Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Kitty litter that almost blew up New Mexico

Is it me, or didn't this major nuclear accident in a nuclear waste dump get little publicity?

Today, Drudge has a link to the cost of clean up. LATimes article: a drum inside blew up and contaminated the storage area and 24 employees. It was near Carlsbad this time.

Is it me, or are the feds trying to destroy New Mexico? When I lived there in the early 2000's, there were major fires started by the feds (to burn off dead wood and brush) that burnt parts of LosAlamos and of course, last year there was a major mine waste pond that was drained down the rivers in the north: last week I read the Navajos are tired of the coverup and are suing.

What is interesting about this article is not the explosion and coverup, or that it will cost two billion dollars to clean up the mess: It is that an attempt to make the storage eco friendly that was behind the accident.

It had operated problem-free for 15 years and was touted by the Energy Department as a major success until the explosion, which involved a drum of of plutonium and americium waste that had been packaged at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. 
The problem was traced to material — actual kitty litter — used to blot up liquids in sealed drums. Lab officials had decided to substitute an organic material for a mineral one. But the new material caused a complex chemical reaction that blew the lid off a drum, sending mounds of white, radioactive foam into the air and contaminating 35% of the underground area.

more at this government webpage: includes lots of diagrams and notes two accidents that February: a truck fire and the waster barrel explosion.
yes, a small amount was released into the air.

the report has several PDF files: This one page 17 (actually page 27) notes adding the organic material made it capable of burning.

No, I didn't read the entire 394 page report to see if regular or clump kitty litter was the problem.

Most cat litter is made or clay or silica, but more "eco friendly" types use plant based materials

The composition of cat litter depends on whether it is clay-based or clumping. Clay-based cat litter is made of an absorbent, granulated clay, while clumping or scoopable litter is made of bentonite and silica. Greener, more eco-friendly options include wheat, sawdust, pine and cedar chips, newspaper and baking soda
and of course the "eco friendly" type can burn.

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