RADIOACTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATES
Below are descriptions of several of the projects that RWMA has recently assisted with. For more information about our experience, also see our list of clients.
NORM and Pipe Cleaning Operations
Since 1993, RWMA has been examining the health impact of cleaning oil and gas pipes and valves. In the course of oil production, radioactive scale and sludge will deposit in the interiors of pipes and valves. Depending on the geographic location of the production operation, the radioactive concentrations of this NORM, or Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials, can be quite high. In several of the cases in which RWMA has been involved, workers who cleaned these pipes and valves were not warned of the dangers of working with these contaminated pipes and valves and were not given adequate protective clothing and safety equipment. The law firm, SmithStag, represented workers and former landowners in MS and LA. The Henry Dart and Andry law firms and also the Watts Law Firm are presently representing residents in Harvey, LA. In another case in McAllen, TX, ranchers unknowingly used contaminated pipes for fencing and have suffered health effects. RWMA is also working on several NORM land contamination cases in Louisiana and Kentucky.
RWMA is assisting Niagara County in assessing radiation contamination at the former Lake Ontario Ordnance Works site in Lewiston and the implications for expanding the adjacent CWM hazardous waste landfill. The Army Corps recently released a Remedial Investigation Report that shows extensive U and Ra contamination still remaining, more than 50 years after bomb-making materials were dumped on the property. The Army Corps is next preparing a Feasibility Study that will lay out cleanup alternatives.
West Valley Nuclear Demonstration Project
West Valley Nuclear Demonstration Project is the only commercial spent fuel reprocessing plant which ever operated in the United States. It is located approximately 50 miles south of Buffalo, New York and 30 miles east of Lake Erie. The plant operated from the mid 1960's until the early 1970's when it shut down due to the high costs required for upgrading to meet regulatory requirements. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority currently owns the site, while the US Department of Energy leads the radioactive cleanup efforts. The reprocessing of fuel resulted in the production of 600,000 gallons of high-level radioactive liquid waste stored in large underground storage tanks. The majority of this liquid waste has since been removed from the tanks and solidified into a stable glass material; however, a "sludge heel" of high-level radioactive waste remains at the bottom of the primary storage tank. Additional radioactive wastes are buried in two disposal areas, one licensed by the state of New York and one by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, on the site. WVDP has a history of radioactive leaks, resulting in the contamination of soil and groundwater. A draft environmental impact statement (EIS) was released in 1996. Instead of finalizing this draft, a second revised draft EIS was released in 2005. The second draft EIS concluded that less risk is posed to the public from leaving radioactive waste buried onsite than did the first draft EIS. Several of the final disposal alternatives from the 2005 draft EIS involve leaving these highly dangerous waste in the ground. This is especially precarious because the WVDP is located on a plateau with highly erosive characteristics. RWMA, along with other experts, are participating in an analysis, funded by the State of New York, to assess the true risk to the public. Dr. Resnikoff has been involved with issues relating to WVDP since the 1970s.
State of Nevada Transportation
RWMA is assisting the State of Nevada on transportation issues regarding the proposed Yucca Mountain repository. We are investigating the consequences of sabotage involving transportation containers, such as potential land contamination and personal radiation injury. The Department of Energy (DOE) recently released a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for a new 300-mile rail route from Caliente, NV to the proposed repository and intends to file a license application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission June 2008. Twenty years have passed since Congress directed DOE to place a repository in the State; Nevada has consistently opposed the plan. More recently, RWMA compared the release of radioactive material from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear reactor to our calculation involving a hypothetical transportation sabotage event.
Fracking Marcellus shale
In the search for natural gas, the industry has moved to high pressure hydraulic fracturing or fracking of the Marcellus shale formation under New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The Marcellus formation contains uranium and radium, at concentrations up to 30 times greater than background. Working for the public interest group Residents for the Protection of Lowman and Chemung, Inc, RWMA prepared a report on the hazard of disposing rock cuttings in the Chemung County landfill. RWMA also submitted comments to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation on the environmental impact of disposing various radioactive waste streams in water treatment plants and landfills. More recently, RWMA prepared a report on the health impact of releasing radon gas into homes through kitchen gas stoves.
The Custom Border Patrol scans semi-trailers and train boxcars passing into the United States for illegal immigrants and contraband using radioactive cesium or cobalt. Over their work life, the border guards receive high radiation doses that have caused cancer and other health effects. RWMA has calculated the radiation dose to these workers and the probability these doses caused cancer as part of a lawsuit against SAIC, the company who manufactured these radiation devices and trained border guards in their use. [graphic – go to SAIC.com and take one of their graphics of the VACIS device] .
Honolulu Food Irradiator
Pa’ina Hawaii has applied for a Nuclear Regulatory Commission license to operate a food irradiator. Using very high concentrations of cobalt-60, papayas would be irradiated to increase shelf life. On behalf of Earthjustice and local environmental groups, RWMA is examining the impact of locating this facility directly adjacent to two Honolulu airport runways. RWMA calculated the probability and consequences of an airplane crash, and also investigated the consequences of sabotage. As a result of the high probability of an airplane accident calculated by RWMA, Pa’ina Hawaii moved the proposed irradiator 10 miles away from the airport.
RWMA is assisting LEAN, a public interest group in Louisiana, on issues involving shipments of radioactive waste from Italy through the Port of New Orleans to Tennessee. These wastes come from decommissioning Italian nuclear reactors and are ultimately destined to Utah, after processing in Tennessee. In Canada, RWMA is assisting public interest groups Greenpeace and Northwatch on nuclear waste and transportation issues involving repositories for intermediate-level waste and high-level waste located adjacent to Lake Huron.