Enenews has a story today which includes a summary of a presentation by Ted Wyka, chairman of Department of Energy’s Accident Investigation Board, at yesterday’s WIPP town hall meeting. A video of the meeting is available here.
Wyka was delivering a summary of a 300-page report which was released today in this large pdf.
Starting around the 1:04 mark in the video, Wyka says the bypass dampers of the ventilation system, which bypass the Station A filter, was the main source of the leak. This bypass system is left over from the initial excavation of the mine. It should have been removed when they starting putting transuranic waste in the mine.
Instead, it was leaking americium and plutonium until March 6, when workers applied foam and blocked the bypassing system.
Here is a quote from Dr. Peter Winokur, Chairman of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, in a letter to New Mexico Senators Udall and Heinrich:
Significant improvements in the safety strategy for WIPP are warranted to
address design basis accidents that lead to radiation releases. For example, neither the filtered ventilation system nor the underground air monitor that triggered the ventilation system to switch to filtered mode is a credited safety system. In fact, for six days after the fire, no underground air monitors were operational. Had there been a failure on February 14 of the air monitor or filtered ventilation system, or if the release event had occurred three days earlier, the release of radioactive material from the aboveground mine exhaust would have been orders of magnitude larger. (emphasis mine)
For those who don’t know, an order of magnitude is a power of ten. So:
One order of magnitude larger = 10 times larger
Two orders of magnitude larger = 100 times larger
Three orders of magnitude larger = 1,000 times larger
Four orders of magnitude larger = 10,000 times larger
And so on. Since there was a failure of the ventilation system, then according to Winokur, the plutonium and americium release would have been at least 100 times larger than we have been told. Maybe even thousands of times larger.
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.
This whole thing is a result of gross negligence and incompetence on the part of the Department of Energy, and its contractor Nuclear Waste Partnership. On top of it, they exhibit gross mendacity, lying about radiation, like Tepco does.