Every answer about WIPP provokes more questions.


The popular theory that has been advanced as to the cause of the WIPP plutonium and americium release, which is apparently believed by the Department of Energy (DOE), is that a switch was made from inorganic kitty litter (clay or diatomaceous earth) to organic kitty litter, as an absorbent in containers of nuclear waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Nitrate salts were also added, and the combination of these substances caused a chemical reaction that caused an explosion in one of more containers.

This theory was advanced by James Conca, but has not been confirmed. No chemist, including Conca, would ever have OK’d such a thing. And the change was not approved by the New Mexico Environment Department.

Here Don Hancock, an expert from the watchdog group SRIC weighs in:

Bull Shit! Radioactive "Leak" blamed on "Organic" Kitty Litter at WIPP

The kitty litter theory seems to be ridiculous. Why would they do such a thing? Clay is inert, and binds to plutonium with a strength that science has not fully explained. Organic ingredients emit gases when they decompose, and the addition of nitrate salts cause a chemical reaction. Cost? What could be cheaper than the ingredients of plain kitty litter?


But it came out that the agent responsible for the chemical reaction might have been an organic-based pH balancer. This is making a little more sense, but not much more.

The emails trace LANL’s approval of two products requested by contractor EnergySolutions, which packages LANL waste, to neutralize the pH balance of drum contents sent to WIPP.

The products contain organic ingredients known to be incompatible with the nitrate salts present in the LANL waste containers – “a bad combination,” according to Cole Smith, a chemist in NMED’s Hazardous Waste Bureau.

EnergySolutions asked LANL managers for approval in a May 2013 email to switch to one of the products. LANL approved the change a month later – despite product warnings clearly stating that the product is incompatible with metallic nitrates and “strong oxidizers,” such as nitrate salts, both of which are found in the LANL drums.

Nitrates and organic matter are known to oxidize, a reaction that generates heat.

The other product mentioned in an email was a new liquid to neutralize acids and bases in the drums. When Zeke Wilmot, EnergySolutions industrial hygienist, asked in an August 2013 email for approval to use the product, he notes that “criticality safety issues are not my area of expertise” and “it may be advisable to have LANL personnel weigh in on these issues as well.”

A subcontract technical representative for LANL environmental programs responded to Wilmot and approved the change in a September 2013 email copied to eight other people. The approved product also contains an organic ingredient.

“It wasn’t the most fantastic choice because nitrate salts in combination with organics is a bad mixture,” said Smith, who also serves on the NMED team that writes the permit for WIPP.

“That might be the problem right there,” said William Quintana, head of the New Mexico State University chemistry department. “Nitrates are oxidizers. Every chemist knows that.” (link)

There is some question as to whether a criticality occurred at WIPP, that is, a nuclear chain reaction. This could have contributed to the explosion, and created more radioactive materials to be released, activation products, which are produced by the interaction of neutrons with the containers and other materials underground in the WIPP mine. There were no measurements made of these isotopes, so we don’t know whether this happened or not.

One of the pH neutralizers used was Spilfyter Kolorsafe acid neutralizer, which was used exclusively after April 2013. The material safety data sheet for this product indicates:

Section 7. Handling and Storage

Avoid high heat and/or freezing conditions. Keep container tightly closed. Suitable for general chemical storage under normal warehouse conditions.

NOTE: If this product is stored at temperatures >150 °F or at elevations above 5000 feet, gas may form, increasing the pressure within the container, causing the container to bulge. If bulging occurs, remove the container from the work area and slowly open the container to release the gas.

Be sure to wear proper personal protective equipment.

The product is not supposed to be stored at elevations over 5,000 feet, because it may release gas. Los Alamos is at an elevation of 7,300 feet.


So this theory make a little more sense, it is not quite as stupid as the switch to organic kitty litter, but it is still stupid. At least there is a plausible motive for it.


