Geiger Readings for Apr 24, 2018

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745

Ambient office  = 86 nanosieverts per hour

Ambient outside = 87 nanosieverts per hour

Soil exposed to rain water = 84 nanosieverts per hour

Organic avocado from Central Market = 119 nanosieverts per hour

Tap water = 71 nanosieverts per hour

Filter water = 67 nanosieverts per hour

 

Nuclear Weapons 337 - The U.S. Is Obligated To Dispose Of Thirty Four Metric Tons Of Excess Plutonium - Part 2 of 2 Parts

Part 2 of 2 parts (Please read Part 1 first)

             In a treaty signed in the year 2000, the U.S. agreed to dispose of thirty-four metric tons of plutonium by converting it into fuel called MOX for use in civilian nuclear power reactors in spite of the fact that the U.S had no MOX plants and MOX fuel had never been used in a U.S. reactor. The Russians agreed to dispose of thirty-four metric tons of their plutonium by burning it is a special reactor. The sixty-eight metric tons of plutonium allocated for disposal could make as many seventeen thousand nuclear warheads.

       The agreement commits the U.S. to the conversion of the thirty-four metric tons of plutonium into fuel for nuclear power reactors. Plutonium and uranium would first be incorporated into chemical compounds called oxides which cannot be used to make warheads. The oxides would then be mixed to make what is called MOX which stands for Mixed Oxides. The MOX would then be made into assemblies of nuclear fuel rods. Unfortunately, the U.S. attempts to carry out this process have met serious schedule delays and major cost overruns.

       There is an alternative method for disposing of the thrity-four metric tons of U.S. plutonium. The plutonium could be mixed with an inert material and stored in dry casks. The casks have an estimated lifespan of about fifty years before they would begin to leak. This alternative is only a temporary one and ultimately the plutonium would have to be buried far underground.

        The DoE decided during the Obama Administration that they wanted to shut down the MOX project due to the schedule delays and cost overruns, but Congress did not agree and the project continued. However, the Federal budget adopted in February of this year includes a way to kill the MOX project. If it is found that the storage of diluted plutonium in casks would cost less than half as much as finishing the MOX project, the MOX project will be cancelled. The National Nuclear Security Administration which monitors nuclear sites and materials also favor the use of dry casks to store the plutonium. A NNSA spokesperson said that it would cost billions of dollars less than the MOX project.

       The MOX project is located at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. Lindsey Graham is one of the senators from South Carolina. He has rallied enough support from other Senators to prevent the cancellation of the MOX project. He points out that the agreement with the Russians specifies that the MOX process is the preferred method for plutonium disposal.

       Construction began in 2007 on a MOX plant that was supposed to go into service in 2016 at a total cost of about five billion dollars. Now the DoE estimates that the plant cannot not be done before 2048 and that the cost would be seventeen billion dollars.

       Construction of the MOX plant began before even half of the detailed designs had been completed. After construction following the existing designs was finished, the contractors proceed without detailed construction plans. Rooms were constructed for labs and offices in places where they were not needed. Ventilation ducts and electrical wiring were installed in wrong places. There were many misplaced pipes in the plumbing. Ultimately, a lot of the initial work had to be ripped out and replaced.

       The contractor working on the MOX plant is a consortium called CB&I Areva MOX Services. It includes CB&I (formerly Chicago Bridge and Iron), based in the Netherlands, and Areva, a company owned the French government. The consortium says that the facility is seventy percent complete and that they intend to finish it. However, the new chief of the NNSA told a Congressional committee that the work was not even fifty percent complete. The DoE has been criticized by the Government Accountability Office for awarding a cost-plus contract to the consortium which guarantees a profit regardless of how much work is done.

      A DoE panel reported in 2016 that no nuclear power plant in the U.S. is interested in purchasing MOX fuel. In order to burn MOX fuel, a U.S. nuclear power reactor would have to be extensively modified and then relicensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a lengthy process.

MOX plant:

 

 

Geiger Readings for Apr 23, 2018

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office  = 47 nanosieverts per hour
 
Ambient outside = 118 nanosieverts per hour
 
Soil exposed to rain water = 124 nanosieverts per hour
 
Avacado from Central Market = 119 nanosieverts per hour
 
Tap water = 111 nanosieverts per hour
 
Filter water = 93 nanosieverts per hour
 

Geiger Readings for Apr 22, 2018

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office  = 120 nanosieverts per hour
 
Ambient outside = 92 nanosieverts per hour
 
Soil exposed to rain water = 93 nanosieverts per hour
 
Orange bell pepper from Central Market = 115 nanosieverts per hour
 
Tap water = 137 nanosieverts per hour
 
Filter water = 133 nanosieverts per hour
 

Geiger Readings for Apr 21, 2018

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office  = 100 nanosieverts per hour
 
