Friday, November 25, 2011

Open letter to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB)

Dear Sirs,

First, let me thank you for coming to Santa Fe and taking the time to listen to Santa Fe and NM citizens and questioning publicly to the existing NNSA and LANS employees about the subject of safety at Los Alamos, in particular PF-4 and the newly proposed CMRR-Nuclear Facility.

In my own, kind of rambling presentation (my apologies), I wanted to mainly draw your attention to the ‘wet finger’ historical safety record of LANL. Here I want to re-iterate my points more succinctly:

-Fire: Los Alamos is an area of tremendous natural beauty, but also fraught with danger. Fire Hazards (Cerro Grande and Las Conchas) seem to plague the region with almost predictable regularity once every 10 years or so. The fires have become more intense and devastating in acreage and also ‘heat’, because of the increased drying conditions throughout the South West, due to global warming. 
Las Conchas fire snake initially marching straight towards Los Alamos
Ultimately controlled burns and the fire suppression ability of the Los Alamos emergency teams are no match for the havoc that fire can create in a place like Los Alamos. As someone mentioned during the meeting, Los Alamos and its laboratory is a very complex place to practice fire suppression. The lay of the land, with many arroyos and disjointed mesas, make fire suppression difficult, particularly in a compounded emergency scenario (fire and earthquake). The historical contamination, and current activities include a vast array of chemical, radiological and to a lesser extend biological contaminants that threaten to become volatile during a fire. Mercury, PCB’s, high explosives, etc. have all been used and disposed of, in high quantities.  

During the Cerro Grande fire in 2000 there was one large historical underground storage bunker and waste facility (in TA-16), that caught fire and emergency teams were unable to suppress it, while the exact nature of the available contaminants were no longer traceable since records had either been lost or destroyed. This underground bunker burned even 6 weeks after the rest of the Cerro Grande fire was long extinguished. By conservative estimates there are an estimated 800 smaller and larger historical contaminated waste sites all over the Los Alamos grounds, though a precise number of these is unknown.

 Other buildings and structures (including for instance power transformers, full of PCB’s) were also destroyed during the Cerro Grande fire. What was in the thick smoke and its precipitation residues and particles was never fully investigated, yet covered some of the finest agricultural productive land in Northern New Mexico (Velarde, Taos, Penasco, and to a lesser extend Espanola and Nambe) and if there were any credible studies done, the results have been unavailable to the public. When asked the NMDA (NM dept of Ag) officials respond that the reason these results were not made public was that it would hurt farmers in Northern New Mexico, and the public would get unduly alarmed.
normally this daikon is one straight root...pray tell me about this abnormality
Now 11 years later I personally have seen some abnormal plant growth in the region in particular deformed radishes (large white daikon), that instead of being a long root (like a carrot) are shaped like a bunch of disheveled limbs. Whether or not this has anything to do with Los Alamos is an open question.    

-Seismic: As your board has already noticed there is a lot of new seismic information that requires study, and construction adjustments. I was really surprised by the quantity and increasing magnitude of seismic activity, when I attended one of the recent LANL meetings on the subject. Hereby I will share two of the slides that caught my attention in particular. 
222 local earthquakes around Los Alamos 1973-2007
Between 1973 and 2007 there were 222 earthquakes registered of which 91 were located within 20 miles from LANL. Though the exact number of earthquakes since 2007  has not been published, it is becoming clear that there have been more earth quakes still, with increasing intensity. Earlier this year we saw two larger earthquakes: a 5.3 magnitude quake in the Raton Trinidad area (a little bit farther away from Los Alamos on the border with Colorado), and a 3.8 magnitude quake in Nambe, only 18 miles away from the proposed CMRR-NF site.

Hereby I would also like to once more draw your attention to the fault lines located under the LANL. Somehow, in the map provided by LANL itself,(see map) incredulously the fault lines stop at the Labs boundary lines (RCF, RCF), and then seem to continue just beyond the borders of the Labs on the south side. 
The most generous thing that can be said here, is that it is apparently difficult,
even for the Los Alamos National Laboratory, to establish the exact location of fault lines
But if one were to connect the south side fault-lines with the north-side --one would realize that there are fault lines right underneath the proposed CMRR-NF building site. Engineering may be pretty good these days, but even so, it doesn’t seem prudent to store 13000 pound of plutonium or more, on top of these fault lines, on the side of one of the largest calderas in the world.

-Water: After the Las Conchas fire there have apparently many problems with water testing. Every time there has been a big rain, the testing water intakes have been shut down, since there was too much ash and slurry to not clog up the testing instrumentation. Predictably, no radiation to speak of has been measured so far. I don’t want to be an alarmist about water, or hysterical about the Buckman wells supplying water to Santa Fe: I belief that in many ways the Rio Grande does provide an effective barrier between the Los Alamos and Santa Fe side and that drinking water in Santa Fe is relatively safe. However I would be interested to see what contaminants from Los Alamos are released over time (not just after a fire with hit and miss testing) and how these contaminants are taken up and concentrating in different biological cycles. After all, downstream, a lot of species, humans included, are dependent on the Rio Grande Bioregion water, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. What I am suggesting here is to take a look at Cochiti lake, an artificial lake that was created as a de- facto containment of last resort for the laboratory. Most water run off from the laboratory collects there. It would behoove us to test that water and muck and see what contaminants there are and in what quantities. Also there are fish and other aquatic life living in Cochiti lake that would have absorbed and concentrated contaminants -- this too may be of interest.
Staff of the DNFSB clearly frustrated by the inadequate answers of the NNSA and LANS officials
Thanks again for coming to Santa Fe. It was a breath of fresh air to see your authority make the officials from the NNSA and LANS squirm, something we commoners have never been able to do. It is a question of power, and we live in a colonized state.    

Willem Malten 

1 comment:

  1. Hahaha.. sigh that was a good laugh. I needed something to laugh at today and happened to stumble upon this piece of misinformed and illogical hilarity.

    Thank you.