October 24, 1997, New York Times

Report Faults Energy Department on Managing Nuclear Site


WASHINGTON -- The Energy Department spent $50 million on a nuclear waste processing plant in Ohio that was supposed to cost only $16 million, but even before it could handle radioactive materials, the heart of the plant was destroyed in an accident because of poor planning, according to an independent report on widespread mismanagement at the department.

The report, by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, a nonprofit group based here, said a subcontractor chose metal pipes that were destroyed in a test run with a nonradioactive waste substitute, even though it was well known in the industry that the type of metal used could not withstand lead, which was present in the waste and the substitute.

The study, based mostly on Government documents, found that employees at the plant, at Fernald near Cincinnati, had pointed out the problem before the accident, in December of last year, but that no one in authority took notice. . . .

As the report was made public, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it was approving the opening of one of the Energy Department's biggest environmental efforts, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, near Carlsbad, N.M., for storage of plutonium and other "transuranic" elements, artificial materials that are heavier than uranium. . . .

For example, the department proposes to allow a level of plutonium contamination at a plant near Denver that is nearly 40 times the level it agreed to achieve at Rongelap and Johnston Atolls in the Pacific, where hydrogen bombs were tested in the 1950's.

In the case of the processing plant near Cincinnati, a pilot plant was rendered useless by an accident last Dec. 26. The part that failed was a machine designed to take radioactive wastes from the earliest days of the nuclear weapons program and to melt them into chunks of glass.

The melter was being tested with nonradioactive simulated waste. During the test, a "bubbler tube" that was to help stir the wastes in a melting pot was eaten away by lead in the simulated waste, causing the molten mixture to leak out. But the melter would probably not have worked well anyway, the report said, because of other design flaws. . . . 09:17 p.m Oct 23, 1997 Eastern U.S. to release more atomic bomb test footage By James Pierpoint http://guide-p.infoseek.com/Content?arn=a2868LBY602reulb-19971023&qt=%22nuclear+weapon%22+nuclear+nuke+&lk=noframes&col=NW&nh=25&kt=A&ak=allnews HOLLYWOOD, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Call it the blasts from the past. The U.S. Department of Energy next month plans to release films of U.S. nuclear weapons tests taken by a secret team of filmmakers that have never publicly been shown before. . . . A first set of film was released earlier this year but the new set will show atmospheric tests and big bomb explosions publicly for the first time. . . . ``I was so amazed at the beautiful colors -- the pinks, the oranges, the reds -- that I totally forgot that the shock wave was coming. It almost knocked me on my rear,'' said cameraman Pat Bradley, 74, of the first of dozens of blasts he filmed. . . . An estimated 6,500 films and clips, most of them produced by the squadron, were locked away after physicists learned to calculate the yield and composition of the bombs from the size of the mushroom cloud and intensity of the fireball. . . . ``Somebody called up from one of the other agencies and said 'Where did you get that film from. We thought we destroyed them all,''' Energy Department declassification director Bryon Siebert said of SURVIVING FOOTAGE OF TESTS OF PROTOTYPE NUCLEAR WEAPONS DESIGNED TO BE CARRIED INTO BATTLE BY SOLDIERS. [Emphasis added] [Heavily edited]