Information about source points of anthropogenic radioactivity

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Table of contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. Alerts
  3. Notices
  4. Public Comments
1. Introduction

RADNET will be posting a number of alerts pertaining to ongoing radioactive contamination controversies. RADNET welcomes any comments, criticisms, clarifications or additional information pertaining to the following notices, alerts or requests for assistance.  Readers please note, alerts are listed in the order they were posted.  Some alerts may no longer be of relevance, but are kept on site as posted as a matter of historical documentation.
2. Alerts

September 11 Notes

An ongoing sequence of alerts, observations, quotations and questions pertaining to the events of September 11th and their relationship to a possible attack on a United States nuclear facility.  Three definitions form the context of the notes, memos and observations that follow.

The Center for Biological Monitoring and The Davistown Museum have been reluctant to post the following information as a result of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.  After recent discussions with a number of interested persons and organizations, and understanding and acknowledging recent federal restrictions on nuclear information of every kind and description, we believe it is in the public interest that the following information at least be a topic of public debate.

Terrorist attack on an operating nuclear reactor?

The following observations are pertinent to evaluating a terrorist attack on an operating nuclear reactor in any location, not just in the United States.  The recent unfortunate escalation of hostilities between the Palestinians and Israelis provides added incentives to ponder the consequences of a terrorist attack on an operating nuclear reactor.  The January 23, 2002 alert below, made by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, fails to consider a much more serious terrorist threat to nuclear reactors than that posed by a hijacked aircraft.  A terrorist attack on an operating reactor with the use of a surface to ground missile armed with a small nuclear warhead could have far more serious consequences.  A number of observations need to be stated about this scenario:

  • The United States military led the world in developing a highly sophisticated repertoire of surface to ground missiles, beginning in the 1960s.
  • During the height of the Cold War, US military planners targeted Soviet nuclear reactors, both military and civilian; Soviet planners probably did likewise.  That such facilities might become the object of a nuclear attack is a concept nearly as old as nuclear power itself.
  • During the 1970s, both US and Russian weapons designers developed sophisticated miniature nuclear weapons, which could be carried in a briefcase.  These weapons had a fissile mass of two to six kilograms of 239Pu and were similar in design to, or could easily be adapted for use on surface to ground missiles.  The sophisticated technology of miniature nuclear weapons was soon elaborated in the form of multiple re-entry warheads whereby one missile could launch twelve to twenty four warheads simultaneously.
  • During the last three decades of the 20th century, a selection of the sophisticated surface to ground missiles developed in the 60s and 70s, has become available to most every world government maintaining a standing army of any significance.
  • The breakup of the Soviet Union has provided the opportunity for the world-wide dissemination of fissile material originally produced by the Russian weapons production installations.
  • The advent of the internet and the large number of students from every nation at American and European universities has provided many opportunities for the dissemination of technical information useful in the construction of nuclear weapons.
  • The destruction of the World Trade Center by terrorists armed only with box cutters has ushered in a new era of terrorism.
  • US nuclear facilities offer a broad range of targets for groups of terrorists as small as one or two individuals.
  • With heightened airport and airspace security, the scenario outlined below by the NRC of an attack on a nuclear facility by a hijacked airliner is highly unlikely.
  • Much more likely is an attack on a US nuclear reactor by terrorists armed with:
    • U-haul truck
    • surface to ground missile now available on the black market for +/- one million dollars (less sophisticated missiles are available at a cheaper price, but probably wouldn't be adequate to carry a small nuclear powered warhead, total weight 10 to 30 pounds)
    • Two to six kilograms of fissile material obtained from _____ and fashioned into a nuclear warhead by ____________ (sophisticated students of nuclear physics with the appropriate ideological motivation).

  • The result of a terrorist attack on an operating nuclear reactor with a small nuclear weapon:
    • Total vaporization of the reactor vessel, fuel assemblies and spent fuel pool.  The entire reactor vessel inventory of both short and long-lived radioisotopes and the entire inventory of long-lived radioisotopes in the spent fuel pool have the potential to be dispersed regionally, continent-wide and hemispherically.  The question then arises, what is the source term of the resulting plume (A. inventories B. pathways C. destinations)
A. Inventories: How would the dispersal of this inventory compare with Chernobyl?

