What The Trump Administration Doesn’t Know About The DOE

Several valued commenters have brought up this article. It’s a good article.

The biggest thing I object to about it is the framing of scary. Nuke stuff is always framed as scary. There’s some basis for that, particularly in the time of Trump, but being scared is not the best way to deal with problems.

Some things in the article are not entirely new. Back during the transition, there were many news articles about people who had no idea what the Department of Energy did and, more generally, about the surprise on the part of the Trumpies that they might have to learn what any of the executive departments did. Some of the Trump appointments, like Betsy DeVos, proclaimed that they didn’t need to know what her department did because she had an agenda.

That’s dangerous, because all parts of the government affect our lives, and the people taking over are irresponsible if they don’t care to understand that.

Every new administration learns that providing electrical energy is the smaller part of the Department of Energy’s mission. Some are surprised that the main part of the mission is nuclear weapons. What’s new in this administration is the lack of interest in learning anything of substance.

There is also some robustness built into the executive departments. Most of their employees are civil servants who feel their job is to make the country better. They will continue to do their jobs as best they can. But the Trump administration is damaging the functions of those agencies through their ignorance and ideology.

Even if you know that the DOE mostly makes and manages nuclear weapons while dealing with civilian energy issues on the side, there’s still a lot of detail you might not think of.

A lunch or two with the chief financial officer might have alerted the new administration to some of the terrifying risks they were leaving essentially unmanaged. Roughly half of the D.O.E.’s annual budget is spent on maintaining and guarding our nuclear arsenal, for instance. Two billion of that goes to hunting down weapons-grade plutonium and uranium at loose in the world so that it doesn’t fall into the hands of terrorists. In just the past eight years the D.O.E.’s National Nuclear Security Administration has collected enough material to make 160 nuclear bombs. The department trains every international atomic-energy inspector; if nuclear power plants around the world are not producing weapons-grade material on the sly by reprocessing spent fuel rods and recovering plutonium, it’s because of these people. The D.O.E. also supplies radiation-detection equipment to enable other countries to detect bomb material making its way across national borders. To maintain the nuclear arsenal, it conducts endless, wildly expensive experiments on tiny amounts of nuclear material to try to understand what is actually happening to plutonium when it fissions, which, amazingly, no one really does. To study the process, it is funding what promises to be the next generation of supercomputers, which will in turn lead God knows where.

A couple of cautions about exactly how scared you should be. Several of the adjectives in this paragraph are overdone (terrifying, wildly expensive), and a couple of sentences are framed with unnecessary fear.

There is very, very little “weapons-grade plutonium and uranium at loose in the world.” The figure of 160 nuclear bombs probably comes from the conversion of research reactors in several countries from highly enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium. That’s a good thing to do, and it makes diversion less likely, but those reactors were pretty well secured in the first place, hardly “at loose.” The amounts of fissile material picked up that are genuinely “at loose” are tiny in relation to what is needed for a bomb. The one exception to that was at the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site, where metallic plutonium was scattered around. But Semipalatinsk is pretty hard to get to, and the plutonium has been cleaned up.

Another little-known fact: Nuclear weapons modeling requirements have driven increases in computing power. That’s less true now than during the Cold War; modeling for oil exploration and climate change also drive computing power, but for IBM, Cray, and a few others, nuclear weapons were the motivator.

The part of the article that I suspect mostly scared readers was the interview with the former risk manager. Bringing in a risk manager was a good idea of Moniz’s. I would have liked to hear more about risks within the organization, but the article is pretty long as it is.

“At the very top of his list is an accident with nuclear weapons”

This is a legitimate concern. I would like to know more about why it is first; presumably he is talking about an accident that leads to a nuclear explosion. The example given is one from 1961. In 1961, nuclear weapons had been engineered quickly during the big buildup of the 1950s, but even so, they had safety features. Since then, design changes have made them more resistant to accidents. Also, B-52s were regularly flying with nukes, ready to head for the Soviet Union. We don’t do that any more.

North Korea is the second risk on his list. Iran is “somewhere in the top five.” Recent news illustrates why.

A significant contingent of national laboratory personnel were at the talks to develop the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran deal. Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz was gracious enough to recognize them publicly. As I read the material coming out of the talks, I could envision them working through the night, calling back to colleagues. They did an incredible job. National laboratory personnel advising on nuclear treaties. They are the ones who know what is needed to make nuclear weapons.

