* This week scientists at LANL admitted that
tritium detection equipment, which should measure the amount of
tritium emissions in the air, has been underestimating the amount
by as much as a factor of three. Tritium, a radioactive isotope
of hydrogen, travels through the air as a part of water vapor.
During the summer months, the collectors at LANL were not
collecting the correct amount of water; as a result, the lab
missed much of the tritium it should have detected.
Craig Eberhart, an environmental scientist at LANL's Clean
Air Group said that he wasn't sure why the detectors did not
capture the correct amount of water vapor. Eberhart stated that
recalculating the radioactive dose for persons at the East Gate
brought the estimated dosage to 0.028 millirem. Previously the
lab claimed this was only 0.013 millirem, based on figures from
the faulty collectors. At Area G, the lab's radioactive waste
storage and disposal facility, where earlier calculations put the
dosage at 1.5 millirem, new figures show a dosage of 4.7
millirem, three times the original dose. The federal limit on
radioactive air emissions is 10 millirem per year for a member of
the public. The limit is higher for workers. Area G, which has
tritium contaminated waste, has the highest level of tritium
emissions at Los Alamos. The Environmental Protection Agency, New
Mexico Environment Department and Department of Energy have been
notified of the measuring error. Eberhart says that, using the
lab's high-quality meteorological data, it will be possible to
reconstruct faulty historical tritium emission levels.
* Rocky Flats nuclear plant outside Denver,
Colorado is now certified to prepare nuclear waste for shipment
to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New
Mexico, the Department of Energy, (DOE) announced on Tuesday,
April 7. The former Colorado nuclear weapons facility, which was
closed because of environmental contamination and nuclear safety
violations, has become the second DOE site to obtain WIPP
certification. Los Alamos National Laboratory was the first site
to be certified, in September 1997. Rocky Flats had been
preparing for certification since October 1995. The plant has
more than 6,000 drums of transuranic and transuranic mixed waste,
and officials said they expect to generate more that 30,000 more
drums during the site's cleanup. Over 200 drums of non-mixed
transuranic waste are ready now for shipment to the nuclear waste
repository in southern New Mexico. Earlier this month, the DOE's
Carlsbad Area Office told departing Energy Secretary Federico
Peľa that WIPP is ready to open, but the project is still waiting
for approval from the Environmental Protection Agency.
* CCNS invites all of you to visit the
Santa Fe Plaza on Saturday, April 25, where we will join with
other environmental and community groups to celebrate Earth Day.
There will be a unparade, and booths of various organizations.
Volunteers who would like to help with the CCNS booth, please
call us at 986-1973. We hope to see all of you there.
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