Mitigating the internal chemistry of these drums, once filled, would have been (and is now) expensive, time-consuming, and potentially dangerous. For all these reasons it must have been unpopular with LANL management, especially once an agreement (the “Framework Agreement”) was made (and widely publicized in the local press) to get these and other drums totaling 3,706 cubic meters of TRU waste off “The Hill” by June 30, 2014. Governor Martinez was prominently identified with this plan, the details of which (and political context of) this organization is not in a position to fully assess.

Suffice it to say that we doubt the value of the Framework Agreement and the wisdom of process that was followed to get it.[3]

Completion of this Agreement was also specifically written into the (very brief and vague) LANS annual Performance Evaluation Plan (PEP) for fiscal year (FY) 2014 as a contract requirement (“Successfully, and cost effectively, complete Framework Agreement commitments to the New Mexico Environmental Department…”, p. 7 here).

In FY13, LANS was docked one year of contract award term (worth about $2 billion in gross income) for failure to meet contract requirements – primarily for having to shut down most of PF-4’s operations starting in June of last year. (PF-4 operations have not yet fully restarted, the topic of the next Bulletin.) The previous year (FY2012), LANS received a “one-time waiver” from the recommended consequences of its failure that year to meet the minimum award term extension requirements, in part because a quarter-billion-dollar security improvement project was mismanaged. More details of what turned out to be a highly controversial ruling by Acting NNSA Administrator Neile Miller at the time are on this page. Ms. Miller no longer works for the government.

Part of the LANS management fee is also dependent on successful completion of the Framework Agreement. As matters stand now, LANL will miss the (quite artificial) deadline and has caused an accident and ongoing safety hazard that places several program management objectives at LANL and WIPP at risk – a strong black mark under several performance measures.

For all these reasons, LANL was under considerable pressure to process and ship its legacy nitrate salt wastes. Perceived or real “production pressure” is a common cause of accidents in the DOE weapons complex, as elsewhere. (link)

So there was a financial motive involved. The private corporation Los Alamos National Security (LANS), which runs LANL, was under pressure to meet a deadline, and would have suffered financially by not meeting it. What does it matter if 200 million people have to breathe plutonium? It’s all about money. Of course, it’s too late now.

So there are still 368 drums at WIPP from this waste stream that are at risk of exploding. Also 57 containers are in a tent at Los Alamos (how reassuring, a freaking tent), and 116 have been shipped to WCS in Andrews, Texas. WCS is little more than just a hole in the ground.


Don Hancock above mentioned that it has not been confirmed that the waste involved came from Los Alamos, but the DOE believes it has. He mentioned Idaho National Laboratory (INL) as a possible source for the waste.

The top of the following graphic shows the isotope measurements for the WIPP release, measured at Station A. The bottom shows the average isotope concentrations for the LA-MIN02-V.001 waste stream from Los Alamos, which has been identified to be the source to the plutonium and americium release.

The WIPP measurements show there was 2 times as much Americium-241 released as Plutonium 239+240. The waste stream analysis shows that there was 92 times as much Plutonium-239+240 in the waste as Americium-241.

That is a huge difference in the isotopic ratios. There is 184 times as much americium as would have been expected from the average amounts in the waste stream.

While there are individual differences in the drums, and since we don’t know how much Plutonium-241 was released from WIPP, it is possible that the WIPP release came from this waste stream, though it really seems unlikely, and the container had to have been an “outlier” that did not reflect the average proportions of isotopes in the waste. If it turns out that more than one container contributed to the WIPP release, this becomes wildly improbable.

Maybe this is has all been a smokescreen to obscure the presence of much more dangerous high-level waste from a site like INL or Hanford.


Well, this is what it is all about. We have seen what cesium-137 from Fukushima is doing to Japan. It will be active for 300 years. Plutonium-239 will be active for 241,000 years.

The ALI limits in the publication Medical Management of Internally Radiocontaminated Patients (p. 44) show that americium-241 and plutonium-239 are dangerous at one-33,000th the amount of cesium-137. One 55-gallon drum of cesium-137 could conaminate the USA for 300 years:

Dividing this volume by 33,000 gives us the volume of seven 00 capsules:

Seven 00 capsules of WIPP plutonium could irradiate the USA for 241,000 years

38 thoughts on “Every answer about WIPP provokes more questions.