The safety of the electrical grid is the fourth risk. It’s a big one, and we’re not doing anywhere near enough about it. But Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP), the favorite of Newt Gingrich and rightwing think tanks, is not one of the dangers. If I haven’t raved enough about this yet, ask in the comments. Here’s what Jeffrey Lewis has written about it.

And the fifth is project management. This one looks inside the DOE. The example given is the Hanford cleanup. It is a mess, and the managers, all the way back to the Manhattan Project, have not brought credit on themselves. I have many thoughts about both project management and the cleanup.

The author rephrases the fifth risk as “the risk a society runs when it falls into the habit of responding to long-term risks with short-term solutions.” That’s a nice way to put it, and it characterizes the way Congress deals with far too many issues. The budget and debt-ceiling fights we will see in the next month or so are an illustration. Since Newt Gingrich institutionalized those fights in the mid-nineties, they have contributed to the DOE’s inability to deal with anything in a long-term way.

Imagine being a project manager for an environmental cleanup and not knowing what your budget will be after the end of September. Not knowing whether you can keep heavy equipment on the job, or whether you will have to store waste on site rather than send it to an approved disposal site. Or trying to schedule requests for proposals so that you can evaluate them and get contracts in place before the budget collapses. That’s where a lot of people are today. I’ve been there.

The author makes a big deal of classified information, but he’s managed to write a fairly detailed article without any. This is something that overawes people. The big issues are the important ones, and you don’t need classified information to understand them.

Most DOE employees, like those of other executive departments, are career people. They are still on the job. How much the Trump administration will damage them remains to be seen.


50 replies
  1. 1
    TenguPhule says:

    Most DOE employees, like those of other executive departments, are career people. They are still on the job. How much the Trump administration will damage them remains to be seen.

    Cheryl, the part that really scared the shit out of us is that the Trumpsters did not give a shit about the Dept of Energy from Day Zero. And from all appearances, they still don’t.

    Rick fucking Perry is not in charge of his Department and they kicked out all the top senior people who know what balls the Department was juggling.

  2. 2
    father pussbucket says:

    Thank you, Cheryl. I have a rather low bar for what I will accept as good news these days.

  3. 3
    The Dangerman says:

    What The Trump Administration Doesn’t Know About (Insert Here).

    Possible choices there are near endless.

  4. 4
    TenguPhule says:

    After Pyle’s list of questions wound up on Bloomberg News, the Trump administration disavowed them, but a signal had been sent: We don’t want you to help us understand; we want to find out who you are and punish you. Pyle vanished from the scene. According to a former Obama official, he was replaced by a handful of young ideologues who called themselves “the Beachhead Team.” “They mainly ran around the building insulting people,” says a former Obama official. “There was a mentality that everything that government does is stupid and bad and the people are stupid and bad,” says another. They allegedly demanded to know the names and salaries of the 20 highest-paid people in the national-science labs overseen by the D.O.E. They’d eventually, according to former D.O.E. staffers, delete the contact list with the e-mail addresses of all D.O.E.-funded scientists—apparently to make it more difficult for them to communicate with one another. “These people were insane,” says the former D.O.E. staffer. “They weren’t prepared. They didn’t know what they were doing.”

    “We had tried desperately to prepare them,” said Tarak Shah, chief of staff for the D.O.E.’s $6 billion basic-science program. “But that required them to show up. And bring qualified people. But they didn’t. They didn’t ask for even an introductory briefing. Like ‘What do you do?’ ”

    In the run-up to the Trump inauguration the man inside the D.O.E. in charge of the nuclear-weapons program was required to submit his resignation, as were the department’s 137 other political appointees. Frank Klotz was his name, and he was a retired three-star air-force lieutenant general with a Ph.D. in politics from Oxford. The keeper of the nation’s nuclear secrets had boxed up most of his books and memorabilia just like everyone else and was on his way out before anyone had apparently given the first thought to who might replace him. It was only after Secretary Moniz called a few senators to alert them to the disturbing vacancy, and the senators phoned Trump Tower sounding alarmed, that the Trump people called General Klotz, on the day before Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, and asked him to bring back the stuff he had taken home and move back into his office. Aside from him, the people with the most intimate knowledge of the problems and the possibilities of the D.O.E. walked out the door.