The inventory released in such a scenario would be approximately:

  • Relatively harmless noble gasses: the same source term (1 x 108 Ci) as released at Chernobyl
  • Radioiodine: 5 to 10 times greater than the +/- 10 million Curies (Ci) released at Chernobyl
  • Radiocesium: +/- 100 times greater than the 1 to 2 million Ci released at Chernobyl
  • Other isotopes: +/- 50 times greater than released at Chernobyl
It should be noted there is a wide variety of estimates of isotopes released by the Chernobyl accident.  For the indicator nuclide 137Cs, release estimates in the various reports on Chernobyl begin at 1.2 million Ci (Institut de Protection et de Surete Nucleaire), continue with 2.7 million (Aarkrog, 1994) and also include percentage estimates as high as 40%.  A typical US nuclear reactor contains at least 20 million Ci of 137Cs on site within the reactor vessel and spent fuel pool.  (See the DOE integrated database.)  The Chernobyl reactor may not have contained as much radiocesium at the time of the accident in 1986 as do US reactors in 2002. 

B. The pathway would be a tropospheric wide distribution of the reactor vessel and spent fuel pool inventory by wet and dry deposition.

The Chernobyl accident demonstrated the hemispheric impact of a tropospheric accident.  Unlike nuclear weapons tests, which forced large quantities of radioactivity into the stratosphere, the primary pathway of Chernobyl-derived radioactivity was within the troposphere where it was subject to relatively rapid deposition by rainfall events.  The data accumulated from the Chernobyl accident demonstrates a world wide distribution of radioactivity with some of the highest levels of contamination ranging from hundreds to thousands of kilometers away.  After deposition on foliar, ground and man-made surfaces, Chernobyl-derived fallout followed the well known pathways to human consumption, as would a terrorist-derived plume.

C. The destinations of most importance for radioisotopes derived from a terrorist attack would include:

  • A passing airborne plume of extremely dangerous, highly radioactive gasses and particulates.  The short-lived isotopes in this plume would be so intense during the first 24 hours of plume passage that it is unlikely that there would be any human survivors in areas where the plume remained at ground level due to adverse weather conditions.
  • After the first 24 hours following core and spent fuel pool vaporization, the most intensive short-lived isotopes would have dissipated and the isotope of most significance would be 131I.  During the next two weeks, this isotope would be among those providing the greatest danger to the general public due to the ease and speed with which it is bioaccumulated in the food chain.
  • After a period of two weeks, longer-lived isotopes such as 134-137Cs, 90Sr, 106Ru, 144Ce and 241Pu would provide the greatest hazard, most especially from ground shine, tracking and later from bioaccumulation in the food chain.
  • The long term contamination of the food chain, including forage and food crops, would continue for years after plume passage.
  • Re-suspension and bioaccumulation of ground deposited long-lived spent fuel isotopes would provide a significant hazard to attack survivors for thousands of years.
What locations are the likely targets of a terrorist attack on a US reactor?

The most likely targets for attacks on US reactors are:

  • Those facilities located in the western United States where prevailing winds would bring the contamination to the bread basket of the United States in the midwest.
  • Facilities in or near urban areas, especially in the central and western United States, where a U-haul truck carrying a surface to ground missile wouldn't be noticeable.
  • Facilities in valleys where nearby roads provide access and easy targeting.
  • Operating nuclear reactors on the east coast such as Seabrook or Millstone are much less likely terrorist targets due to the direction of prevailing winds, which would tend to drive the desired fatal plume of vaporized radioisotopes out over the open ocean, greatly reducing the impact of the attack on the United States while exacerbating the impact on Europe.
What could be done to prevent a terrorist attack on a nuclear reactor using a surface to ground missile armed with a nuclear warhead?
  • Nothing.
  • Close all 103 US nuclear reactors.
  • Construct and elaborate surface to air missile defense system around each reactor.


Chapin, Douglas M., Cohen, Karl P., Davis, W. Kenneth, Kintner, Edwin E., Koch, Leonard J., Landis, John W., Levenson, Milton, Mandil, I. Harry, Pate, Zack T., Rockwell, Theodore, Schriesheim, Alan, Simpson, John W., Squire, Alexander, Starr, Chauncey, Stone, Henry E., Taylor, John J., Todreas, Neil E., Wolfe, Bertram and Zebroski, Edwin L. (September 20, 2002). Nuclear safety:
Nuclear power plants and their fuel as terrorist targets. Science. 297. pg. 1997-1999.

