Nuclear Waste Fire Explodes from the Ground in Nevada
On Sunday of last week [October 18, 2015] a long closed radioactive waste dump ~100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada burned and exploded from "heavily corroded" 55-gallon drums of supposedly "low level" radioactive waste. This waste is purportedly a step below the "medium-level" bomb and fuel slurry wastes that more recently has gone for long-term sequestration in the "troubled" (as in "exploding") and still closed deep salt mine WIPP facility near Carlsbad, New Mexico.
The operator of a closed radioactive waste dump that caught fire in southern Nevada had trouble over the years with leaky shipments and oversight so lax that employees took contaminated tools and building materials home, according to state and federal records.
The firm, now called US Ecology Inc. [formerly Nuclear Engineering Co.], had its license suspended for mishandling shipments in the 1970s - about the same time that state officials say the material that exploded and burned last weekend was accepted and buried.
Nevada now has ownership and oversight of the property, which opened in 1962 near Beatty as the nation's first federally licensed low-level radioactive waste dump and closed in 1992. State officials said this week they didn't immediately know what blew up.
Federal records document 4.7 million cubic feet of radioactive materials were buried before the company lost its license and the facility was closed.
There is a 40-second cell phone video of white smoke and big explosions available here[please watch]. Note the size of the buildings in the background to the right of the burning/exploding trench for some perspective on how big these explosions were. A 20' x 30' crater was created, debris was scattered nearly 200 feet around and two drums of radioactive waste were blown outside the fence line of the 40 acre dump site.
Another 40 acre hazardous waste dump site next to this one is still operated by US Ecology and disposes of industrial PCB [polychlorinated biphenyls] waste. The company was fined nearly $500,000 by the EPA in 2008 when inspectors found leaking containers and operations logs documenting improperly vented smoke emissions contaminated with hazardous wastes. Former US Senator Richard Bryan recalled hearings about what was going into the site when he was NV Attorney General...
"At no time was there any statement made by the company or by any federal official that what was buried at Beatty had a potential to catch fire," Bryan remembered."