  1. The extreme brain fog from hell lifted enough yesterday for me to post this.

    It’s cochlear hydrops and tinnitus… not Meniere’s disease (yet), no vertigo, and it doesn’t come & go, it’s constant. Fluid in the inner ear.

  2. Good article but please look again. Nitrate salts weren’t “added” to the waste – they’re part of the waste.

  3. Bobby 1 wrote: “Don Hancock above mentioned that it has not been confirmed that the waste involved came from Los Alamos, but the DOE believes it has.”

    After the interview with Hancock was recorded, DoE located (and posted photos) of a nitrate salts containing drum from LANL in Panel 7 Room 7 – the drum is discolored, and the lid appears to have been cracked open resulting from pressure from inside the drum. The drum is barcoded so they have been able to identify the waste stream from which it came. It may or may not be the only drum responsible for the release that set off alarms late on Valentine’s day – but it is the only one DoE has located – as far as we know.

    • Myla, it’s possible but unlikely that the particular drum from that waste stream is responsible. If there were other containers from a waste stream with more americium involved, it would fit the data better.

      • Bobby 1,

        How do you know there wasn’t enough Americium in the breached drum to be at least partially responsible for the release? I know DoE & NWP are planning to go back in and get a sample from the drum for testing – are you saying you have info to rule out the breached drum?

        • It’s unlikely that a single breached drum from the identified waste stream was solely responsible for the release.

          • You wrote: “It’s unlikely that a single breached drum from the identified waste stream was solely responsible for the release.”

            I don’t know how likely or unlikely it is that the breached drum that’s been identified so far was solely responsible for the release – DoE has not claimed that they have determined the root cause of the release. And even if they had made such a determination, without verification from independent scientists I don’t know how reliable that determination would be.

            I also suspect that the breached drum identified so far is not solely responsible for the release. I was just asking whether or not you know how much Americium was in the breached drum?

            I think it would be prudent to put the Environmental Evaluation Group back to work.

            • How does one read a barcode from that container if it did get that hot? Did the exploration team bring their phones or another reader or were they able to read it manually? I am assuming that the barcodes were not printed using thermal paper stickers, or i would definitely have to call “BS”.
              ([OT]Love my barcode reader for passwords – code 128[/OT])
              I doubt that they used UPC.

              Also note it’s location in the pile.
              Am not certain.

            • Quote from article above charts: “The top of the following graphic shows the isotope measurements for the WIPP release, measured at Station A. The bottom shows the average isotope concentrations for the LA-MIN02-V.001 waste stream from Los Alamos, which has been identified to be the source to the plutonium and americium release.”

              So; where did all the Americium-241 come from, or where did all that Plutonium go?

              Either way, the Americium detected does not match the percentages declared in the waste stream, as Bobby1 wrote. It’s not even close.

    • Hi Lou,

      I imagine those responsible for creating this hazardous radioactive mess will be brought up on criminal charges at the same time as the banksters and hedge fund managers who crashed the economy.


  4. From simplyinfo
    WIPP has had the rules that dictate what can be sent there changed repeatedly. At the same time wastes from various national labs have been tweaked to fit into WIPP’s rules. The exploding barrels that caused the latest incident at WIPP are one example. Liquid nitrate salts were immobilized into a solid to be passed off as solid waste. WIPP isn’t permitted to accept liquid wastes. A change in the solidifying agent from vermiculite to a wheat based cat litter is thought to be the root cause of the explosion. This is still part of the ongoing investigation….We have been working on this issue since the February incident and can now confirm that this material is indeed being stored in WIPP as inerted plutonium oxide.
    Read More at http://www.fukuleaks.org/web/?p=13095

    • I love the title of their article, enoughalready45.
      That is: “WIPP Storing Weapons Grade Plutonium In Room 7”

      Pretty much sums it up.
      How many officials have lied knowingly or otherwise?

