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Censorship Science

Nuclear Info Kept From Congress and the Public 309

Posted by kdawson
from the much-to-hide dept.
Thermite writes "On March 6, 2006 an accident occurred at Nuclear Fuel Services in Erwin, Tennessee. According to reports, almost 9 gallons of highly enriched uranium in solution spilled and nearly went into a chain reaction. Before the accident in 2004, the NRC and The Office of Naval Reactors had changed the terms of the company's license so that any correspondence with Nuclear Fuel Services would be marked 'official use only.' From the article: 'While reviewing the commission's public Web page in 2004, the Department of Energy's Office of Naval Reactors found what it considered protected information about Nuclear Fuel Service's work for the Navy. The commission responded by sealing every document related to Nuclear Fuel Services and BWX Technologies in Lynchburg, Va., the only two companies licensed by the agency to manufacture, possess and store highly enriched uranium.' The result was that the public and Congress were both left in the dark for 13 months regarding this accident and other issues at the facility."
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Nuclear Info Kept From Congress and the Public

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  • From TFA - quoting Nuclear Fuel Services Executive Vice President Timothy Lindstrom, a Navy veteran who joined the company in September

    ``I think it is important that the public recognize that we do have a very robust safety program at NFS. We live in this community and take our stewardship very seriously,'' he said.

    ``I think if we were to have an event like this again, we would push to make it public,'' he added. ``Clearly it would have been better to have this discussion 18 months ago than it is to have it now.''

    Was that his nose growing or what?

  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @01:20PM (#20307039)
    Congress' approval ratings are tied with the historical low. Do they even know why?

    I'm a conservative and typically voted Republican, and even *I* wanted the Dems to come into power to repair the damage of Bush's administration. But on any issue involving something the DoD / DoE marks as classified, they just shrug and say, "Bush's people called it classified. I guess we can't exercise oversight after all."

    I know this post will likely cost me some karma. I just wish I could spend *all* my karma on it and actually get my congressmen and senators to DO THEIR FSCKING JOBS and stop this crap.
      1. On March 6, 2006, the Republicans were still in charge of Congress.
      2. How would Congress know if information was being kept from them? (Perhaps I'm missing something here.)
      Not that I dispute your overall point that Congress could do even more oversight than they're already employing. You should note, however, how many pundits keep bemoaning this oversight as "witch hunts" or "fishing expeditions".
      • by Billosaur (927319) *

        Yes, well, the only thing they're liable to get on a "fishing expedition" is fish with three eyes. If there's a spill like this, isn't the EPA supposed to be notified? This does come under the heading of "environmental damage" or "inadvertent release of toxic chemicals" doesn't it? If so, there would be a record -- the EPA isn't the Department of Homeland Security.

        • If so, there would be a record -- the EPA isn't the Department of Homeland Security.
          That's just what they want you to think!
        • by Kadin2048 (468275) *
          If there's a spill like this, isn't the EPA supposed to be notified?

          I think that nuclear accidents fall under the purview of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is also the licensing authority for nuclear facilities and sites. In this case, it sounds like they did notify the NRC, but that the NRC had decided to classify/FOUO everything that had to do with this particular site (because of its involvement with the Navy's nuclear fuels program, apparently), so their disclosure was never made public or s
          • >Government bureaucrats have a knee-jerk reaction to stamp the highest-possible classification on everything, just "to be safe."

            Not the ones I've worked with. Storing SECRET and above costs money, time, and labor, and has penalties if you screw up and disclose it. "FOUO" is much more common.
    • by Abcd1234 (188840)
      Bush's people called it classified. I guess we can't exercise oversight after all.

      The question is, are they right? If the Bushies *do* declare something classified, or within the purview of executive privilege, what power does congress have to exercise oversight? No, this isn't sarcastic or anything. I really would like to know.
      • by sumdumass (711423)
        Just because something is classified doesn't mean congress cannot have oversight. It only means that certain members can see all the details and the entire congress can know about lower level details behind closed doors.