Wald, Matthew L. (September 20, 2002). Threats and responses: Reactor vulnerability: Experts say nuclear plants can survive jetliner crash. New York Times. Section A, pg. 17.


Definitions and background information


Previous Alerts and Notices

(February 2, 2002)

Here is the text of a memo from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission warning of plans for a terrorist attack on a nuclear power plant:



FBI headquarters has provided the following information to all field offices. During debriefings of an al Qaeda senior operative, he stated there would (be) a second airline attack in the U.S. The attack was already planned and three individuals were on the ground in the states recruiting non-Arabs to take part in the attack. The plan is to fly a commercial aircraft into a nuclear power plant to be chosen by the team on the ground. The plan including diverting the mission to any tall building if a military aircraft intercepts the plane. No specific timeline or location was given for the attack. As of 1/23/02, one NRC licensee, Columbia Generating Station, had been contacted by their local FBI representative. It is unknown whether other NRC licensee(s) will be contacted as well. FBI headquarters cannot at this time, provide a complete assessment of the credibility of the information. No additional actions are requested in response to this advisory at this time.
In the light of the continuing high level of threat, NRC reaffirms its request that any information regarding threats or suspicious activities should be reported immediately to the NRC operations center, 301-816-6100. This advisory does not supersede any previous advisories presently in effect. You will be advised of any pertinent changes as soon as possible.


March 13, 2001, the Center for Biological Monitoring received a call that a radioactive plume had been detected in the Ukraine around mid-day eastern standard time in the U.S.  This had been reported on Swedish radio.  Anyone with information about this report please call or fax us (207) 288-5126 voice and (207) 288-2725 fax.

(June 1999)

Visitors to this site please take notice of the following advisory
Due to the sloppy and hasty decommissioning techniques, inadequate historic site assessment and deficiencies in radiological surveillance techniques and databases at the Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company in Wiscasset, ME, the Center for Biological Monitoring is issuing the following advisory for the possible remobilization of hot particles, CRUD, activation products and spent fuel-derived fission products.  These include the long-lived isotopes in spent fuel, in order of their preponderance:
137Cs (1/2 T = 30 years), 90Sr (1/2 T = 29 years), 241Pu (1/2 T =  14 years), 242Cu (1/2 T = 162 days), 238Pu (1/2 T = 89 years), 240Pu (1/2 T = 6,260 years), 239Pu (1/2 T = 24,400 years) and 241Am (1/2 T = 458 years)
For more information on this subject see:
Brack, H. G., ed. A Review of Radiological Surveillance Reports of Waste Effluents in Marine Pathways at the Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company at Wiscasset, Maine--- 1970-1984: An Annotated Bibliography. Hulls Cove, ME: Pennywheel Press, 1986. (pg. 5-8).
Center for Biological Monitoring. Patterns of Noncompliance: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and The Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company: Generic and Site-specific Deficiencies in Radiological Surveillance Programs. Brack, H.G., Ed., Hulls Cove, ME: Pennywheel Press, 1998.
Environmental Protection Agency. (1982). Draft environmental impact statement: Environmental standards for management and disposal of spent nuclear fuel, high-level and transuranic radioactive wastes. Report No. 520/1-82-025. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington D.C.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (1992). Integrated data base for 1992: U.S. spent fuel and radioactive waste inventories, projections and characteristics. Technical Report DOE/RW-0006, Rev. 8. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN.  http://www.em.doe.gov/idb95

Comments on this alert: please send email to: cbm@davistownmuseum.org

The strong tidal sweep of the Sheepscot back river combines with the labyrinth of coves, islands and river systems to allow MYAPC liquid effluent discharges and runoff to have the potential to impact a wide area of sensitive marine ecosystems in the coastal area between the Kennebec and Penobscot rivers.  The quantities, pathways and current locations of fuel assembly-derived fission products and other contaminants remain essentially unknown.  The first major decommissioning activity to impact the sensitive marine ecosystems in this area were the 1998 reactor water systems flush which released unknown quantities of radioactivity to the licensed radioactive waste disposal area (sewer) of Montsweag Bay.  Current decommissioning activities that also have or will impact this environment include the breaching of the reactor containment for large component removal (the breaching is completed) and the reactor vessel segmentation, which will commence shortly.  These activities combine with recent heavy rainfall events of the last few weeks to provide pathways for the spread of fission products such as 137Cs, 239Pu, 241Pu, 241Am and other long-lived isotopes over a wide area.