Ambient outside = 142 nanosieverts per hour
 
Soil exposed to rain water = 141 nanosieverts per hour
 
Carrot from Central Market = 123 nanosieverts per hour
 
Tap water = 130 nanosieverts per hour
 
Filter water = 121 nanosieverts per hour
 
Rex sole - Caught in USA = 96 nanosieverts per hour
 

Nuclear Weapons 336 - The U.S. Is Obligated To Dispose Of Thirty Four Metric Tons Of Excess Plutonium - Part 1 of 2 Parts

Part 1 of 2 Parts

       There is a glut of plutonium in the U.S. and Russia as a result of excessive warhead production during the Cold War. The U.S. peaked at thirty-seven thousand warheads in 1967. The Soviet Union peaked at forty-five thousand warheads in the 1970s. These arsenals could have destroyed human civilization many times over.

       One big concern about all the excess plutonium at sites around the U.S. is that such weapons grade radioactive material is an attractive target for terrorists. A nuclear bomb can be made from about twenty-four pounds of plutonium. Plutonium emits alpha particles which can be stopped by a thin layer of glass or leather or even human skin. This makes plutonium an attractive material for terrorists because they can transport it without much danger of exposure to harmful levels of radioactivity. The main danger is that if particles of plutonium are inhaled, they can cause cancers.

       During the Cold War, there was no discussion or thought given to methods for disposing of excess plutonium. It was only after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 that Russia and the U.S. began thinking about plutonium disposal. Currently, the U.S. has no long-term plan about what to do with its share of the plutonium which has a half-life of twenty-four thousand years.

        At the U.S. Department of Energy Pantex facility near Amarillo, Texas, contract workers remove the plutonium cores from nuclear warheads that have been retired. This is a very dangerous job even with all the safety rules that are in place. The DoE has fifty-four metric tons of surplus plutonium at sites around the U.S. At the Pantex plant, there are many more than the twenty thousand cores maximum mandated by regulations and more are added every day.

      Although the work at the Pantex plant gets little publicity, there is increasing pressure to dismantle nuclear warheads, so the U.S. will not exceed the 2010 Treaty limit of one thousand five hundred and fifty warheads. The U.S. wants to decommission and dismantle old nuclear warheads so they can replace them with newer and more deadly weapons. Russia is doing the same with their nuclear arsenal.

       The U.S. has not begun work to get the additional space needed to bury the excess plutonium at least two thousand feet below the ground. This is considered a safe depth for the storage of plutonium. Currently, a great deal of the U.S.’s plutonium is stored in a building above ground at the DoE Savanna River Site in South Carolina. Local critics say that the building was never designed to store plutonium and that there is a significant risk of leakage of nuclear materials and/or serious nuclear accidents.

       The DoE does have a small experimental nuclear weapons materials storage site in New Mexico. The DoE is having discussions with New Mexico officials to expand the site. Local environmental groups are very opposed to this idea.

Please read Part 2

Pantex plant in Texas:

 

Geiger Readings for Apr 20, 2018

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office  = 66 nanosieverts per hour
 
Ambient outside = 109 nanosieverts per hour
 
Soil exposed to rain water = 109 nanosieverts per hour
 
Celery from Central Market = 86 nanosieverts per hour
 
Tap water = 73 nanosieverts per hour
 
Filter water = 60 nanosieverts per hour
 

Nuclear Weapons 355 - MIT Scientists Are Developing A New Method To Verify Nuclear Warheads

       Great progress has been made in nuclear disarmament since the height of the Cold War when both the U.S. and Russia had tens of thousands of nuclear warheads. Now they are down to about five thousand warheads each.

        One of the big problems with nuclear disarmament is verification. The exact design of nuclear warheads is highly classified in all nations that possess them. How do you prove that a warhead has been destroyed without being able to examine the detail of its construction and the exact radioactive material that it contains? Up to this point, disarmament efforts have been focused on the elimination of delivery systems which are much easier to verify.

      Scientists at MIT have published papers in Nature Communications and The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that lay out their ideas for two different variations on a new verification system for nuclear warheads. Areg Danagoulian, the senior author of both papers, is a MIT assistant professor of nuclear science and engineering.

      There are two essential elements in the construction of a nuclear warhead. The exact mixture of weapons grade radioactive materials and the dimensions of the core or “pit” that contains the radioactive materials. This is top secret military information.