        There are a few congressmen with a theoretical higher security clearance then the president has. No the office of the president overrides the clearance by the nature of the job so he isn't restricted from seeing something, but it doesn't mean he has a high clearance.
      • by Sloppy (14984)

        That's really the big question. Do we want to have a government where the executive has the power to use magic words (e.g. "national security") which automatically circumvent all of the constitution's checks and balances?

        Is this exploit a bug or a feature? I know what Stalin would say, but I'm more curious about the opinion of average citizens. Sometimes they say surprising things. [alibi.com]

      • what power does congress have to exercise oversight?

        In theory, 2/3 of both houses could vote for a law that properly defines classified material and grants congress access to it. In practice, with our 2-party system that's carefully calibrated to maintain a near 50/50 split, it won't happen any time soon.

    • by caluml (551744)
      I'm a conservative and typically voted Republican, and even *I* wanted the Dems to come into power to repair the damage of Bush's administration.

      In Britain, and possibly other countries, we vote for who we want in power - not vote against them, but hope they'll rescue you. Apologies if I'm not getting something obvious here.
      • by Elemenope (905108)

        What you're not getting (and from outside the US, it might not even be all that obvious) is that Bush is so bad in many deeply unconservative ways that even may rank-and-file Republicans were voting across party lines to attempt to counterbalance his excesses by installing an opposition congress. In the final analysis, many believe that having something of a constitution left is preferable to having their own party in power as it drives everything straight into the ground. The irony, of course, is that th

      • by sumdumass (711423)
        Britian isn't any different. Not voting is the same as voting for the other guy. You can be in a position of not liking anyone who is on the ballot and end up voting for someone in order to keep someone else out.

        What the op did was something considered free speech. Weather he is a republican or not doesn't really matter. He is claiming to vote for someone who he didn't agree with because who he claims he normally agrees with have been worse then what was already in office.

        Personally, I don't think he was ev
        • They have more parties to choose from. I think that was the GP's point, but I could be mistaken. In the US, however, voting 3rd party is unfortunately a lot (although not quite) like not voting.
          • by jd (1658) <.imipak. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @02:47PM (#20308415) Homepage Journal
            Although the Liberal Democrats in Britain are a relatively minor party in government, the opposition (the party that came in second in the general election) cannot win a vote without the help of the Liberal Democrats. Likewise, the party in power needs only a handful of Liberal Democrats to side with them to guarantee winning a vote, even allowing for party defections. Thus, both sides regard the Liberal Democrats as a little bit of a wildcard. It can't do much on its own, but can wield quite a bit of influence.

            (It is also worth noting that the Lib Dems control a very large number of local authorities. Pissing them off can therefore have interesting consequences. It would be most unfortunate if a new sewer had to be installed in the road... right outside an MP's house... Terrible... Don't know how that could have happened...)

            Both the opposition and the third party have other weapons that do not exist in America. Either can call for a motion of no confidence, in which the Prime Minister MUST appear to answer questions. As indeed they must for Parliamentary Question Time. Although it has not been used this way for years, it used to be standard practice to use no confidence motions to force the other party to turn up for important debates, as the Prime Minister must resign if the motion passes. It is vital to that party that it can guarantee as large a majority as possible. Question Time is also important, as it creates a much greater sense of accountability. It's not perfect, but it gets better answers than subpoenas seem to be in America.

          • by dan828 (753380)
            While 3rd party candidates have little chance of winning, I'd say it does have a significant effect on things. An examples being the major 3rd parties which are considered conservative or liberal. The Green party, for instance, is an obvious choice for disaffected liberal voters. In close elections where the Democrats lose, and there is a significant Green party vote, a message is clearly being sent to the Democrats that they've alienated their liberal base enough that it's effected the outcome of the el
    • You do realize that the Democrats have a razor-thin majority in the Senate? Usually all it takes is all the Republicans and a handful of Democrats to block these measures. So, stop blaming the Democrats.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by digitalchinky (650880)
      What can congress do to stop some random guy or girl in a white lab coat with clipboard in hand from knocking over a jug of radioactive sludge? Seems to me like it was a screw up in procedure on several levels, these can be fixed.

