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COMMUNITY VIEWPOINT: The mismanagement of Uranium 233

I have three reports concerning U-233 and U-235. The first is from the Institute for policy studies, and contains some eye-opening information.

“A shocking report about the U.S. government’s mismanagement of a dangerous bomb-grade nuclear material that they now want to bury straight into the ground.

The United States has created a problem called uranium-233, a material suitable for the core of a nuclear weapon and among the most dangerous materials on the planet.

If as little as 19 pounds of uranium-233 fell into the wrong hands, it could make an explosion that could destroy all of Washington D.C. or another city.

“The energy department has indicated it plans to dispose of nearly 2,000 pounds of these concentrated nuclear explosive materials by simply putting them in a landfill.”

The second report is Environmental Programs by U.S. Doe/NNSA Nevada Field Office, and states:

“Typical low-level waste includes materials such as rags, papers, filters. Equipment, discarded protective clothing and construction debris. Low-level waste does not include high-level waste, spent nuclear fuel, transuranic waste or radioactive by-product materials.”

The third is from the Las Vegas Sun about a meeting with Gov. Brian Sandoval and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

“Why is U-233 appropriate for shallow burial at NNSS?” Read one of the questions in a memo to brief Gov. Sandoval of the issue. “DOE’s answer to date – ‘because we can’ – is unacceptable.” Another quote: “In 1988, Oak Ridge scientists considered these U-233 materials unsuitable for shallow land burial.”

But what of the danger of terrorists, foreign nationals or others trying to get their hands on the waste while it’s being transported, state officials wanted to know. Ready for this?

The DOE’s answer, in short, was “Don’t worry, it’s so radioactive that even terrorists would have a dangerous time obtaining it. And the difficulty of extracting the radioactive isotopes from the containers is so great that it doesn’t pose much of a security threat.

Since it is highly radioactive, workers (or terrorists) engaged in the removal and processing of this material would be subject to high radiation doses,” DOE officials wrote in an email to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office.

The first meeting of the Nevada Site Specific Advisory Board, the panel of Nevada stakeholders created by the DOE, didn’t go well, with the members expressing worry about the transportation and whether shallow burial was appropriate.

“After learning what I have about U-233, I certainly do not believe this waste is low-risk and disposal of this substance at Area 5 should require further investigation,” board member Michael Moore said.

My own theory is this: It’s a ploy to reopen the Yucca Mountain project by scaring the crap out of us.

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