      In the mean time, and in between time – they have no plan implimented to deal with the mountains of “nukular” waste, other than to leave it in spent fuel pools, or worse.

      I would like to be optimistic, yet “glovemint” failed to learn from even Vietnam war. Lest we forget.

  5. WIPP has provoked a question in my mind concerning the proposed “nukular” waste facility by Lake Huron.

    How could they be so stupid?

    Quote: “Dr. Frank R. Greening, who previously worked as a scientist at OPG, said the radioactivity of the materials to be buried has been “seriously underestimated.” In a letter submitted in January to the Canadian federal panel reviewing the site, Greening wrote that some of the materials are 100 times more radioactive than initially stated — and some are 600 times more radioactive.

    An OPG spokesman told the Toronto Star that while Greening’s numbers may be valid, they don’t change findings that the facility will be safe. Greening acknowledged that possibility, but called their overall procedures into question in an interview with Michigan Radio.

    “My first feeling was, look, you messed up the most basic first step in establishing the safety of this facility, namely, how much radioactive waste they’re going to be putting in the ground, you admit you got that wrong, but now you’re telling me that everything else is okay,” Greening told Michigan Radio. “You can’t just fluff off this error as one error. It raises too many questions about all your other numbers. And I’m sorry, I now have lost faith in what you’re doing.””

    quoted from: http://www.minnpost.com/earth-journal/2014/06/relative-obscurity-nuclear-waste-dump-takes-shape-beside-great-lakes

    It’s only gloves, and used clothing – innocuous stuff.
    Bullchips; where have i heard that one before?

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice; shame on you! Fool me three times within three years of “cold shutdown” …. that’s when i start thinking of Fukushima University acronyms!

    Thanks to NucNews.com for the link.

    It’s a “Berra paradox”. That is, deja vu all over again. 🙁

    • Well, at least Ontario is consistent. That is – consistently stupid!

      Quote: “One of the six active reactors at Pickering would have had to shut down later this month had the commission not made its decision, released Tuesday. Others are also nearing their limit.

      The pressure tubes in the reactors – which hold the uranium fuel – have a design life of operating for 210,000 “equivalent full power hours.” OPG is not allowed to operate them past that limit.

      OPG has asked the nuclear safety commission to extend the operating limit to 247,000 hours. The company wants to extend Pickering’s life to about 2020, but wants to do so without performing the expensive and lengthy task of replacing all the pressure tubes in the reactors.

      Each reactor contains 380 to 390 pressure tubes, each one running through the heart of the reactor. Replacing them would cost billions and take several years.”

      quoted from: http://www.thestar.com/business/economy/2014/06/03/pickering_nuclear_reactors_can_exceed_design_operating_limit.html

      Remember, that is the province in candu-land that boasts Ottawa and Rob Ford. Nah, tritium doesn’t hurt you. What doesn’t kill you (officially) makes your tritiated carcass smell stronger!!!


    Second Container Compromised at WIPP
    May 22, 2014 at 11:32pm
    For tonight, what I am able view online at the WIPP site is one photo from May 19th which looks like it has been compromised and is open as well with some debris covering its top. More imagining will be needed to confirm this; however from what I am able to see of the barrel’s rim, the ring that binds the lid to the barrel; which would normally be present is not in its proper place. Additionally, the upper body of the barrel appears to be deformed from over pressurization. The new video released on site and noted by WIPP as being low resolution is not accessible? Mr. Blankenhorn was asked by an audience member about release of any new photos and/video following the May 15th news release and he advised he would look into making certain all of the photos and video are release. Hopefully, more visual information will follow in the morning.

    In addition, I just want to note for the record that there are too many cover ups going on at WIPP. Blankenhorn was directly asked by a audience member if to date only one container has been found to be compromised at WIPP and he stated “Yes, that only one has been found.” when clearly in my opinion there are now two.