      What you are doing is whining about some political agenda that has no relevance to the article, write a letter if you feel so strongly.

      • by dpilot (134227)
        That's what a fine is for.

        The language a corporation speaks or listens to with sincerity is MONEY. Tell them "Don't do that!" and they'll just hide their actions better next time. Fine them and they'll correct the problem. It's only the fine, the threat of a fine, or some other "reduction of revenue" (such as canceling or non-renewing a contract) that will incur any sort of action.

        As it says in TFA, the company was not fined for the spill. Making sure fines are assessed is something Congress can do, or
      • by chaboud (231590)
        I think the argument is that congress could impose tight-enough restrictions to keep the radioactive sludge from ever being kept in a jug.

        Even if they don't, accountability is generally a good thing. Others merely knowing about screw-ups is generally enough to illicit measures to avoid future ones.

        Nobody expects the congressional sub-committee inquisition!
  • Wow, I feel safe (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Fx.Dr (915071)
    "I think if we were to have an event like this again, we would push to make it public,"

    And I think that this kind of ass-backwards thinking is exactly what's going to result in the next Chernobyl. How about instead of spending all your time on clean-up and PR, put a little foresight into the management of the damn facility.

    "Clearly it would have been better to have this discussion 18 months ago than it is to have it now."

    Clearly. Asshat.
    • by geekoid (135745)
      Chernobyl and not happen to a US reactor.

      I see your point, but so many people don't understand Nuclear power or Chernobyl I like to keep a clear division.
    • For a few reasons...

      People are fallable and make mistajes. No matter the safeguards and systems in place, people will screw up. Sure you might be able to fire them for not following procedure etc, but that won't clean up the mess.

      Safety is not king. Money is. Operators are very reluctant to scram reactors or spend up huge on safety and equipment "just in case" because they really want to maximise profits. Thus, they operate in the risk zone. Bad calls are inevitable.

    • "And I think that this kind of ass-backwards thinking is exactly what's going to result in the next Chernobyl. How about instead of spending all your time on clean-up and PR, put a little foresight into the management of the damn facility."

      If every nuclear, coal, NG, or any other plant made public all of their accidents, mass panic would ensue. And we'd never get more nuclear power plants that are needed. Not that it's on the horizon either.

      And to ensure that the article is quoted properly:

      " including a lea
  • I can imagine why they downplayed it when it happened due to fear of a public panic, but to wait 13 months to even tell the public is ridiculous.
  • by bladel (104002) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @01:21PM (#20307053)
    ...where Homer falls asleep at the control panel:

    FTA:

    The leak was discovered when a supervisor saw a yellow liquid ``running into a hallway'' from under a door, according to one document.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by gEvil (beta) (945888)
      The leak was discovered when a supervisor saw a yellow liquid ``running into a hallway'' from under a door, according to one document.

      I can't even tell you how many times this happened at my old place. Damn roommates...
    • by Radon360 (951529)

      The leak was discovered when a supervisor saw a yellow liquid ``running into a hallway'' from under a door, according to one document.

      Perhaps that yellow liquid was from the technician who pissed his pants when he realized what just happened.

    • by jez9999 (618189) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @02:11PM (#20307911) Homepage Journal
      Actually, I think the appropriate quote is from 'Homer at the Bat': :-)

        At the plant...