Most residents living in the area around the Maine Yankee facility appear to be satisfied with licensee, state, NRC and Friends of the Coast assertions of the relative safety of these decommissioning activities.  If you are in the extreme minority of persons living in or visiting this area who share our concerns about the undocumented releases of radioactivity from this facility you may find it prudent to:


September 30, 1999, 10:35 AM Japanese standard time: Criticality accident at a Japanese Uranium Processing Plant.

The accident at the Tokaimura complex is actually a relatively small nuclear accident involving 16 kg. of highly enriched uranium poured into a settling basin designed for only 2.4 kg.  This compares with potential  accidents at nuclear reactors which could theoretically involve as much as 50 to 70 tons of uranium, or at nuclear weapons fabrication or storage sites where the amount of fissile material could be an order of magnitude higher than a worse case accident at a reactor site.

This accident was initially classified by the IAEA as a level 4 accident (7 being the worst, e.g. Chernobyl.)  The Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC) has noted their skepticism of the IAEA accident classification, suggesting it might be a 5.  A level 4 accident is an event "without significant offsite risk."  Since almost no information is available about the source term (isotopic release inventory) of this accident, CNIC feels it is premature to suggest that it is only a level 4 accident.

Under any conditions, because only a small amount of fissile material was involved in this accident, any significant impact from the plume passage would be limited to an area around the facility extending a few kilometers to, at most, a few hundred kilometers.  Most of the activity from the intense radiation field surrounding the accident site was a result of shine from the enriched uranium in the settling basin.  The accident was controled by draining water from around the settling basin by breaking the pipes leading to the basin (remote control remediation efforts failed) at which time ambient radiation levels, which had been 10 to 15 thousand times above normal, returned to "near normal."  While no specific information is available about the isotopic footprint of the resulting plume, because only a small amount of fissile material was involved, extensive contamination by long-lived isotopes such as 137Cs in the form of ground contamination is unlikely.

For more information on this small accident link to RAD 3:  Major Nuclear Accidents-in-Progress.  Information on the isotopic content of the accident plume will be posted as data becomes available (this may take months to years.)


The Center for Biological Monitoring would appreciate any data (or information on where to obtain this data) on the air deposition in microbecquerels / cubic meter and ground deposition in bequerels / square meter.


"Consumers' consistent failure to pay for electricity supplies has left nuclear plants unable to pay their employees on time and modernize aging equipment." (Associated Press Worldstream, Feb. 8, 1999).  "The industry is deteriorating on all sides - economic, technological, organizational and personnel." (BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, Feb. 10, 1999).  The existing facilities are unable to meet current electricity demand, consumers are unable to pay and reactor safety is compromised.


These warnings have been excerpted from the following article:

(December 22, 1998). International concern at radioactive smuggling growing. Nuclear Engineering International. pg. 8.


Reprinted below is a notorized statement by Jane Rickover.

"In May, 1983, my father-in-law, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, told me that at the time of the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor accident, a full report was commissioned by President Jimmy Carter. He [my father-in-law] said that the report, if published in its entirety, would have destroyed the civilian nuclear power industry because the accident at Three Mile Island was infinitely more dangerous than was ever made public. He told me that he had used his enormous personal influence with President Carter to persuade him to publish the report only in a highly "diluted" form. The President himself had originally wished the full report to be made public. In November, 1985, my father-in-law told me that he had come to deeply regret his action in persuading President Carter to suppress the most alarming aspects of that report."

[Signed] Jane Rickover

Notorized by William F. Lamson Q.C.
Notory Public for the Province of Ontario
Toronto, this 18th day of July A.D. 1986


RADNET would appreciate notification from anyone of where we can obtain the FULL copy of President Carter's 1979 report - not the partial report that was released to the public. Also please advise us of any information you might have about this report.


