Wed Dec 27, 2006 03:19

Since you have spent so much time researching the atomic era and all of its cost put upon us citizens, I though you might be interested in the following information:

Pantex Plant, Amarillo, TexasThis is the largest U.S. facility for recycling plutonium from obsolete nuclear weapons; the DOD reports that the Pantex facility, as well as nuclear weapons in the field, have an inventory of 66 metric tons of 239Pu, but does not otherwise differentiate between the exact amount of plutonium at Pantex and the amount of plutonium in nuclear weapons at U.S. military bases throughout the world.

Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. (November 25, 1997). Review of the safety of storing plutonium pits at the Pantex Plant. DNFSB, Washington, D.C.
"DOE is currently using a new container design for some pits, developing another, less expensive container for the remaining pits, and making preparations to move thousands of pits to different storage facilities at Pantex. These efforts are not well integrated." (pg. iv).
"The lack of authorization basis controls for the storage of these pits renders at least three temperature-sensitive designs vulnerable to cladding failure" (pg. iv).
"The relatively new surveillance program for pits stored at Pantex does not appear to be sampling the pits at a rapid enough rate to characterize in a timely manner the real potential for corrosion of the stored pits. Only about 30 pits per year are inspected, even though more than 10,000 pits of various designs are stored at Pantex. the resolution of corrosion and packaging issues is hindered further by the lack of a formal project to improve understanding of pit cladding corrosion and identify corrective actions that may be required." (pg. iv).
Mullican, W., Fryar, A. and Johns, N. (1993). Milestone report: the aerial extent and hydraulic continuity of perched ground water in the vicinity of the Pantex Plant. Bureau of Economic Geology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas.

