Nuclear Fire Erupts at Radioactive Facility. U.S. low-level Radioactive Waste Site

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In the first seconds you can see a column of white smoke moving to the right. Then multiple underground explosions in trench 14 send more smoke spewing out. The ground erupts. Dirt and debris shoot into the sky.

 

 

It’s 40 seconds of what could have been a major disaster in video Contact 13 obtained from the state Thursday.

While the state investigates the cause of the fire, Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears has been following the money trail.

She found some explosive information about funding cuts to the state’s radiation control program.

Half a million dollars was pulled from the fund to monitor and maintain the site and mitigate the risks.

 

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Half a million dollars that state lawmakers took from the radioactive waste fund at the governor’s request–and swept into the state’s general fund in order to balance the budget.

We don’t know exactly what is buried in trench 14. We don’t know what these explosions kicked up into the air but we do know state leaders were well aware of the risks buried at the U.S. Ecology site, controlled by the State Department of Health and Human Services.

Minutes from legislative hearings detail concerns about “unknown contamination levels.” The state expressed concern because it was not sure of the contamination levels or when a fissure might occur.

$80,110.41 was spent in 2015 for cap repairs.

However despite the transfer of $500,000 officials say the waste program is sufficiently funded.

The state tells us that there are two new subsidence locations from recent flooding at the site and a crater where the fire broke out.

They also tell us there was not a fissure at the location of the fire.

We reached out to the Governor’s office and are waiting for a response.

Sources:

CBS Las Vegas, Oct 22, 2015 (emphasis added): Government officials are still looking into what may have caused a low-level radiological storage facility [~100 miles outside Las Vegas] to go up in flames… “We didn’t even hear about it when it happened, according to Cindy Craig, a resident.  “We weren’t even get told about it until the next day.”

Las Vegas Review-Journal, Oct 21, 2015: Carol Johnston, owner of KC’s Outpost [in Beatty, Nevada]… said she was serving customers on a patio Sunday when she “heard a big boom” then looked up and saw a big puff of smoke. “Why didn’t they evacuate the town then?” she asked in a telephone interview Wednesday.

CBS Las Vegas, Oct 22, 2015: In the 40-second cellphone video… you can see theexplosion in the shooting from the ground causing massive plumes of smoke. Theexplosion caused the facility to go up in flames.  State officials said the fire started in one of 22 covered trenches used to store low-level radioactive material…

AP, Oct 19, 2015: EPA said the unknown amount of low-level radioactive waste that burned had been deposited… before 1992… [USGS previously] found high concentrations of radionuclides underground, the Nuclear Resource and Information Service said.

Las Vegas Review-Journal, Oct 22, 2015: Fire Marshal Chief Peter Mulvihill said [it] “burned very hot“… Items buried in the low-level nuclear waste dump include… nuclear reactor crud…

AP, Oct 21, 2015: Mulvihill said the fire burned unabated after starting Sunday during intense thunderstorms and flash flooding… Now, first-responders have backed off while investigators locate archived paperwork to determine what was buried in the burned trench… [I]ncident managers initially feared about 2,000 people in the sprawling rural area would need to be evacuated if radiation had been detected. Mulvihill told reporters that all but two employees left the… facility adjacent to the radioactive waste dump…

Las Vegas Review-Journal, Oct 20, 2015: “We don’t know exactly what caught fire. We’re not exactly sure what was burning in that pit,” Fire Marshal Chief Peter Mulvihill said… “there was some energetic burning” that blew a hole in the cover soil that caps trench No. 14, where low-level radioactive materials were buried.

AP,  Oct 19, 2015: [EPA] is sending a radiological emergency team to look for contamination… EPA spokesman Rusty Harris-Bishop says no dangerous gamma radiation has been detected… The fire erupted Sunday during heavy rain…

KSNV, Oct 20, 2015: [R]esidents are still concerned because of what was burning, and because they say they were “flat out lied to“… As the fire burned, the US 95 was closed for a 140 mile stretch for nearly 24 hours. People waiting in their cars say they were told a much different reason for the traffic jam. “They told us it was debris in the road,” one resident told News 3. “We found out it was a nuclear waste fire.”

KSNV, Oct 20, 2015: This small town voiced big concerns at Tuesday night’s town hall after a fire at a low-level radioactive waste dump… “We don’t find out about it in the city of Beatty until we watch the news the next morning. What if that was extremely hazardous?” [a resident] said. “I’m very, very upset about it.”… many questions remain including what exactly was burning?… “We have absolutely no idea… what it is” [Sheriff Sharon Wehrly] said…

Las Vegas Sun, Oct 23, 2015: Sunday’s nuclear fire… reportedly did not emit above-average doses of radiation.

Las Vegas Sun, Oct 22, 2015: Media buzzed with reports of a low-level nuclear fire… [T]he plume of smoke — determined by the… government to not be hazardous to public health — billowed… residents, though, were unaware of the details of the emergency situation.

Las Vegas Review-Journal, Oct 19, 2015: Mulvihill said investigators would be taking a close and methodical look at the site “once it is safe to go down there.”… [The fire] was allowed to burn itself out over the course of about 12 hours… US Ecology officials said they created “an exclusion zone around the facility” at the request of state regulators… As part of their investigation, state officials said they will be looking at the [dump’s] overall stability…

KTNV, Oct 22, 2015: You can see a column of white smoke… Then multiple underground explosions in trench 14 send more smoke spewing out. The ground erupts… We don’t know what these explosions kicked up into the air but we do know state leaders were well aware of the risks buried at the U.S. Ecology site… Minutes from legislative hearings detail concerns about “unknown contamination levels.”  The state expressed concern because it was not sure of the contamination levels or when a fissure might occur.

KTNV transcript, Oct 22, 2015 (at 2:20 in): “We’ve just learned… there are 2 new areas of land that are sinking from recent flooding at the site, and a crater where the fire broke out.”

 

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