Scientific evidence shows that radiation safety criteria was about 1,000 times too cautious and endangered lives. Safety regulations based on ALARA “as low as reasonably achievable” were not fit for purpose, and are dangerous to the economy, the environment and to life and limb. The nuclear power generating industry has almost come to a complete standstill in the U.S. because of 60-year-old irrational nuclear safety policies.
WIPP is a $19 billion over-regulated deep geological repository to store low-level transuranic elements along with all the special clothing and tools used to make plutonium bombs for the American war machine during the Cold War years. In 2014, there was a temporary leak at the facility that released a very small amount of Pu and Am that did not harm anyone or the environment. After it was cleaned up, the Department of Energy decided to spend another half-billion dollars to upgrade the safety of the facility that was already safe. This was to appease the anti-nuke folks.
WIPP can now be considered a multi-billion dollar pork project. Back is the 1950s when everyone in the world feared nuclear radiation, it was easy to get Congress to approve this project based on radiation standards (LNT/ALARA) that were never scientifically proven. During the two and a half years that WIPP was shut down for upgrades, shipments from Los Alamos continued and the material was temporarily stored above ground at Waste Control Specialist in Andrews, Texas, about 40 miles due east of WIPP.
Why in the world would the DOE even think of storing this highly dangerous nuclear waste above ground for two and a half years in Texas? Well, the answer to that is that the material was packaged in canisters that were perfectly safe above ground at Los Alamos for several decades. If the repackaged 5-gallon barrel that leaked deep down inside the WIPP facility had been stored at WCS, there probably would have been minimal danger to the surrounding area and the cleanup would have been pennies on the dollar because of easy access.
It appears that WCS storage design with Holtec canisters could have safely stored what is being put down in the depths of WIPP. The only positive thing about WIPP today is that it provides the local economy with high-paying jobs and tax/fee revenues from its current $3 billion, three-year DOE contract. To be continued …