Dont play with this clay, Yucca moisture, Russian dumps -- April 13th, 2001

From: "Russell D. Hoffman"
Subject: Dont play with this clay, Yucca moisture, Russian dumps

From: Russell Hoffman
Date: April 13th, 2001
Re: Nuclear news of the day -- Don't play with this clay, Yucca moisture, Russian dumps


Thanks to Richard Wilcox for sending me the email about the news item about a new clay to clean nuclear waste (shown below).

The thing is, it would have to not only prove to work, but be cost-effective as well. As they spill radioactive waste into the oceans and across the lands, we need to filter our drinking water more and more, our crop water, our livestock's water (I'm a vegetarian except I still eat fish now and then, and fish certainly need clean water to grow healthy and safe to eat).

The cost may be prohibitive for most of the population. I don't yet see labels on salmon that say "farm-raised in radiation-free filtered water" but I'm sure we will some day. This new clay, if it works, would be such a small step, because there are a gazillion tons of radioactive waste. You can't expect it to be considered cost-effective to grind up old containment buildings and pass them through some artificial clay filter. It won't be done.

More likely is that it would be used at the supply-end, to operate a power plant more loosely, with more leaky connections and such, on the theory that they will just filter the crud out later before releasing that water to the environment at some level just below federal standards. Federal standards being, of course, a cruel and deadly joke.

Maybe rogue nations (like ours) can use various versions of this new stuff to extract weapons-grade materials from waste where it wouldn't have been cost-effective or maybe not even possible to have done so before.

All in all, I don't see that it is likely to mean all is well in nuke-land. More likely it is meant to counter articles like "moisture found at planned Yucca site". It's like, every so often, they come out with articles about "cure for cancer may be around the corner".

These sorts of articles are meant to calm the populace and always seem to appear when something dire happens, in this case the Yucca announcement (shown below, with an article about Russian plans, both sent to me by Bill Smirnow).


Russell Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

Attachments (3)
** Email from Richard Wilcox
** Full article about clay
** Email from Bill Smirnow with two articles

At 07:48 PM 4/13/01 +0900, Richard Wilcox forwarded:

In a finding that could help improve radioactive and hazardous
waste disposal, researchers from Pennsylvania State University
demonstrated that a synthetic clay can separate ions of
radium, a radioactive metal, from water. A research team
led by Sridhar Komarneni, professor of clay mineralogy,
used x-ray diffraction and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy
to evaluate the chemical properties of Na4, one of a group
of clays called "swelling micas" not found in nature.

Source: United Press International


Full article which appears at:

Clay may clean nuclear waste
Thursday, April 12, 2001
By United Press International

In a finding that could help improve radioactive and hazardous waste disposal, researchers from Pennsylvania State University demonstrated that a synthetic clay can separate ions of radium, a radioactive metal, from water.

A research team led by Sridhar Komarneni, professor of clay mineralogy, used x-ray diffraction and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to evaluate the chemical properties of Na4, one of a group of clays called "swelling micas" not found in nature.

"These clays are created specifically for water treatment purposes," Komarneni told United Press International. "Swelling micas expand as they absorb metal ions, reach capacity, then collapse and seal the contaminants inside."

The swelling micas, he explained, are being examined for use in separating heavy metal ions such as lead and other radioactive materials, including strontium, from waste streams. In this recent experiment, Komarneni claims he synthesized a fine Na-4 powder more useful for practical applications than the larger crystals presently available.

James Amonette, a senior research scientist at the Hanford nuclear waste site in Washington state, told UPI he is familiar with Komarneni's work. But radium, he said, is not a major problem at nuclear sites such as Hanford.

"Strontium is a much bigger problem," Amonette said in a telephone interview. "It comes from cooling water that goes through nuclear reactors." While swelling mica may remove certain hazardous materials from water, Amonette said the nature of the water itself will affect the clay's efficiency.

"Mica has a negative charge, so you have to know what other positive ions, besides the ones you want to remove, are competing for the mica in the solution."

Sodium, Amonette explained, will compete with strontium in wastewater. If the mica clay is not specific enough for strontium, it will become saturated with sodium and lose its efficacy.

"I'm not sure how useful these swelling micas will be with tank wastes because they are often contaminated with all kinds of ions," Amonette said. Komarneni and his team report their results in the April 12 issue of Nature.

Copyright 2001, United Press International

All Rights Reserved


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From: "Bill Smirnow"
To: "World Watch Institute",
"Nucnews List",
"Earth Island Institute",
"Earth First",
"Downwinders List",
"DOE-Watch List",
"Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists"
Subject: Moisture Discovered At Yucca,New Russian Minister Wants RussiaTo Become World's N-Waste Dump
Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2001 06:47:49 -0400

US Reps & Senators can be called at: 202-224-3121 to express your views to on Yucca. Even though the Russian situation is an internal affair, since Russia needs international loans & business arrangements badly it's a good idea to tell Reps, Senators & the White House [Phone:202-456-1414 & 202-456-1111, Fax:202-456-2461] that economic assistance should be tied to NOT turning Russia into the world's nuclear waste dump.

-Bill Smirnow

Water damage sparks Yucca worries

April 06, 2001

By Mary Manning

Areas inside the exploratory tunnel at Yucca Mountain that were sealed off for six months developed so much moisture that electrical test equipment in the rooms shorted out, losing valuable data, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission report shows.

Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, is the only site being studied to bury 77,000 tons of nuclear reactor and weapons waste. Water is a concern there because the area's mineral-laden ground water could corrode containers holding the waste, releasing radioactivity into the environment.

If the moisture in the tunnel is found to be ground water, the dump project would be in jeopardy.

Federal scientists believe if the moisture is from condensation, it would be harmless. State scientists note, however, that even condensation, if it contains minerals from Yucca Mountain's rock, could be corrosive.

The Energy Department is expected to recommend the site later this year as the world's first high-level nuclear waste repository.

The three research areas were dug out along the 5-mile-long tunnel, which is near the surface, and equipped with probes to measure water inside the rock. They were sealed last August to prevent the dry outside air from entering, to simulate what the mountain was like before the tunnel was excavated.

By September scientists realized that the equipment's electricity had failed, including the backup battery power. When they reopened the research rooms in January, they found electrical shorts that appeared to be caused by excessive water.

It was one of several studies focused on finding out the path of ground water through the mountain, which is made primarily of layered volcanic ash. If water has invaded the repository level, 1,000 feet below the surface, within the past 10,000 years, the site could be disqualified as a repository.

The water table at Yucca Mountain is 1,000 feet lower than the site.

So far, none of the studies has definitively shown a problem, but none has ruled out dangerous levels of moisture either.

The report on the failed experiment was included in monthly reports of the NRC's on-site scientists, who are overseeing work by the Energy Department.

The DOE is charged with studying and, if it is found safe, building the repository. The NRC would have to license it before it could open.

DOE researchers reported to the NRC scientists that they had been unable to collect 75 percent of the data they sought on water at the three sites because of power outages in the hundreds of probes.

Humidity levels inside the alcoves jumped above 90 percent last summer, DOE scientists said.

The DOE suspected steamy conditions inside the alcoves had disrupted electrical connections to the probes monitoring the mountain. Although batteries backed up conventional power lines, their supply lasted only about two weeks.

The DOE opened the bulkheads in January, dried the air, better insulated the electronics, then resealed areas. The water monitoring project is expected to continue throughout this year, DOE spokeswoman Gayle Fisher said.

Power was restored to the monitors, but conditions inside the mountain have not returned to normal, according to NRC's technical staff. "They have a ways to go yet," Chad Glenn of the NRC's Las Vegas office, said this week.

The amount of moisture inside the mountain already has raised questions from independent scientists serving on the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board. At a February meeting in Amargosa Valley, the scientists questioned DOE representatives closely about "soaked" drip cloths hanging inside the alcoves.

The scientific panel urged the DOE to chemically analyze the water found on the cloths to determine if it came from condensation or from moisture flowing through the mountain's rocks.

Scientists working for the state of Nevada, which opposes the repository project, are concerned with the lack of information provided after the DOE's power outages.

Water -- even condensation -- could create a film on the metal surfaces of waste containers and shields, causing chemical reactions, said Susan Zimmerman, technical program administrator for the state's Agency for Nuclear Projects. Heat from the buried waste could enhance the chances for such reactions, and the consequences are anyone's guess, she said.

The DOE has been studying Yucca Mountain since 1983. By the mid-1990s scientists discovered more water than expected in the rock.

Engineers now are suggesting multiple barriers to protect people and the environment from escaping radioactivity.

Those barriers include waste packages still being designed, titanium shields to deflect ground water from dripping on the packages and a filler to seal the mountain in 50, 100 or 150 years.

The additional protection against moisture is expected to increase the cost of the dump, which is currently estimated to be about $60 billion.

All contents copyright 2001 Las Vegas SUN, Inc.

New nuclear minister backs plan to import spent nuclear fuel

MOSCOW - Russia's newly appointed nuclear minister spoke in support of a widely-criticized plan to import spent nuclear fuel for reprocessing that helped cost the job of his predecessor, according to an interview published Friday.

"It will showcase Russia's technological potential and pave the way for new projects," Alexander Rumyantsev, who was appointed nuclear minister late last month, told the daily Izvestia.

He also said a law permitting the imports of nuclear waste is essential for Russia's efforts to exports nuclear fuel. "If we want to sell this product to other countries, we must have a law that allows us to take back spent fuel rods."

The plan foresees importing about 20,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel over 20 years to Russia in special, armored train cars for reprocessing and long-term storage.

Rumyantsev's predecessor, Yevgeny Adamov, strongly advoated the project, saying that Russia stands to earn dlrs 20 billion. He promised to spend dlrs 7 billion of the proceeds to clean up radiation spills in Russia and upgrade safety at existing reactors.

But environmentalists and other critics of the plan warned that it would turn Russia into an international dumping ground for nuclear waste, and accused Adamov of pursuing his own business interests in the deal. Adamov has denied the allegations.

Critics also said that there would be no money left to clean up the environment after funds are spent to build and maintain storage facilities.

Parliament approved the bill in the first of three readings last December, but abruptly cancelled the second reading last month amid the controversy. Several days later, President Vladimir Putin fired Adamov as part of his sweeping Cabinet reshuffle.

Rumyantsev said that the financial aspect of the plan needs more work. He also sought to allay critics' concerns that the ministry earnings from the deal could be misspent, saying that special panels would "track down every single dollar" of the proceeds.

Rumyantsev had served as head of the Kurchatov Institute, Russia's leading nuclear research center.




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Last modified April, 2001.

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