As of 12:40 p.m., June 28, 2011:
- No wildfire currently on Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory (LANL) property.
- A network of 7 high-volume air samplers along the southern, northern and eastern boundaries of Lab property indicate no radioactive materials from Lab operations or legacy waste in smoke from the Las Conchas fire.
- Lab will remain closed through Friday, July 1, because of risks presented by the Las Conchas Fire and the mandatory evacuation of Los Alamos town site.
- More alarming is that the Associated Press reports that LANL is storing “as many as 30,000 drums of plutonium-contaminated waste in fabric tents above ground.” Peter Stockton, a senior investigator for the independent watchdog Project on Government Oversight (POGO) says: “They talked about getting it out of there, but they simply haven’t. They [should] store it at WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant) in southern New Mexico, an underground storage facility for low-level waste. But again, now they claim these barrels can stand up to tests of fire.” (H/t Joseph)
- Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station, 19 miles north of Omaha, has been taken offline because of the flooding. The river surrounds the plant to a depth of about two feet.
- About 70 miles south of Omaha, Cooper Nuclear Station remains online. On Thursday, the river was about three feet below the level that would require the plant to shut down.
- Today, the regional office of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that oversees Nebraska sent an official request to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, asking what would happen if a dam fails upstream of Fort Calhoun and Cooper nuclear power plants. Combined, the six U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dams on the flood-swollen Missouri River comprise one of the largest reservoir systems in the country. The dams are releasing historic amounts of water during what will be a summer of managed flooding in the Missouri River valley. John Bertino, head of dam safety for the Omaha district, said that although the dams have had some issues, it’s nothing that affects their integrity. “They’re performing really well,” Bertino said Thursday morning. “We don’t see any concerns.” Still, the corps is monitoring the dams 24/7, with both engineers and electronic surveillance.
Rumor: Nebraska’s nuclear power plants store spent fuel rods in open casks. If the Missouri River rises high enough, it will overflow them and carry contaminated water downstream.
Fact: The plants both use outdoor, above-ground entombment, also called dry cask storage, for its oldest fuel. The fuel is entombed in steel canisters that have been welded shut. These canisters are then placed inside concrete bunkers that rely on outside air flowing around the canisters to carry away residual heat. The bunker and canisters are built to withstand flooding. Elevated indoor pools are used for the most recently used fuel rods. At the Fort Calhoun Nuclear Station, the river would have to rise another 32.18 feet to flow over the top of the pool deck. At the Brownville plant, the river would have to rise approximately 102 feet.