Breaking Bad: A Nuclear Waste Disaster

Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP)

Carlsbad, New Mexico – A vast salt mine under the New Mexico desert was the Department of Energy’s last nuclear waste storage solution. On Valentines night, one of the now suspect 500 waste drums from DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) blast open inside DOE’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). Casks filled with 3.2 million cubic feet of deadly radioactive wastes remain buried at the crippled plant. That huge facility was rendered useless. Investigators believe the waste drums from Los Alamos were incorrectly packed under DOE supervision and one of them exploded.

“As part of the ongoing efforts to identify the cause of the event at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, we are evaluating all possible causes including the waste packages themselves,” a statement issued by DOE says. “All possible scenarios will be thoroughly investigated until the cause of the event has been determined.” Investigators are examining “the possibility that a chemical reaction may have occurred within a drum, causing a potential release.”

The disaster at WIPP is rooted in careless contractors and lack of DOE oversight, according to a DOE report released on April 24. Continue reading Breaking Bad: A Nuclear Waste Disaster

Chanute Air Force Base – the Air Force’s Legacy of Lies in the Heartland

US Geological Survey photograph of the former Chanute Air Force Base, 2008

RANTOUL, IL – Chanute Air Force Base, closed for more than two decades, remains an environmental threat to the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of Illinois residents. It is a case study of how the Air Force and Pentagon use their national security clout to break agreements that can break local communities.

Chanute’s History

The United States Army decided in 1917 that East Central Illinois was the ideal location for its third training airfield to support the World War I effort. It intended Chanute Field (later renamed Chanute Air Force Base) to be a temporary installation. But like so many other government installations, it survived and grew, largely because it served a practical function. It was centrally located and had superior training officers and distinguished alumni. The temporary barracks of the 1930s became permanent during World War II. Continue reading Chanute Air Force Base – the Air Force’s Legacy of Lies in the Heartland

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear EPA Coal Case

Mingo Logan

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Supreme Court refused on Monday to hear the Mingo Logan case, which revolves around whether the Environmental Protection Agency may veto a dumping permit already granted by the Army Corps of Engineers. The case now goes back to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

At issue is whether the EPA may stop Arch Coal from building a huge mountaintop mine in Logan County, W.Va.  St. Louis-based Arch Coal, one of the world’s largest producers of coal, according to its website, is the parent company of Mingo Logan Coal Co.

Arch Coal’s Spruce No. 1 mine is located in south western West Virginia, an area of Appalachia that has been ravaged by mountaintop mining. In this controversial method of extracting coal, miners dynamite hundreds of vertical feet of mountaintop to expose the coal beneath. Continue reading Supreme Court Refuses to Hear EPA Coal Case

CIA Cover Story Gives Birth to Deep Ocean Mining

K-129, surfaced-Azorian (top); Polymetallic Nodules (bottom, USGS)

Resting deep on the seabed of the Pacific are two symbols of oceanic politics, one decaying as time ticks by; the other slowly growing at a pace measured in millions of years.

The first symbol is the salvage site of Soviet submarine K-129. Once it prowled the seas with three nuclear missiles, but suddenly she and her crew were lost to the depths. After sinking mysteriously in 1968, the diesel-powered submarine became the object of an expensive and elaborate operation of the Cold War. The Central Intelligence Agency and Howard Hughes devised a cover story about deep-sea mining to recover it secretly. The operation, run by former CIA Director William Colby, was trying to determine the state of Soviet nuclear weapons prowess. After a string of near mishaps, the mission recovered only part of the sub.

The other symbol is a widespread deposit of potato-sized rocks rich in manganese and other minerals. Called polymetallic nodules, these rocks were the original fictitious prey of the CIA’s cover story. Continue reading CIA Cover Story Gives Birth to Deep Ocean Mining