In the summer of 1997, a proposal surfaced from the owners of the Trojan Nuclear Plant in Washington state (closed in 1992) to site their reactor vessel in an uncontained land burial at the Hanaford Reservation with all the Greater Than Class C reactor vessel components intact in one 1,200+ ton "package." A final decision on this proposal is expected from the NRC in the spring of 1998. This proposed rescheduling of reactor vessel GTCC wastes as class C wastes (by averaging all reactor vessel class A, class C and GTCC components together) has set a precedent which if implemented will be followed in most if not all future NRC licensee decommissioning scenarios. Recently both the Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company and the Connecticut Yankee Haddam Neck facility have proposed the possibility of also siting their reactor vessels as one intact class C "package" at the Barnwell, S.C. "low-level waste" landfill. This development should be of interest to anyone with an interest in what constitutes "low-level waste" and its consequential siting in existing low-level waste facilities (e.g. Betty Nevada) or those proposed for future development (Ward Valley, CA; Sierra Blanca, TX; etc.) For further information on this proposal, please see our postings on the Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company as a case study in RAD 12: Twilight of the Nuclear Era: Part 5: Decommissioning Debacle.


"Grid to rod fretting" has been identified as the cause of leaky fuel assemblies at the Maine Yankee Atomic Power Station in Wiscasset, Maine. (See the annotations of the Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company: Restart Readiness Plan in RAD 12: 2-E: Public Safety Bibliography.)

MYAPC and NRC reports indicate the most damaged fuel assemblies were manufactured by Westinghouse, Inc. The fretting (cutting into) occurs when the reactor vessel grids holding the fuel assemblies rub against the assemblies, gradually wearing down "frets" which allow fuel leakage. Concerned citizens in the vicinity of nuclear stations using Westinghouse fuel assemblies (or in the vicinity of any nuclear power station) should be alerted to the vulnerability of Westinghouse assemblies to damage by grid to rod fretting. Search NRC files for more information (See RAD 13: RADLINKS: Part II D-5). Check licensee inspection reports, licensee event reports, etc. (posted 4/3/97).


RADNET has chosen the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons production site northwest of Denver, CO as the location of the largest current nuclear accident-in-progress within the continental United States. Other locations including Hanford (Washington), the Savannah River Plant, the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory, and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have been the locations of much larger uncontained releases of radioactive effluents to the environment then the Rocky Flats site. No location, however possesses the unique combinations of large onsite inventories of 239,240Pu, high winds in a dry environment, and close proximity to highly populated areas. The chronic low-level release of plutonium to the environment at this location began with the instigation of weapons production in the late 1950's, and was exacerbated by three major fires in the late 1960's as well as an additional 600 minor fires which spread plutonium throughout the region (see New York Times 12/11/96, p. A16). Significant quantities of plutonium have been accidentally spilled or deliberately disposed of in soils within the facility boundaries; additional significant quantities of plutonium now reside in the duct work and other components of at least 5 large weapons production related buildings which remain on site at this location. The total health physics impact of the chronic release of low-levels of plutonium from this facility is particularly dependent on future environmental remediation practices which have the potential to terminate, or to exacerbate the source term release from this accident-in-progress. Of particular interest will be the success or failure of DOE sponsored environmental management activities to deconstruct the buildings containing the greatest amount of plutonium contamination. The prospect of additional fire events pose the threat of enhancing the existing plutonium plume, which would spread additional quantities of plutonium throughout the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountain region. Also of significant interest will be the success or failure of future remediation activities in preventing the resuspension and further spread of the plutonium now contained in soil throughout the Rocky Flats complex. Successful remediation activities in the next decade or two may allow the reclassification of the Rocky Flats plutonium plume from its current status as the most dangerous continental source point of anthropogenic radioactivity to one of less significance. Such a reclassification is highly dependent upon the availability and the rapid and efficient expenditure of large quantities of money (Federal tax dollars) in a successful remediation effort. Given the economically challenged status of the federal budget in general and DOE environmental remediation programs in particular, as well as the questionable relationship between funds expended versus remediation success achieved, it is unlikely that sufficient federal funding will be available to provide the basis for mitigation of this nuclear accident-in-progress. Even if funds are available, will remediation efforts be successful? Due to the long radioactive half life of 239Pu (1/2 T = 24,240 years), the Rocky Flats plutonium plume has the potential to continue to spread contamination for several millennium. Under any conditions it is unlikely, except during the few hours of a serious fire, that the plutonium released during this accident will exceed regulatory guidelines. This may be the only condolence in a nuclear accident scenario the primary impact of which is beyond remediation.