1. Rocky Flats, Colorado
The Rocky Flats Environmental Technology site was built in 1951; it's primary commission was to build nuclear weapons components. Additional plant missions included plutonium recovering and reprocessing and waste management. Production activities included metal fabrication and assembly and chemical recovery and purification of transuranic radionuclides. As a result of weapons production activities, large quantities of 239Pu were released to the environment not only from normal operating activities (stack releases), but also from chronic releases from leaking drums of contaminated cutting oil (1958-1968), as well as from a series of fires that occurred at the plant during the late 1960's. Additional significant quantities of plutonium have accumulated within a variety of buildings in air ducts (+500 kg 239Pu) and other locations which were formerly used to fabricate nuclear weapons. The DOE BEMR lists the current inventory of plutonium at 12.9 metric tons in nearly 15,000 items, and 6.7 metric tons of highly enriched uranium in nuclear weapons parts, materials, processed residues and wastes. "Much of this material has been stored in temporary packaging since 1989 when production operations involving radioactive materials were suspended. Approximately 30,000 liters of plutonium solutions and 2,700 liters of highly enriched uranium acid solution are stored in tanks that were not designed for long term storage." (BEMR, Vol. 2, pg. Colorado 21). Total life cycle remediation costs are estimated at $17,319,000,000 in the BEMR. RADNET considers this estimate extremely liberal (i.e. low). Due to the location of this facility adjacent to a rapidly growing population area (Denver), unfavorable climatic characteristics of this site (desiccated, subject to very high wind; most population is downwind from the site), and because of the chronic release of plutonium to the environment during the years of operation of this facility, this site is probably the most dangerous among all the DOE weapons production facilities (accidents-in-progress). An extensive series environmental compliance reports and assessments can be accessed via RAD 13: 2-D: see Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site, as well as BEMR links. The Radiation Control Division of the Colorado Dept. of Public Health and the Environment also has extensive information about this source point and may be accessed through either of these links.
An April 14, 1994, Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board report Plutonium storage safety at major department of Energy facilities cited and reviewed in the General Bibliography at the beginning of this section (5) includes the following description of the situation at RFETS.
"Not counting encapsulated weapon components, Rocky Flats has several thousand containers of plutonium metal, compounds, and mixtures. They have a significant quantity of plutonium solution stored in tanks and bottles. They have thousands of containers of scrap of various kinds (called 'residue' at Rocky Flats). The great majority of the inventory is either not in forms suitable for long-term storage or is not packaged correctly for long-term storage."
"Plutonium metal corrodes fairly rapidly in the presence of air or water vapor. It corrodes very rapidly in the presence of hydrogen to form pyrophoric plutonium hydride.3,4 Some metal items stored at Rocky Flats may be in direct contact with plastic bags, an unsafe situation for storage periods extending beyond a few weeks or months. A plastic bag in direct contact with plutonium is subject to rapid radiolysis, which generates hydrogen gas and weakens the bag at the same time. Hydrogen gas will react rapidly with the plutonium metal to generate plutonium hydride. As long as there is free oxygen in the container, hydride will react with it to form oxides. When the free oxygen is depleted, hydride will start to accumulate. The weakened bag is likely to eventually break open and admit air; it is particularly likely to do so when it is handled, but it may do so spontaneously. Either way, there will be an exothermic reaction as the hydride oxidizes, possibly sparking and flaming, and the risk of a larger fire if combustibles are nearby. Other possible adverse chemical evolutions involving plutonium metal and plastic are discussed in Appendix B.
A great deal of plutonium scrap, some containing high concentrations of both plutonium and americium, was also packaged without adequate consideration of long-term chemical and radiological effects. Some scrap was packaged directly in plastic bags or cartons, creating the possibility of high hydrogen generation rates, with the same adverse implications as apply to plutonium metal. (A considerable fraction of the plutonium in the scrap is in the form of metal, so some of the chemical issues are similar.) Many scrap packages are poorly vented. Hydrogen generation in poorly vented containers can create a fire hazard from the hydrogen itself, and can lead to the accumulation of pyrophoric forms of plutonium. Any mishap that results in the sudden introduction of air into such a container (a handling accident, for example, or corrosion of a container wall) could cause a fire or small explosion. the scrap situation is complicated by the fact that the exact chemical composition and packaging arrangements are not known in many cases. there are thousands of scrap containers, mostly 55-gallon and 10-gallon drums, stored in several different buildings. They are generally located in operating areas.
There are approximately 11,000 liters of plutonium solutions stored at Rocky Flats. There are twenty-four tanks of solution in Building 771 alone, with plutonium concentrations as high as 140 grams/liter. There are additional tanks in Building 371, plus several hundred plastic bottles of plutonium solution stored in six different buildings, plus an estimated 9,000 liters of plutonium-contaminated liquid in process piping and tank heels. There have been dozens of leaks from the tanks since the 1989 shutdown. One of the most serious was the July 1993 rupture of an overhead oxalic acid line, which sprayed plutonium-contaminated liquid over a radius of 6-7 meters. Most of the tanks and process piping are in routinely occupied areas, although no one was injured by the July pipe rupture. The solutions are not well characterized. No samples have been taken from any of the tanks since 1989. Some of the tanks are not geometrically safe, and their Raschig rings have not been inspected since 1989. The accumulation of plutonium polymer, the extent of plutonium precipitation, and the severity of tank wall corrosion are all essentially unknown. The DNFSB staff considers DOE's plans for dealing with these problems greatly inadequate." (Section II-A).
"The continuing storage of plutonium solutions in tanks and piping is one of the most severe hazards at Rocky Flats or anywhere in the Complex. The connections in the tanks and piping are already leaking. Criticality safety is increasingly difficult to guarantee. The Raschig rings in the non-geometrically favorable tanks, which are supposed to be inspected every year, have not been inspected for several years. The systems required for moving liquids have not been operational for several years and thus mixing of the liquids for proper sampling or concentration control can not be carried out. The tanks are in occupied areas; a criticality incident could cause fatalities. These liquids should be processed to a stable solid form as a very high priority item.