  7. Breaking Bad: A Nuclear Waste Disaster

    Carlsbad, New Mexico – A vast salt mine under the New Mexico desert was the Department of Energy’s last nuclear waste storage solution. On Valentines night, one of the now suspect 500 waste drums from DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) blast open inside DOE’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). Casks filled with 3.2 million cubic feet of deadly radioactive wastes remain buried at the crippled plant. That huge facility was rendered useless. Investigators believe the waste drums from Los Alamos were incorrectly packed under DOE supervision and one of them exploded.


  8. *** Right, it ain’t low-level. Hydrogen can also be produced by water radiolysis… that means if moisture got into the container, the radiation splits the H2O into hydrogen and oxygen. Yeah, store them on the surface. That’ll help, huh. ***

    Nuclear Expert: Hydrogen explosion suspected as cause of WIPP plutonium release — Meeting: Are more lids going to blow? Seeing how top of drum blew off has me concerned it isn’t ‘low level’ — Former DOE Expert: US will inevitably shift to storing radioactive waste on surface after this (VIDEO)


    • That should have been accompanied by this article:

      “New WIPP Information, Xrays and Analysis”

      Also .. from today,
      “WIPP Filter Replacement Complete, New Federal Investigation Begins”

      Quote: “DOE has announced that the filter change out at WIPP has been completed. This was the process of changing out all of the filters involved in the two filtration systems used to attempt to prevent radioactive contamination from leaking out of the facility. Filter change outs of the HEPA and other systems were completed, clean up of the area near the filter banks appears to be still underway.”


      Nice, filters, hepa, yipee. Those were pretty useless, IIRC.

  9. So now we may be taking about terabecquerels of plutonium involved.

    WIPP Expert: “Very likely” multiple nuclear waste drums exploded, risk of more occurring; It was clearly something major… signs of fire at container holding over 500 billion Bq of Plutonium and Americium — Nuclear Engineer: “This is a huge dirty bomb” (VIDEO)

    We still don’t know how many containers are involved, I think it’s very likely that its more than the one… the reason I think there’s probably more than is while this particular container has 16 or 17 curies of plutonium and americium [592 billion to 629 billion becquerels] in it, which is a much larger amount than what the average container is, there are containers including ones sitting right beside it that have more radioactivity. We don’t know how much came out, but from what we do know, it looks to me that it was more than what could have come out of a single container.


      • So there is enough Plutonium in some barrels to make possible a prompt moderated criticality?

        … and those Fockers want to open her up “business as usual” lickity-split (new ventilation shafts means “We The People” get the shaft)

        Remembering the “body-count” from “Hanfjord”, the realization hits that these guys are Hanford’s Sith “apprentices”.

      • Hey, thanks! I’ve seen others allege there was no Plutonium released from Chernobyl.
        Now i have an article (& somebody to publicly thank) i can smack ’em upside the head with. 🙂

    • Quote of Time Is Short: “If someone was in southern New Mexico, exploding 55 gallon barrels of Anthrax into the air, hoping the wind would pick it up and carry it across the Southeast and kill tens of millions of people, the US military would be on it immediately, the world would be transfixed watching it on the news and everyone would be rushing in to put a stop to it.

      Anthrax is nowhere near as lethal as plutonium. Not even close.

      Yet, meetings are being held, townhalls held to keep the locals quiet, reporters either told not to report or threatened, other than ‘official’ PR releases. ‘Filters being changed’, more ‘investigating’, while the Southeast is being covered in a blanket of plutonium waste, on top of the enriched uranium and plutonium from Fukushima.

      All those immigrants coming in? The children? They’re all breathing this crap daily, their little lungs full of plutonium waste. They came here to die. The Border Patrol agents, who risk their lives daily to protect our borders from drugs and terrorists, now changing diapers and breathing plutonium waste?

      I wouldn’t be surprised if the US becomes a nuclear wasteland before Japan does.”


      Reply of Angela_R: “”All those immigrants coming in? The children? They’re all breathing this crap daily, their little lungs full of plutonium waste. They came here to die.”