RADNET reviewers are solicited for any additional information and reports which are not already cited in RAD 11: Major Plume Source Points, Section 4: US Military Source Points: Rocky Flats.


Persons concerned with a recent Dept. of Energy decision to dispose of excess weapons production derived plutonium through a dual track process please note the following information. The Dept. of Energy has suggested disposing of excess plutonium not only via vitrification and burial of weapons grade plutonium, but also incorporated into a mixed oxide fuel (MOX) to be burned in commercial reactors. The objective of both of these disposal plans has been to keep this plutonium out of the hands of terrorists. While the plan to use vitrification to dispose of excess plutonium goes back several decades, the more recent DOE decision to mix the plutonium with uranium and burn the resulting fuel in commercial reactors (about 3% of the MOX fuel is plutonium) has a number of controversial consequences. Only a few (12) reactor owners have expressed interest in using the MOX alternative, which requires expensive facility adaptations which would have to be funded by an act of Congress. More importantly, burning the MOX fuel only eliminates a small percentage of the plutonium, creating huge additional inventories of high-level wastes. A third complication has recently been revealed by 2 Los Alamos scientists: plutonium from warheads contains approximately 1% gallium, which was added during warhead production to facilitate the manufacturing process. If this gallium remains in the plutonium incorporated into the MOX fuel, resulting gallium laced products of the fission process will attack the zirconium fuel cladding in commercial reactors causing cladding deterioration and additional significant safety and waste production problems. As a result of this potentially adverse chemical reaction, plutonium destined for use as MOX fuel has to be reprocessed for gallium extraction prior to incorporation in MOX fuel. This recent development further complicates an already difficult situation. Russia owns huge quantities of surplus plutonium left over from the end of the cold war; the objective of the DOE program was to mollify the Russians who disapprove of the vitrification and burial of such a valuable substance as weapons grade plutonium, which they also intend to burn in a MOX fuel scenario. A full copy of the Los Alamos Report by Dr. James Toevs and Carl Beard has been printed in the newsletter of the IEER (Institute for Energy and Environmental Research) and is available at URL: http://www.ieer.org/ieer/latest/gallium.htmlor see RAD 13: RADLINKS II-A: IEER. Arjun Makhijani also has two reports summarizing the plutonium-MOX issue. These are presently available electronically at the same site and are also cited in RAD 11: part 2: General Bibliography; see Makhijani: Heading off the plutonium peril, as well as Makhijani: Technical aspects of the use of weapons plutonium as a reactor fuel. It should be pointed out that while the MOX fuel alternative is extremely unsatisfactory, expensive and risky, the vitrification plan, while technologically feasible, requires huge quantities of scarce public funds which are unlikely to be available in quantities sufficient to vitrify the tons of plutonium which are one of the many legacies of the nuclear arms race. Needless to say, a final geological depository of vitrified plutonium is as elusive as the funding necessary for its construction. (posted 2/3/97, updated 4/17/97).


The Savannah River Technology Center (SRTC) is the leader in the development of environmental remediation technologies. One of the key remediation technologies discussed in the SRTC home page is "air stripping" whereby plumes of contaminated groundwater are partially cleansed by pumping the contaminated water to the surface and using the air stripping technology to remove by evaporation most of the volatile organic compounds (VOC's). The editor of RADNET would like to make reference to Chemical Fallout: Current Research on Persistent Pesticides edited by Miller and Berg, 1969, in which R. W. Riesbrough and others documented VOC's including polychlorinated biphenyl's in Antarctic sea birds and marine fish in the San Francisco Bay and other Pacific locations. The VOC's were presumed to have entered the atmosphere as vapors during the manufacturing process or by gradual volatilization or incineration. (pg. 11). Since the publication of this classic in the field of chemical fallout studies, there has been a growing awareness of the important role weapons production has played in the proliferation of chemical fallout source points. A review of Nuclear Wastelands (Makhijani, 1995, see RAD 11: Part 5, Major Plume Source Points) as well as many of the publications of the Department of Energy including the BEMR, and of information provided in the SRTC home page indicates that in retrospect U.S. and Russian military weapons production facilities which utilized evaporating pits, ponds, lagoons and massive uncontained releases of mixed wastes containing large quantities of VOC's have been a major source of chemical fallout. As of 1997, residents of Maine as well as many other locations in the northern hemisphere have been or are being warned to limit consumption of almost all varieties of fresh water fish and some marine species which migrate to and spawn in fresh water sources due to their bioaccumulation of these volatile chemicals.