      Measuring the radiation given off by a supposed nuclear warhead is not enough to prove that it is really a nuclear warhead. It could a dummy warhead that contains non-weapons grade nuclear material that gives off the characteristic signature of a real warhead. There are isotope-sensitive resonant processes that can be used to analyze the exact isotope mixture and the shape and size of the pit but this would reveal the information that all nuclear armed nations want to keep secret. The MIT team came up with the idea of a physical “key” that would contain a sample of the isotopes that are in a real warhead. The group carrying out inspections of warheads would not know the exact mixture in the key.

      One way to think about this system would be to substitute different colors for the different isotopes. The warhead would be visualized a combination of colors. A filter could be created that would combine the compliments of the colors representing the warhead. If the filter was laid over the sheet of colors representing the warhead, the result would be uniform black. If the warhead was a fake, then there would be visible colors when the filter was applied.

      In the MIT system, the colors are replaced by isotopes. The country that produced a warhead would also produce the filter or key. The key would be a cryptographic reciprocal or a cryptographic foil. The warhead being inspected could be hidden inside a black box to prevent revealing its construction.

      In one version of the MIT system, the warhead is lined up with the foil and a beam of neutrons applied. A detector then reveals the isotope-specific resonant signatures. The neutron scan is rendered as a visible image. If the image is blank, the warhead is real. If the warhead is not real, then the image shows details of its construction.

       The alternative MIT system would use photons instead of neutrons to scan the foil and warhead. Instead of a visible image being generated, there would be a spectrogram. Both of these processes generate a Zero Knowledge Proof in which a nuclear armed nation can prove compliance without revealing any further information about the details of the construction of their warhead.

       So far, the MIT team has only verified their design through sophisticated computer simulations. The next step is to test actual fissile materials at one of the U.S. national nuclear laboratories.

Geiger Readings for Apr 19, 2018

Latitude 47.704656 Longitude -122.318745
Ambient office  = 99 nanosieverts per hour
 
Ambient outside = 158 nanosieverts per hour
 
Soil exposed to rain water = 158 nanosieverts per hour
 
Bartlett pear from Central Market = 101 nanosieverts per hour
 
Tap water = 65 nanosieverts per hour
 
Filter water = 48 nanosieverts per hour
 

Radioactive Waste 338 - South Carolina Nuclear Waste Landfill Is Before the South Carolina State Supreme Court

       For decades radioactive pollution has been leaking into groundwater and a creek from a landfill for nuclear waste near Barnwell, South Carolina. The landfill opened in 1971 and is currently managed by the Chem-Nuclear company.

       Chem-Nuclear is a subsidiary of Energy Solutions which is located in Utah. Energy Solutions is also the manger of a low-level nuclear waste repository in Utah. Much of the waste that goes to Utah is lower-level than the waste destined for the landfill in S.C.

        The two hundred and thirty-five acre Barnwell site is one of only a few low-level nuclear waste repositories in the U.S. Once the site took in three quarters of the low-level nuclear waste generated in the U.S. Now it only takes waste from South Carolina, Connecticut and New Jersey. The types of waste that are sent to the landfill includes low-level waste such as lightly contaminated hospital gloves and gowns, but also includes more radioactive refuse, such as nuclear reactor parts.

       Legal battles over the site have been raging for the past thirteen years. In 2015, the state Court of Appeals issued a ruling saying that Chem-Nuclear, who manages the site, had not done much to keep the rain water out of the trenches that contained the waste. A state regulation states that the company is supposed to prevent rain water from flowing into the pits of waste.

        A representative of the Sierra Club told the Court in new hearing today that the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) had done nothing to make Chem-Nuclear adhere to the law. They recommended to the Court that it order Chem-Nuclear to employ better disposal practices to prevent rain water from falling into the open pits where the waste was buried. This might include construction of roofs over the burial pits or the construction of water-tight vaults made of concrete to hold the waste.

       A representative of Chem-Nuclear told the state Suprement Court that the law actual said that the company had to “manage the water” but not necessarily to keep all rainwater out of the waste trenches.  It could take months for the Court to decide the case. If the Court takes the side of the environmentalists who filed the complaint, it could require that Chem-Nuclear makes expensive changes at the landfill.

       The primary concern about the landfill is that radioactive tritium is leaking out of the waste filled trenches. Tritium can pose a threat to the health of people who are exposed to it. The pollution is leaking into the groundwater below the site and is also flowing into a creek that is a tributary of the Savannah River.

       At least a quarter of the monitoring wells around the landfill have measured tritium levels that are at or above the level allowed by the federal government safe drinking water standard according to data collected by the DHEC. The DHEC says that the tritium pollution levels are stable or decreasing. Some citizens are concerned by the DHEC claims that there is no danger to public health.