waste that can be fashioned into a dirty bomb.

    Israel is estimated to have between 70 to 400 nuclear warheads, and who can imagine how much similar plutonium laced waste depositories. And, P.M. Netanyahu and Israel refuses to sign the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. etc. etc.

    I know you know this eternal hope, sorry for the monologue.  Radioactive wastes are one of the biggest pet peeve issues of my lifetime.


    The means is the ends in the process of becoming. - Mahatma Gandhi

    by HoundDog on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 11:14:13 AM PST

    •  Your memory is just fine! (4+ / 0-)
      In order for utilities to site any of them they required the artificially low Price-Anderson liability caps (sorry if I got the name wrong, I remembering this off the top of my head from 2 to 3 decades ago.)
      The Price-Anderson Act still keeps American taxpayers on the hook for nuclear cleanup beyond a relatively token amount--even if their electricity isn't nuclear-generated.

      It's never worked for me to change anyone's mind, but I always enjoy bringing this Act up when some self-proclaimed "free-marketeer" says wind and solar need to compete on a level playing field w/ other forms of energy....

      "Push the button, Max!" Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate, The Great Race

      by bartcopfan on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 01:03:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  if you havent seen the caverns (8+ / 0-)

    at carlsbad you are missing something. they are miraculous. i used to live in roswell which isnt too far from there (in NM most things are fifty miles at least from each other( and seeing them was special.

    why they choose to house nuclear waste there really isnt a mystery.

    why they chose to use a place at  a wonder of the world is a travesty.

    why we continue to produce nuclear waste when we havent a clue as to what to do with it is  an accident waiting to happen. an accident we all will pay for

    this is scary and sad

  •  Nope. All wrong. It can't happen here. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eternal Hope

    No really, it can't, it just can't.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 12:30:16 PM PST

  •  Some of the 10,000 sites are indeed (0+ / 0-)

    badly in need of clean-up.  Very, very badly.  But no one knows what to do (e.g., at Hanford).

    For others, clean-up would just be a monumental waste of resources.

    If the country really was able to free up $70 billion a much better use of the $$s if improving public health was the objective, would be to triple the NIH's budget from it's current paltry $29 or 30 billion.

    •  Don't know what to do? (0+ / 0-)

      Is that like the million gallons of jet fuel threatening Albuquerque's water supply? Or is it 2 million gallons? Or is it 24 million?

      I'm a Vietnam Era vet. I'm also an Erma Bombeck Era vet. When cussing me out and calling me names please indicate which vet you would like to respond to your world changing thoughts.

      by Just Bob on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 01:45:08 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, it's not like that. (0+ / 0-)
        •  Are you sure? They don't seem to be doing much (0+ / 0-)

          about it.

          I'm a Vietnam Era vet. I'm also an Erma Bombeck Era vet. When cussing me out and calling me names please indicate which vet you would like to respond to your world changing thoughts.

          by Just Bob on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 01:58:50 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  In theory rocket fuel can be cleaned up (0+ / 0-)

            at least, the problem has been identified.

            At Hanford, by contrast, there are tens of thousands of rusting and rusted through 45 gallon drums with high level radioactive waste whose composition otherwise has not been identified.  Is it mercury? sulfuric acid? cyanide? PCBs?

            No one really knows.  And in absence of that information, it is too dangerous to do anything.  And since it is too dangerous to do anything, no one can get that information.

            It's quite the conundrum

            •  Jet fuel, not rocket fuel. (0+ / 0-)


              Kirtland AFB Discovered Leaking Jet Fuel Earlier Than 1999 Then Failed to Investigate and Remediate
              Kirtland Air Force Base spokespeople and Pentagon Air Force top brass have repeatedly misinformed the public and media about when problems at the Bulk Fuels Facility (1) were first known. Documentation of waivers for pipeline testing, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal that the AF knew much earlier than 1999 that jet fuel was leaking at the fuels facility, that the pipelines could not meet safety requirements and needed repairs/replacement.

              I'm a Vietnam Era vet. I'm also an Erma Bombeck Era vet. When cussing me out and calling me names please indicate which vet you would like to respond to your world changing thoughts.

              by Just Bob on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 02:12:53 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  that air monitor is deep underground (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I think it's safe to say that this will not "blow up into a major international story" unless people persist in posting breathless—and inaccurate—commentary about it.

    Yes, nuclear power, as it stands today, sucks. The legacy of the Cold War sucks. (The Russians are probably worse for it.) It's long past time we put serious money into liquid sodium reactors. The technology has been known for decades and mostly ignored. You can't create plutonium from this kind of reactor, see. Plutonium for bombs.

    President Obama has been steadfastly working to reduce the nuclear stockpile. I've no doubt that he's also concerned with the state of nuclear energy, and all that it has "gifted" us.

    All things in the sky are pure to those who have no telescopes. – Charles Fort

    by subtropolis on Sun Feb 16, 2014 at 05:26:23 PM PST

  •  ..." We just don’t know if it’s a real event," (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eternal Hope

    It would be so much more comforting to know just how sensitive, and how well the monitors are working.  We have to second-guess a false positive?  What use are the monitors if we aren't even sure if they are working and registering properly? With a comparison available to previous nominally "normal" readings of background radiation?  The mind boggles.

    "Nothing to worry about",  indeed!

    I'm part of the "bedwetting bunch of website Democrat base people (DKos)." - Rush Limbaugh, 10/16/2012 Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

    by tom 47 on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 09:25:15 AM PST

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