            Mike Scioscia: [pushing a wheelbarrow of glowing green goop]
            Karl: [pulls up beside him with his own wheelbarrow of glowing green goop]
                          Hey, Scioscia. I don't get it. You're a ringer, but you're here every
                          night in the core, busting your butt hauling radioactive waste.
            Mike Scioscia: Well, Karl, it's such a relief from the pressures of playing
                          big-league ball. I mean, there, you make any kind of mistake, and
                          boom, the press is all over you. [accidentally spills his goop]
                          Uh oh...
            Karl: Ah, don't worry about it.
            Mike Scioscia: Oh man, is this ever sweet...
  • by Evil W1zard (832703) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @01:28PM (#20307201) Journal
    "The leak was discovered when a supervisor saw a yellow liquid ``running into a hallway'' from under a door, according to one document."

    Highly Enriched Uranium or Godzilla's Urine?!?!? You be the judge.
  • by dontthink (1106407) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @01:29PM (#20307207)
    FTA:

    McIntyre defended the commission's decision not to fine Nuclear Fuel Services, even though the agency rated the uranium leak last year as its second most-serious violation.
    (Emphasis mine) Personally, I would be interested to know what the most serious violation was...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @01:30PM (#20307219)
    Only actual chain reactions need be disclosed and the mushroom cloud should serve as public notice. Anything more would be a waste of taxpayer dollars.
  • by mpapet (761907) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @01:32PM (#20307253) Homepage
    In the mad rush to privatize government, the broader issue of a serious lack of oversight will become quite common.

    http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2007/0 6/murphy200706 [vanityfair.com]

  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @01:32PM (#20307259) Homepage

    The commission said there were two areas, the glovebox and an old elevator shaft, where the solution potentially could have collected in such a way to cause an uncontrolled nuclear reaction.
    I am not a physicist, but I don't think that packing enriched uranium into a glovebox could cause a nuclear reaction. With the elevator shaft -- are they imagining something crushing the uranium under great pressure? Is that enough? This sounds very unlikely to me. Nuclear material isn't "explosive" in the typical sense. Can someone qualified chime-in on this?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Stranger4U (153613)
      For the record, I am a physicist.
      A lot of nuclear materials can under-go a chain reaction if a significant mass is accumulated. It has to do with production versus escape of neutrons and scales as volume-to-area. So, if two sub-critical masses were combined, they could become critical. I am somewhat leary of a "spill" making something go critical, unless the mass was over-critical and the container provided some damping effect.
      • by Tackhead (54550) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @02:08PM (#20307845)
        > A lot of nuclear materials can under-go a chain reaction if a significant mass is accumulated. It has to do with production versus escape of neutrons and scales as volume-to-area. So, if two sub-critical masses were combined, they could become critical. I am somewhat leary of a "spill" making something go critical, unless the mass was over-critical and the container provided some damping effect.

        Actually, the "spill" makes it more likely, not less likely.

        Fissionables in solution are tricky things to deal with. Consider the following four cases:

        1) Homer Simpson drops a subcritical hunk of a water-soluble U235 salt into a swimming pool. No big deal. It's a single subcritical mass of U235, and the neutrons fly straight out of it and into the surrounding water, and not enough bounce back into the mass to present a problem. Homer reaches in with a net, and pulls the chunk of salt out of the net. "No problemo."

        2) A little while later, as the harmless chunk dissolves into the huge pool, there will be localized spots near the chunk, with both sufficiently-high concentration of fissionable materials and the right amount of moderating material between them for a criticality incident. "D'OH!"

        3) "Aha! I'm smart! I'll prevent that scenario by dissolving it, a bit at a time, by adding it to the pool by using a salt shaker near the pump intake!" Congrats! The U235 atoms are, at all times, sufficiently widely-dispersed, that there is no criticality risk. "Woohoo!"

        4) A few weeks after your swim, the place is shut down and everyone gets fired. The maintenance guy forgets to drain the pool. The water gradually evaporates, and concentrations in the remaining water begin to rise... and a few years later, some guy spraying graffiti by the abandoned poolhouse wonders WTF that blue flash was. "D'OH!" again.

        I'm on a roll here, so I may as well close off the "security by obscurity" issue. There are places where security by obscurity works, and this is one of them.

