Plutonium release figures from WIPP may not be fake, but simply irrelevant.

In a previous post, I discussed how unfiltered americium and plutonium was demonstrated to leak out of the WIPP facility in New Mexico for 20 days. I believed that the unfiltered material must have escaped through the same exhaust as the filtered material did, and it must have had to have been picked up by the Station B filter.

Now, according to the Wyka report, the exhaust air from the bypass dampers would have been routed through Station B, which contains filters that are used to test for the presence of radionuclides. (It doesn’t block or filter the exhaust, though.) So the plutonium and americium from the unblocked stream of contaminated air should have shown up at Station B.

But the Station A and B results show that the concentrations of americium and plutonium are consistent with the exhaust blowing through Station A, with its HEPA filter removing 99.97% of these particles, and this reduction was reflected in Station B, which measures what leaked out into the environment. In fact, this fact was touted as giving evidence that the ventilation system was working properly.

Where is the unblocked plutonium???

It sounds to me like, there is either another hole that the exhaust came up through, or the Station B results are fabricated.

The CEMRC results show the levels of americium and plutonium measured at Stations A and B. The Station A HEPA filters are supposed to be 99.97% efficient at removing these particles. I looked at the emissions up to Feb. 18 at 16:55.

Radionuclide     efficiency
------------     ----------
   Am-241          99.91%
 Pu-239+240        99.97%
   Pu-238          99.20%

These are very close to the expected efficiency parameters, so very little, if any, of the unfiltered radioactive material would have come out of the main exhaust. The unfiltered air contained more than 3,000 times as much plutonium per cubic meter than the filtered air. So this is a logical inconsistency, and without another exhaust present, these results would have to be fake.

But it appears that there really was another hole. According to the Wyka report, page 96:

Three smaller 860 fans, rated nominally at 60,000 cfm, draw ventilation through HEPA filtration and discharge to a small stack monitored for radiological release. The 860 fans can also exhaust the underground directly through a filtration bypass duct.

So the contaminated air could have escaped by the duct. It wouldn’t have shown up on the Station B filter, because it never went through it.

There was a “green burst” and arcing in the WIPP electrical substation shortly before the CAM alarm went off the night of Feb. 14. According to Potrblog:

That electrical substation is located directly next to the underground mine’s exhaust shaft. WIPP’s electrical substation ended up functioning exactly like a screaming Geiger counter. with each pop and “green burst” telling people to get the hell out of there. The radioactively ionized air allowed electrical arcing to occur across the substation resulting in WIPP’s site security reporting that electrical “GREEN BURST”. It is the scientific principal Geiger counters are based upon.

Americium is known to cause exactly this electrical discharge effect. That effect is why Americium is used in smoke detectors to produce a continuous state of ionization and electrical discharge, which when interrupted by smoke particles causes an alarm to sound.

It appears that the americium and plutonium had been escaping from the filtration bypass duct for some time. Eventually it built up enough to cause the “green burst”. Here is my theory:

1. No CAMs (underground continuous air monitors) were in use on Feb. 14. There are supposed to be 4 of them in use at all times.
2. Plutonium and americium were escaping from the filtration bypass duct. Eventually it built up to the point where are green burst was observed.
3. Somebody put 2 and 2 together and had the bright idea to turn one CAM on.
4. The CAM sounded the alarm, and workers got the filtration system working.
5. But americium and plutonium kept leaking out of the filtration bypass duct until March 6 at least.

The word has come out that WIPP may be shut down for 3 years. And New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn wants the waste panels to be closed.

Nuclear Waste Partnership Recovery Manager Jim Blankenhorn announced on Thursday that WIPP officials believe the radiation leak was likely caused by nuclear waste that contained nitrate salt which gave off some sort of a chemical reaction.

The waste with nitrate salt matched waste stored in drums that originated from three separate waste streams: two of the waste streams originated from LANL and the source of the other was unknown because DOE and NWP refused to name the source. WIPP has stored waste streams from LANL, Savannah River, and Idaho National Laboratory in the past.

“I’d rather not say the other one at this point and cause a lot of flurry,” Blankenhorn said. “Its not that it’s a big secret, but from a management perspective, I don’t want to cause a lot of angst.”

Flynn grilled DOE and NWP for not disclosing the other waste stream and continuing to not be forthright with the public.

“Mr. Blankenhorn identifies the waste stream, but then refuses to answer the question If you have information, then you need to disclose information with the public immediately,” Flynn said.

So what is this mystery waste stream? Is it high-level waste from Hanford?

The first graphic that follows is a HYSPLIT rendering of WIPP particles on the night of Feb. 17. HYSPLIT graphics for European contamination from WIPP follow. Radioactivity does not respect national borders.

The European maps were generated by the HYSPLIT atmospheric dispersion model. Here it is in Google Maps form.

4 thoughts on “Plutonium release figures from WIPP may not be fake, but simply irrelevant.

  1. I have believed that Hanford has been sending High Level Waste for some time over to WIPP because they know how much WIPP wants the new license and that WIPP was probably tired of waiting for it. Getting rid of High Level Waste is a major bonus to Hanford as well. Literally. $$. But it had to have been on the sly since the licensing has not gone through yet. When you mix high level waste into the mix at the mines w/o doing any more research on how to keep things safe, well, explosions are what can occur.

    • Mimi, the EPA and some New Mexico officials have been pushing for Hanford high-level waste to be stored at WIPP. Flynn and the New Mexico environment department have been blocking it. WIPP is not designed to store high-level waste, or spent nuclear fuel. It is only supposed to accept TRU waste from the nuclear weapons program.

      If they have been storing high-level waste, that is a huge scandal in itself.

  2. Great job, organizing .

    I am not sure, but, when watching the town hall meeting on the 8th I thought they were talking about shutting the ‘door’ on Panel 7.

    Yet the Carlsbad News seems to state the opposite. Close the doors to the other panels.

    I have not yet reviewed the video, but that’s how I remember it anyway. It makes no sense to me to close the other doors. (?)

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