There are so many types of solid materials that might not be stable in their present storage form or packaging that it is difficult to choose the single most hazardous category. Salt residues are a major concern and should be repackaged to eliminate as much plastic material as possible. A second category of materials that should receive attention are the combustibles that may be nitrated." (Section III-A).
Albright, D. and Schonbeck, N. (1993). Report of the incident investigation subcommittee -- Incident: 1957 fire in Building 771. Submitted to the State of Colorado, 26 May 1993.
Arthur, W.J. and Alldredge, A.W. (1982). Importance of plutonium contamination on vegetation surfaces at Rocky flats, Colorado. Environ. Exp. Bot. 22. 33-38.
Boyns, P.K. and Stuart, T.P. (September 1, 1982). An aerial radiological survey of the United States Department of Energy's Rocky Flats plant date of survey: August 1981. Doc. No. EGG11831771. Accession No. NV0039776. Never classified. Opennet entry date: 08/26/1994. EG&G - Las Vegas Area Operations. pp. 27.
Cobb, J.C., et. al. (1982). Plutonium burdens in people living around the Rocky Flats Plant. EPA-600/4-82-069. National Technical Information Service, Springfield, VA.
Colorado Committee for Environmental Information Subcommittee on Rocky Flats. (1970). Report on the Dow Rocky Flats fire: Implications of plutonium releases to the public health and safety. Colorado Committee for Environmental Information Subcommittee on Rocky Flats, Boulder, CO.
August 1969 Rocky Flats, CO Offsite soil 239Pu 13,500 d.p.m./kg (225 Bq/kg)
Global fallout: range of five samples from the Colorado Eastern Slope: 0.434-0.903 Bq/kg (26-56 d.p.m./kg).
The plutonium fire of May 11, 1969 released a significant amount of 239Pu to the environment (plus 10 Ci?); this enhanced deposition levels from previous airborne releases from Rocky Flats.
Coyle, D. et. al. (1988). Deadly defense: military radioactive landfills. Radioactive Waste Campaign, New York, N.Y.
Crump, K.S., Ng, T-H. and Cuddihy, R.G. (1987). Cancer incidence patterns in the Denver metropolitan area in relation to the Rocky Flats plant. American J. of Epidemiology. 126(1). pg. 127-135.
Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. (April 28, 1994). Trip report on ventilation/filtration systems in Buildings 559 and 707 at the Rocky Flats Plant. Memorandum for G.W. Cunningham, Technical Director.
"The scope of this review included the ventilation/filtration systems at Buildings 559 and 707."
"Recent failures to meet operational safety requirements (OSR) at Buildings 559 and 707 were reviewed. These failures are more important considering the unreviewed safety question determination for other buildings at Rocky Flats where all stages of filtration are not required to be periodically ascertained."
Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. (October 5, 1994). Rocky Flats - Condition of facilities for plutonium residue processing. Memorandum for G.W. Cunningham, Technical Director.
A general overview of the principal buildings, their present condition and possible future use.
"EG&G presented a long list of obstacles to processing of plutonium residues including: National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) documentation, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA), safety assessments, procedures, training, waste disposal limits, need for substantial line item funding, administrative dose guidance of 750 mrem/year, plutonium in the ducts, shrinking access zones, and seeking DNFSB approvals."
"The staff believes that the only substantive issues that need to be resolved are: plutonium in the ducts, need for dose reduction/ALARA for salt processing, building seismic capability for longer term operation, waste minimization, and working smarter to develop criticality limits for each evolution. This latter issue was identified by EG&G as a real time restraint, whereby the nuclear safety group needs to re-review all of the criticality limits for all evolutions. Initially, EG&G needed 980 manhours of work to develop each critically limit; LANL support has reduced these to about 300 manhours."
Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. (December 29, 1994). Trip report - Trenching at Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site. Memorandum for G.W. Cunningham, Technical Director.
"This report consolidates the technical issues related to faulting near Building 371 at the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site (RFETS). These issues [are] (location of trench, mapping and dating, interpretations, etc.)..."
"It has not been conclusively demonstrated that the inferred fault at Building 371, with a dislocation of about 40-50 ft., does in fact extend to within the trench located 1.3 km north of Building 371."
Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. (May 25, 1995). Trip report - Workshop on combustible residues and meeting on residue drum safety, April 19-20, 1995. Memorandum for G.W. Cunningham, Technical Director.
"Stabilization of the combustible residues at Rocky Flats is a critical path meeting the requirements of Board Recommendation 94-1 for processing of high residues."
"Incineration requires an Environmental Impact Statement and a Clean Air Act permit, which DOE said would require several years to obtain. Hence, the purpose of the workshop was to select an alternative to incineration. DOE RFFO informally favors only venting and repacking for most combustible residues; this alternative does not, however, satisfy Recommendations."
Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. (July 10, 1995). Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site (RFETS) - Buildings 776/777 and 771 structural integrity concerns. Memorandum for G.W. Cunningham, Technical Director.
"Purpose: This trip report documents the review conducted by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board's (Board) technical staff and outside expert of concerns regarding the integrity of Buildings 776/777 and 771."
Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. (December 16, 1996). Review of Deactivation and Decommissioning Plans for Buildings 771 and 779 at Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site, September 17-19, 1996. Recommendation to G.W. Cunningham, Technical Director.
"The Board has identified B771 as one of the highest-priority facilities in the DOE nuclear weapons complex to be deactivated and decommissioned, because of significant fissile material holdup and contamination from plutonium processing and research and development activities during a period of nearly 40 years. Many of the processes in B771 involved weapons-grade plutonium dissolved in strong acid solutions that have leaked from equipment during the years

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