WARNING: the SRTC and other DOE environmental management departments are beginning an intensive program of groundwater remediation using air stripping technologies to remove a lengthy list of VOC's. The DOE, the DOD and the EPA as well as private vendors also make extensive use of clay lined pits for evaporating VOC's. Evaporation of volatile organic compounds including PCB's, benzenes, trichloroethylene and other dangerous chemicals ensures a hemispheric wide distribution of these contaminants. These environmental remediation programs, many of which are in their infancy, will result in the efficient distribution of these contaminants throughout the biosphere. In retrospect, pollution from agricultural and non-military industrial source points of VOC's may play a less significant role in the world-wide spread of chemical fallout than the huge weapons production-derived inventories of VOC's which are now becoming available for hemispheric wide dispersion.


As noted in RAD 11, Parts 4 and 11, there is an anomaly in data pertaining to commercial nuclear power production of spent fuel wastes versus military weapons production of spent fuel and high-level wastes. The DOE Integrated Database report for 1994 indicates US commercial nuclear power plants have accumulated 30,200,000,000 curies of spent fuel high-level waste as of Jan. 1, 1996 compared to an incomplete inventory of weapons production high-level wastes (at only four DOE/DOD locations) of 957,900,000 curies. In view of the commercial production of plutonium 239 in power plant spent fuel (141 metric tons) versus DOE/DOD production of plutonium 239 for weapons (111 metric tons), additional information about the quantities and locations of UNCONTAINED military spent fuel and high-level waste is urgently needed. RADNET suggests the following categorization of contained and uncontained military spent fuel and high-level waste production:


RADNET reviewers are solicited for any additional information, documentation or opinions which would assist in reconciling the discrepancy in commercial spent fuel inventories versus military high-level waste and spent fuel inventories.



In the first half of the first decade of United States commercial nuclear power production, defective fuel assemblies were ubiquitous in many nuclear power plants in this country as well as abroad. Comments about these defective fuel assemblies appear in many NRC and NRC licensee publications and annual environmental reports. Due to inadequate and in fact nearly non-existent NRC environmental monitoring standards, the environmental impact of these defective fuel assemblies is virtually unknown. Many of these defective fuel assemblies are stored in the spent fuel pools of US nuclear power plants (e.g. MYAPC) and will pose an additional costly problem at the time of decommissioning.

The NRC is currently planning a research program to evaluate the exposure of high burnup fuel cladding to a simulated Loss-Of Coolant Accident (LOCA). Recently concerns have been raised as to whether fuel cladding subjected to high burnup conditions could fail at lower levels of energy deposition than earlier assumed by NRC regulators. NRC licensees are currently attempting to extend the burnup time of the uranium fuel for the purpose of extracting more power output. The proposed NRC testing is an attempt to determine if it is safe to extend fuel burnup; this research program may shed some light on not only extended fuel burnup, but whether unrecognized dangers for fuel cladding failure previously existed, especially during a reactivity insertion accident scenario (See NRC regulations in 10 CFR Part 50 Section 46: Fuel cladding temperatures should not exceed 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit; total oxidation of fuel cladding must not exceed 17% of the cladding thickness). Fuel cladding properties change at higher burnup temperatures: what dangers does this pose? What pre-existing dangers are posed by fuel cladding which will fail at lower levels of energy deposition than previously assumed? What dangers are currently posed by the pin holes in Maine Yankee fuel cladding which are apparently the source of 129I leakage in the reactor vessel (1/3/97)? The NRC research program on fuel cladding will be executed by the Argonne National Laboratory.

Also see the previous RADNET alert on grid to rod fretting in Westinghouse fuel assemblies. RADNET has insufficient information to determine whether the recent leakage in MYAPC Westinghouse-produced fuel assemblies is due entirely to grid to rod fretting, or whether MYAPC fuel from other vendors is subject to pin-hole leaks for reasons other than grid to rod fretting.