        The deal here is that criticality incidents, especially involving fissionables in solution are a function of degree of enrichment (in the case of uranium as the solute), nuclear properties of the solvent, local concentrations of the ions in solution, and a whole boatload of other things, in order to build cool toys, you often have to deal with them all, simultaneously. I'm not in the building-of-cool-toys industry, and have mercifully I've never had a need to know.

        Some of these things are public domain, but others (particularly those things pertaining to the design of shipborne Naval reactors, which use HEU because there simply isn't enough space on all types of ships to permit the use of LEU-based designs) are classified. Given a description of an incident, however, it may be possible to place upper and lower bounds on some of the classified parameters - bounds that are narrower than the published numbers, and there are plenty of adversaries who would be delighted to deduce things about our Naval capabilities (a lot more interesting/useful than even our bomb designs), given just a few more missing puzzle pieces. The math is hard, and denying adversaries the pieces of the puzzle that they can use to derive the whole picture isn't security by obscurity, it's just good security practice.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TopSpin (753) *

          Given a description of an incident...

          The description of the incident alarmed me. Leaking HEU running under a door spotted by someone walking down the hall...

          Call me naive but I have a vision of this sort of operation that involves a bit more vigilance. Leaks can be automatically detected, particularly leaks of highly radioactive matter. In my HEU refining facility 14 different models of klaxons, 3 of them steam powered, simultaneously deafen the entire facility the instant a pressure drop or burst of radiation is detected. The two backup

      • unless the mass was over-critical and the container provided some damping effect.
        The easiest dampening effect could be achieved by the shape of the container (e.g., long, narrow tubes). As the excerpted text suggests, the concern was that the liquid would flow into another container with a shape much more efficient for inducing criticality.
    • by michrech (468134)
      Yes, but they aren't going to be doing so on slashdot...

      The commission said there were two areas, the glovebox and an old elevator shaft, where the solution potentially could have collected in such a way to cause an uncontrolled nuclear reaction.

      I am not a physicist, but I don't think that packing enriched uranium into a glovebox could cause a nuclear reaction. With the elevator shaft -- are they imagining something crushing the uranium under great pressure? Is that enough? This sounds very unlikely to me. Nuclear material isn't "explosive" in the typical sense. Can someone qualified chime-in on this?

    • by Abcd1234 (188840)
      but I don't think that packing enriched uranium into a glovebox could cause a nuclear reaction

      And you'd be wrong. From the wikipedia article on fast neutron reactors [wikipedia.org]: "Such a reactor needs no neutron moderator, but must use fuel that is relatively rich in fissile material when compared to that required for a thermal reactor." In essence, the fast neutrons emitted by the radioactive decay of the fuel triggers further fission, resulting in a chain reaction. Or, as the article on fast breeder reactors [wikipedia.org] stat
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dontthink (1106407)
      It wouldn't have caused an explosion, just a chain reaction a la what is sustained in a nuclear reactor - except this would be completely uncontrolled and unshielded. As everyone here probably knows, fission is caused by one neutron busting apart a big nucleus, throwing out more neutrons (among other things). Criticality happens when there are more neutrons in a given "generation" (instant, essentially) than the previous generation (for a given geometry, etc). In a power reactor this ratio of neutrons in
    • by joib (70841)
      You're wrong. Enough highly enriched uranium in one place will cause a chain reaction.

      The reason why nuclear weapons compress the material using chemical explosives is that the threshold mass is dependent on the density. Compressing the material lowers the threshold so that the material will cross from subcritical to supercritical => mushroom cloud.

      As for the elevator shaft, there's no way that could compress the material enough to make any difference. Presumably the thing they're worried about is that t
  • by xC0000005 (715810) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @01:35PM (#20307305) Homepage
    Your average congressman/woman is not fit for the types of duties we already allow them - allocating money. Let's say this had all been open, and it was brought up before an oversight committe in Congress. What exactly is a congressman going to bring to the table at such a discussion?
    CongressMan A: "I'm outraged at this. You stored Uranium in plain gray containers, spilled them, and then didn't buy cleanup services from my home state. What do you have to say for yourself?"
    Uranium Dude: "We acknowledge that we were wrong to spill the uranium, and promise to paint the containers yellow, AND buy the yellow paint from your home state."
    Congressman A: "That's damn right you will! Yellow paint and pork in one day. That's congressional leadership."