      Now that, if so, is wicked!”

      Reply of Time Is Short: “No ‘if so’ about it, Angela.

      The original blast was in February. The numbers now say the emissions never really stopped. The wind blows east. The kids are coming in through Texas by the thousands, weekly.

      Everything with lungs east of Carlsbad has been – and is – breathing this lethal crap right now, and will continue to as long as that mine is not completely sealed. There is no indication that is what anyone at .gov wants, so the drums will continue to explode and the wind will continue to carry it east.”

      Noting that winds towards North are also possible (including Eastern Canada & Northern Quebec), as evidenced Feb 14, 2014, & in Mr. Soltysik’s excellent maps.

  10. Title: “WIPP closure shuts down ‘critical’ science experiments – Alamogordo Daily News”

    Quote: ““Generally speaking, there have been no unrecoverable effects from either the fire or the radiation event,” Weaver said. “We will want to vacuum up the soot, so there is work to do such as cleaning doorways and steps, but it won’t be rocket science. We don’t have to get all of it either.””


    Well, considering that even HEPA filters still pass 3000ppm of particulate, i would put forth that Mr. Weaver is indeed incorrect, there do appear to be some real “genuine” “rocket scientists” there! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THNPmhBl-8I

  11. LANL waste contractor denies cat litter role in WIPP radiation leak

    An operations manager for EnergySolutions, which packages waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory, says his company believes nothing it added to waste drums caused a radioactive leak that shut down the nation’s main nuclear waste disposal plant.

    “We followed the procedures that were provided to us, and I think LANL did their due diligence,” said Miles Smith, EnergySolutions’ vice president of Southwest operations.

    Theories about the leak have focused on whether absorbent cat litter or neutralizers added to Los Alamos drums caused a hot chemical reaction that cracked the lid on at least one container at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad.

    The federal Department of Energy has been investigating why and exactly what occurred at WIPP on Feb. 14, when radiation escaped the deep underground repository. The state Environment Department is looking into whether state safety regulations were violated.

    “We don’t believe the combination we put into the drums, we don’t think it has the ability to start burning on its own,” said Smith. “It needs an outside source of ignition.”


  12. Move over, Chernobyl. And Fukushima, meet the new challenger.

    ‘Green burst’ and ‘criticality event’ under investigation by gov’t in connection with plutonium release at U.S. nuclear site #WIPP — Official: Underground fire may have initiated reaction in ruptured radioactive waste drum — Concern over possible arson/sabotage? (VIDEO)


  13. *** Yes, WIPP is still leaking… but they want to close Panel 7 before the investigation can be finished, so no one ever finds out why the containers exploded, and how many did… this is really sealing the evidence. ***

    Lab Director: Expect radiation spikes coming from US nuclear facility — Gov’t pays for more air monitors to see impact on populated areas — DOE warns of ‘ignitability’ of 368 containers at site; “Significant fire risk” — Top Official: Material at WIPP “just disintegrated… got very hot, very quickly” (VIDEO)

    Dept. of Energy – Carlsbad, NM Field Office (pdf), July 30, 2014: The purpose of this letter is to provide you [New Mexico Environmental Dept.] written notice that the Department of Energy [is] provisionally applying EPA Hazardous Waste Number (code) D001** for the characteristic of ignitability to some nitrate salt bearing waste containers that have been disposed at the WIPP facility. […] This affects up to 368 containers […] in the underground WIPP facility […] The Permittees plan to implement the [plan] to expedite closure of Panel 6 and Panel 7, Room 7 so that a potential release […] will not pose a threat to human health or the environment.


  14. New Mexico has fined the U.S. Energy Department more than $54 million over accidents at the country’s only underground repository for nuclear waste.

    The fines, which state officials announced Saturday morning, stem from an underground fire and a radiation leak earlier this year at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, known as WIPP. Nearly two dozen workers were exposed to contamination at the plant, which handles radioactive waste from the nation’s nuclear-weapons program.


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