October 24, 1997, New York Times
Report Faults Energy Department on
Managing Nuclear Site
By MATTHEW L. WALD
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
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
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]