    We need people with experience in handling such materials on the oversight committe - congresspeople can go off and write some vision law or national spotted insect day - in other words, what they are good at. And we need some sort of realistic expectations on what punishments would ever be meted out. I doubt we would ever ditch a uranium supplier because it's in our best interests for security to keep the number of entrants in the field small. And we wouldn't want disgruntled employees deciding to contract out.
  • by Ollabelle (980205) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @01:37PM (#20307351)
    I'm sorry, but I missed something. If it's in the container, it's safe, but if it's loose on the floor, it's liable to start a chain reaction? That just doesn't sound right. I smell an ulterior motive in this story.
    • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @01:58PM (#20307713)

      I'm sorry, but I missed something. If it's in the container, it's safe, but if it's loose on the floor, it's liable to start a chain reaction?

      Any container designed to hold enriched uranium would be carefully shaped so as to avoid coming anywhere near to creating a critical mass. In this incident, the risk was that the liquid would flow into the elevator shaft, where it would pool into a compact shape that could create a critical mass.

      • Dead wrong (Score:3, Informative)

        by YetAnotherBob (988800)
        The containers are usually barrels. The important consideration here is the total mass of the material stored. US facilities usually store the Uranium/Plutonium/Thorium/etc as disolved salts. The whole suspension is then labeled as radioactive waste, but the total mass of the material is fairly low. If the concentration gets too high, considerable heat can be generated. That has happened at some US plants in the past. The solution is to limit the volume stored in any one container. If you don't plan to ever
  • A few years ago, I had a conversation about next generation energy with a friend (one of those "privatize everything" types). He lambasted people for fearing nuclear energy as he saw it as the way of the future. This story is *exactly* the argument I made to explain the legitimacy of public fears of nuclear power. We let the private industry in with it's self-serving interests and God forbid something goes wrong. Just like on Three Mile Island, private industry finds it in their interest to sweep proble
    • by weston (16146)
      We let the private industry in with it's self-serving interests and God forbid something goes wrong. Just like on Three Mile Island, private industry finds it in their interest to sweep problems under the rug to the detriment of the public

      I definitely agree that privatization isn't the answer to every question, and that self-oversight inevitably trips over conflicts of interest.

      However, I'm not sure this problem would go away if the reactor were public. A government with power spread across diverse actors l
  • It's that they thought you were gullible enough to believe their lies about how safe nuclear fission energy sources are.
    • Nine people died in the United States in one coal mining accident. How many have died from fission?
      • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @02:21PM (#20308073) Homepage Journal
        How do you think we get the nuclear fissile material in the first place?

        We mine it.

        To mine it we release toxic chemicals into the environment, heavy metals that poison rivers, cause early deaths for mine workers, and release radon gas.

        You need to look at nuclear from a total life perspective - from source (mining) to use (fission) to eventual neutrality (a few tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of years).

        In my state alone, many hundreds of people have died from this "cycle".

        Stop trying to gin the numbers by restricting it to the input into the reactor to output from the reactor - this is a fraction of the total bykill.

        Now, don't get me started on coal. And, in case you wondered, I've owned Peabody shares (IPO) so I am aware of the risk factors of that. People always underestimate the lethality of energy generation - I worked in power generation when I started my career, so I am keenly aware of who dies and from what. I have lived in mining towns. People have a way of hiding the truth from themselves about the impacts of their favority power source, to justify it in their minds. No matter WHAT it is.
  • Just an FYI; highly enriched fuel is used for naval reactors (aircraft carriers, submarines, etc.) Typical power reactors aren't designed to burn this in large quantities.

