Skip to comments.Plutonium experiments at NIF draw fire
Posted on 02/28/2015 9:49:21 AM PST by Citizen Zed
Two environmental organizations have asked the US Department of Energy to cancel experiments with plutonium at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratorys (LLNLs) National Ignition Facility (NIF). Representatives from the groups claim the experiments could contaminate the massive laser facility and possibly expose workers and the public to the toxic element.
The Natural Resources Defense Council and Tri-Valley CAREs, in Livermore, California, charge that existing environmental impact statements do not include an adequate assessment of the environmental, safety, and proliferation aspects of zapping plutonium with beams from NIFs 1.8-megajoule laser. The experiments are to be conducted in NIFs massive 10-meter-diameter target chamber without an inner vessel to contain debris.
Before these controversial experiments begin, at a minimum we believe the government must undertake a stringent environmental review and solicit public comment pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, said Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREss executive director. The planned use of plutonium in NIF raises serious nonproliferation concerns, added Matthew McKinzie, director of NRDCs nuclear program. NIF construction and operation was predicated on agency assurances that plutonium would not be used in experiments, he stated, citing a 1995 review of NIFs proliferation potential.
But LLNL spokeswoman Lynda Seaver says the environmental impacts of the plutonium shots were assessed in a 2005 LLNL sitewide environmental impact statement and in a 2011 supplement to that statement. She says, The scope of planned operations at NIF is fully consistent with what was disclosed, considered, and approved by DOE in those documents.
NIFs target chamber was designed specifically for using radioactive materials in shots and containing all the debris that may result, Seaver notes. Radioactive materials, including tritium, have routinely been used in NIF experiments with no contamination issues., she notes. Materials will be contained primarily in the target assembly or the associated diagnostics. In the unlikely event that any material escapes the target assembly, it would be contained in the target chamber, says Seaver.
All the experiments will use plutonium-242, a non-fissile isotope far less radioactive than fissile plutonium-239, which is used in the primary stage of nuclear weapons. The amounts used will range from less than a milligram to 10 milligrams, around the size of a poppy seed.
Seaver says NIF was built in support of the nuclear weapons program, and that support includes experiments to identify the properties of materials at extreme high pressures and temperatures. Such experiments cant be done anywhere else in the world, she says. The plutonium shots will have no impact on unclassified work at NIF, including experiments performed by outside users.
Activists from the two organizations maintain that the sitewide environmental impact statement had first stated that plutonium experiments would need to be performed within a removable inner containment vessel to prevent contamination of the target chamber. DOE determined later that the experiments could not be carried out inside a vessel but didnt formally assess the environmental or nonproliferation consequences of that change, the activists contend.
The activists are opposed to all forms of energy except for solar, geothermal, and wind.
Not true. Wind is bad because them thar propellers are the Cuisinarts of the air. Very bad for birds!
Everyone who has worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory [the “funny farm”] (LLNL)[LLL] knows that they brought in cats to catch rats 50 years ago-those cats come and go everywhere in the surrounding neighbohoods and they are ALL RADIOACTIVE.
Also there are many one-eared Jackrabbits hopping around that area. well duhhhhh I wunder why...hmmmm
your tax dollars at work
Any documentation of this? Please provide references.
Oh, swell! A "spokeswoman"! And she referred to a 2005 (supplemented in 2011) DOE report which contradicted a 1995 construction and operation review including assurances that plutonium would not be used.
Perhaps LLNL Director Bill Goldstein and NIF Director Peter Wisoff were too busy to put their own personal assurances about the NIF plutonium experiment in the record for the Physics Today article. But couldn't some actual scientist or engineer at the lab have commented on the safety of the planned experiment?
And there is no need to mention that last year the Energy Department's inspector general reprimanded LLNL for improperly using its funds to perform tests for a private documentary. At the time spokeswoman Lynda Seaver said that lab officials believed they followed correct procedures.
Yes and it is costing all of use big bucks.
I’ve worked near the lab for 13 years and never heard that...
They draw fire from the Natural Resources Defense Council and Tri-Valley CAREs.
One cat, in 1991, that’s all I found.
Not true. They will be against solar, geothermal, and wind when they become feasible. In the mean time keep the dog chasing it’s tail.
That is a medical mystery, not a case of radioactive cats escaping from a nuclear reactor. Someone treated a cat for thyroid cancer.
I was there 1971-76 and we were told not to get near the cats coz they were radioactive- They were up in the cable trays near the ceilings coz it was warmer up there during the winter when they came in to get warm; The cats were near all the REM generating equipment from accelerators to boxcars to fusion target areas. There were holes in the perimeter fences they could crawl thru real easily, not to mention all the gates that had gaps wide enough for a cat to squeeze thru; saw the one-eared jackrabbits. There were also bats and birds flying in building 81 which was as long as a football field. They were probably hot too. been there done that.
THE cats are probably all dead by now [early 1970`s] There were reports in 1970`s of plutonium traces in the local Livermore playgrounds- duhhh- check the local Livermore newspapers archives
check local Livermore library newspaper archives- O I was eyewitness to this. There will be no official govt reports on radioactive cats but maybe something in the Livermore paper coz they found plutonium in the playgrounds in Livermore 1970`s.
Enviro-whackos don’t appear to have any problem at all with a bunch of birds being sliced up mid-flight at a wind facility or fried while flying through a solar installation. Don’t you shoot one with lead shot, though, or you’ll destroy the entire ecosystem for the next two millennia if not longer.
Hey, that’s all kinda cool! :’) But I’m a freak. Nice not to have to microwave one’s lunch...
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