Will Fracking Cause Our Next Nuclear Disaster?

Will Fracking Cause Our Next Nuclear Disaster?

Postby Oscar » Mon Jun 09, 2014 4:46 pm

Will Fracking Cause Our Next Nuclear Disaster?

[ http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/2420 ... r-disaster ]

Monday, 09 June 2014 09:39

By Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Report

The idea of storing radioactive nuclear waste inside a hollowed-out salt cavern might look good on paper. The concept is to carve out the insides of the caverns, deep underground, then carefully move in the waste. Over time, the logic goes, the salt will move in and insulate the containers for thousands of generations.

"The whole game is to engineer something that can contain those contaminants on the order of tens of thousands of years," Tim Judson, the executive director of the Nuclear Information Resource Service (NIRS), [ http://www.nirs.org/ ] told Truthout. NIRS is intended to be a national information and networking center for citizens and environmental activists concerned about nuclear power, radioactive waste, radiation and sustainable energy issues, according to Judson.

Salt-cavern storage was the plan for the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP), the world's third-deepest geological repository, constructed and licensed to permanently dispose of radioactive waste for 10,000 years. The repository sits approximately 26 miles east of the town of Carlsbad in southeastern New Mexico.

Since shipments began in 1999, more than 80,000 cubic meters and 11,000 shipments of waste have been transferred to WIPP.

But at the moment, there are several ongoing critical problems at the site, which has been closed [ http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/l ... Wgk4.email ] and unable to accept shipments of radioactive waste ever since a fire [ http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/ ... 4220140514 ] and radiation release in February. Dozens of barrels of radioactive waste from Los Alamos National Lab, like the one that caused the radiation leak, now pose an "imminent" or "substantial" threat [ http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/l ... jI_g.email ] to public health and the environment.

Yet, these problems could pale in comparison to what might happen at the site if an earthquake were to strike, or if the protective salt layer were compromised by nearby drilling for oil and gas, and in particular, hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking.

Fracking is a technique used in obtaining gas and petroleum, in which water is mixed with sand and toxic chemicals, and the mixture is injected at extremely high pressure into a wellbore to create small fractures.

Thus, one would logically deduce that fracking should never be done anywhere near WIPP. However, it is being done there, and experts expect it to increase.

"In the last three years, a dozen fracking wells have become operational within five miles of the site [WIPP]," Don Hancock, the director of the Nuclear Waste Safety Program at Southwest Research and Information Center, told Truthout.

Given that it is already well known [ http://www.livescience.com/23638-unusua ... -says.html ] that fracking causes earthquakes, it is clear that the nuclear waste storage site is now in danger of having its structural integrity compromised.

"These are the major concerns," Hancock warned. "There is clearly a possibility that the deep fracking can affect the stability, but even more likely is fracking liquids nearing or entering the waste beds - which would be a very bad thing."

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[ http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/2420 ... r-disaster ]
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Re: Will Fracking Cause Our Next Nuclear Disaster?

Postby Oscar » Sat Dec 20, 2014 10:03 am

North Dakota Moves to Ease Oil-and-Gas Radioactive Waste Rules Dramatically

[ http://insideclimatenews.org/news/20141 ... amatically ]

New standard would be 10 times current limits in a state whose economy is fueled by the fracking boom.

By Zahra Hirji, InsideClimate News December 19, 2014

North Dakota regulators recently announced plans to bump up the state's allowable oil-and-gas radioactive waste disposal limit by tenfold.

The current threshold is one of the strictest in the country, at 5 picocuries per gram. That's roughly the equivalent of the natural radiation levels found in North Dakota soil. Consequently, many companies truck their waste out of state to places with higher limits, including the neighboring Minnesota and Montana.

But the new limit of 50 picocuries per gram, proposed by the state's Department of Health last week, on Dec. 12, would change all that. Although it's far from the loosest limit around, it would be one of the highest in the Great Plains region.

Both the state's energy and waste industries welcome this rulemaking, which would save oil and gas companies significant transport costs and bring in new waste-disposal business to local landfills. But landowners who live near the disposal sites in rural western North Dakota don't want their home to transform into a regional dumping ground and are wary of the waste's threat to public health.

The new limit is based on "the absolutely best science available," said Scott Radig, who heads up the division of waste management at the state's Department of Health.

Regulators commissioned research institution Argonne National Laboratory last fall to study the issue. The group's report, published in November, said raising the state's threshold up to the 50 picocuries per gram limit could still be protective of human health and welfare. That's as long as other conditions are met, such as allowing industrial or oilfield waste landfills to receive as much as 25,000 tons of this waste annually and requiring that the waste is buried a minimum of 10 feet below the top of the landfill. North Dakota regulators did include these criteria in the draft rules.

This rulemaking comes at a time of increasing tensions between communities and regulators over how to manage North Dakota’s booming energy industry and its growing waste footprint.

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[ http://insideclimatenews.org/news/20141 ... amatically ]
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