    Here's a photo of the facility. [citizen-times.com] That's a guard tower in the right foreground.

    They kept a lid on it for 3 years. I note that this was NRC policy, as opposed to a company cover up. The NRC is typically rather open [nrc.gov] about these sort of events.
  • by cliffski (65094) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @02:06PM (#20307831) Homepage
    about nuclear power. I'm opposed to it. not on any technical grounds, or any dogmatic or spiritual bollocks, just because I do NOT trust private companies with this stuff, nor do I trust them to handle GM food responsibly either. If we had decades of perfect safety records on existing reactors, combined with absolute transparency on what goes wrong and who is to blame and what happened if something does fail, then maybe I'd be convinced that this is a technology that you can trust private companies, or for that matter, the government, to use safely.
    This is not currently the case. here in the UK, we even falsified documents to show the japanese we had carried out safety procedures on their reprocessed fuel. Not surprisingly, they sent it back.

    The risk of nuclear accidents is VERY small, but the potential worst case effect of one if it does happen is massive. With other forms of power like tidal, solar, wind, the worst case scenarios tend to be very very benign. As a result, I'd rather we spent the same cash investing in those technologies than one with so many potential downsides, including the leak risk, the theoretical meltdown, the security risks, potential health problems, need for uranium, centralised nature of the technology, need to be near large supplies of water, yada yada yada...

    nuclear is great in theory, so is GM, but in practice, I don't vaguely think we are there yet in terms of safety.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022)
      So we shouldn't take any risks so we can stop knowingly dumping tons of CO2 and mercury into the air? Sounds pretty dumb to me.
  • Its all a miscommunication. If the congress wanted "nu-ku-lar" information, they should have asked for it.
  • This was just a spill. No biggie. Nuclear facilities can deal with them. Accidental criticality has happened before though, with varying levels of consequence from none to fatality. There's an interesting synopsis of historic criticality accidents here:

    http://www.cddc.vt.edu/host/atomic/accident/critic al.html [vt.edu]

    The whole "yellow liquid running into a hallway from under a door" thing is a bit Simpsons though...
  • by pyro101 (564166) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @02:31PM (#20308203) Homepage
    Keep in mind that this event's worst case result from this would have been:
    "If a criticality accident had occurred in the filter glovebox or the elevator pit, it is
    likely that at least one worker would have received an exposure high enough to cause acute
    health effects or death." Keep in mind that the result of the second worst event for nuclear facilities for the year. Compare that with the coal industry or oil industry where there are multiple deaths annually.

    Also this is fairly old news since it was in the NRC's "Report to Congress on Abnormal Occurrences - Fiscal Year 2006 (NUREG-0090, Vol. 29)". Which has a release date of April 2007. Take a look for yourself its on page 14
    http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/nure gs/staff/sr0090/v29/sr0090v29.pdf [nrc.gov]

    The information is available to congress is not notified everytime an incident occurs. Unless the accident could cause things to happen off site the public isn't notified until the annual list of inccidents, primarily because it would just create unneeded hystaria as seen by this FUD while the engineers review the facts and figure out REALLY happened. As far as the company trying to hide it. If it is not reported to the NRC within 24 hours of the event they would likely lose their license.
  • Think, folks, think. Liquids are going to spill. Pipes will leak, valves will be left open, containers will tip.

    But this isnt a big problem.

    You only get a chain reaction with *compact* arrangements of fissile material. For liquids, their innate tendency is to flatten out, spread out, and head downhill. For example, if a bottle of uranium nitrate breaks, its going to fall into a less critical configuration.

    Even if the stuff drains into some sump, not a huge problem. It might get more reactive, but

  • Obligatory (Score:3, Funny)

    by PPH (736903) on Tuesday August 21, 2007 @03:34PM (#20309205)
    Nothing glowing in the dark to see here. Move along.

MATH AND ALCOHOL DON'T MIX! Please, don't drink and derive. Mathematicians Against Drunk Deriving

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