RADNET reviewers are solicited for any additional information and reports which document the environmental impact of these defective fuel assemblies. 


Americium 241 (1/2 t = 432y) is a decay product of plutonium 241 (1/2 t = 14.5y). Plutonium 241 is a ubiquitous contaminant of the fission process. The DOE Integrated Database for 1994 lists spent fuel inventory of 241Pu as of Jan. 1, 1996 at 2,490,000,000 curies. RADNET uses a factor of 5 (times DOE Integrated Database commercial spent fuel nuclide inventories) to estimate worldwide anthropogenic inventories of radioactive contamination of any spent fuel nuclide. (RADNET adds a factor of 2 for foreign nuclear power facilities and a factor of 2 for all military weapons production contaminants). World wide inventories of plutonium 241 are now in excess of 12 billion curies. The DOE Integrated Database lists the current commercial spent fuel inventory of americium 241 at 36,900,000 curies (world wide inventories in excess of 180,000,000 curies). Numerous reports annotated in RADNET warn that americium 241 will become an important source of exposure as plutonium 241 decays. RADNET reviewers are alerted that marine concentration ratios for americium in plankton, benthic algae, benthic macrophytes, benthic invertebrates, and fish are ten times higher than for plutonium. See RADNET Section 14, Hanson W. G. (1980) pg. 620. Americium 241 is thus a highly mobile, hemispherically dispersed, biologically significant radionuclide which will constitute a significant source of exposure in the next millennium.


RADNET reviewers are solicited for any additional information and reports which document the environmental impact of increasing levels of americium 241 contamination of the environment and which are not already listed in RADNET.


Monitoring by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) of lobsters, seaweed, mussels, winkles, and limpets in the North Sea near Sellafield, England has identified a rapid increase in technetium 99 levels since 1993. A December 14, 1996 report in the Daily Telegraph indicates the source of the technetium is British Nuclear Fuel's EARP Plant, recently opened at approximately opened at the same time as the Thorp fuel reprocessing plant. The Daily Telegraph report, quoting MAFF data printed in the environmental journal The Ends, indicates 99Tc has increased 40 fold in lobsters since 1993, and contamination is now 13 times higher in seafood than allowed by European Union (EU) standards. Technetium is a radionuclide with relatively low abundance in commercial spent fuel: the DOE Integrated Database indicates a cumulative total of 345,000 curies in US commercial spent fuel inventories. Questions RADNET would like to pose are: why are such large amounts of this long lived (1/2 T = 210,000 years), low Mev radionuclide being produced by this Sellafield facility? What characteristics make this obscure contaminant so biologically available? More information about the technetium pulse originating from Sellafield will be posted as soon as RADNET can obtain more information from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.


RADNET reviewers are solicited for any additional information and reports which document the release of technetium 99 from Sellafield and/or any other plume source point.
3. Notices

Most notices posted in this section by RADNET will pertain to the Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company in Wiscasset. RADNET readers please refer to the Nuclear Information Resource Service (NIRS) for notices pertaining to developments with respect to nuclear issues on the national level (RADNET Section 13: RADLINKS Part II-A).


RADNET is waiting for the release of the NRC Office of Investigation (OI) report on the MYAPC power uprate scam. This report has been referred to the Department of Justice, Office of the US Attorney in Maine for review and possible prosecution. As soon as the Office of US Attorney decides upon what course of action to take, the report will be released for public scrutiny and will be reviewed and annotated by RADNET. The editor of RADNET would like to make the observation that, based upon conversations with this office, the Office of the US Attorney in Maine was and is among the most uninformed public bureaucracies with respect to nuclear issues including evasions of waste disposal and decommissioning funding, nuclear safety issues, and in general the ongoing technical and procedural problems now confronting the nuclear industry. Successful prosecution by the Department of Justice of the MYAPC and the YAEC for the alleged charges of wrongdoing now pending is extremely unlikely. Diversion of attention away from the criminal activities involved in the illegal power uprate at the Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company is a likely result of the lengthy review process now underway at the Office of the US Attorney in Maine.
4. Public Comments

This section is provided for the public to add their comments, observations, insults, jokes, etc. of a favorable or unfavorable nature. Please identify yourself to the RADNET editors and provide an email address which will be published with your text. Indicate if your name can also be published. No obscene information will be accepted.

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