    As if I didn’t already have enough nightmares.

  5. 5
    TenguPhule says:

    @The Dangerman:

    Possible choices there are near endless.

    Most of them don’t conclude with “And then lots of people die.”

    For a given value of most.

  6. 6
    ruckus says:

    @The Dangerman:
    My comment was going to be
    All of it Katie, All of it.

  7. 7
    Mike in NC says:

    Does Rick Perry have a deputy yet? Has Trump interviewed Dennis Rodman or Gary Busey for the position?

  8. 8

    @TenguPhule: Most of what we can expect from the Trump administration relative to the DOE doesn’t conclude with “And then lots of people die.”

    That’s a framing of all too many articles about nuclear issues, including the headline on the Vanity Fair article. It doesn’t help in thinking about exactly what the issues are.

    So: how do you think a lot of people will die as a result of the Trump administration’s wanting primarily to punish people in the DOE?

  9. 9
    TenguPhule says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    So: how do you think a lot of people will die as a result of the Trump administration’s wanting primarily to punish people in the DOE?

    Seeing as how the Dept is responsible for monitoring all of the nuclear materials, the clean up sites and all of the other “you’re not going to believe this one” incidents and that the people which are supposed to be in charge of it are not, the possibility of an incident getting out of control increases significantly.

    For example, the “mailed the wrong amount of plutonium to a hospital via Fedex” becomes a lot more horrifying when imagining how the employees on the bottom would be trying to alert their bosses about it today.

  10. 10
    NotMax says:

    If there’s any cabinet-level agency where a Department of Redundancy Department is a necessity, DOE is it.

  11. 11
    NotMax says:

    @Mike in DC

    Scott Baio just hasn’t checked his voice mail yet.

  12. 12

    @TenguPhule: Yes, it is true that the possibility of an incident getting out of control increases with the attitudes described in the article of the Trumpies.

    The dangers in that “mailed the wrong amount of plutonium to a hospital” include people in the hospital being exposed to plutonium and perhaps taking it into their bodies. Another danger is that it would have been diverted into the hands of people who might want to make a weapon out of it. The systems in place for normal package delivery by Fedex and the safety systems at the hospital make it unlikely that something bad would happen, but they are not at the much more exacting level usually required for plutonium. I have an article up in a tab, have only skimmed it. It may not be the same one you’re thinking about, doesn’t seem to mention a hospital. I do recall something about a hospital a month or so ago, but I also recall that the amount wasn’t given, so that makes the issue harder to assess.

    I’m guessing the amount was in tens of grams. You need kilograms (1 kilogram = 1000 grams) to make a bomb, so if someone diverted it, they would be far short of what they needed. Not to mention a bomb design, conventional explosives, and a bunch of specialized electronics.

    Being physically close to contained plutonium isn’t especially dangerous. I’ve handled plutonium solutions in a glovebox. The danger is in breathing plutonium particles in, but some people who have done that in accidents haven’t had complications. I don’t recommend it, but it’s not instant death.

    Anything else?

  13. 13
    The Moar You Know says:

    But Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP), the favorite of Newt Gingrich and rightwing think tanks, is not one of the dangers.

    Truth. If you insist on being shit-pants paranoid about things, which is needless, take your electronics and store them in a metal paint bucket. Or a 55-gallon drum if you need to make sure your flat-screen makes it through Armageddon, but the ugly truth is that it would anyway.

    Modern electronics – not the 1950s stuff that got affected in Hawaii – are all designed to withstand ESD (electrostatic discharge). Even my $20 UHF radio has about a hundred diodes in there, all put in to keep the components safe from ESD. Those voltages are far in excess of what any EMP could generate.

    Conservatives lying is bad enough, but when they lie about basic science issues that really sends the ol’ blood pressure skyward. My pet peeve I suppose. Yours will differ.

  14. 14
    Yutsano says:

    FWIW the Department of Energy in regards to the Hanford site is still humming along swimmingly. I know this because I share a building with them until [some time in the future] they move into their new building.

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    I have many thoughts about both project management and the cleanup.

    If you think the goal of the Hanford contractors is to clean up the nuclear waste from the Manhattan Project, the contractors will openly laugh at you. If you think it’s primarily to keep their sites open and their corporate bosses in hookers and blow, now you got it.

    Dad did this for 20+ years. It’s a huge shell game/gravy train on the government teat. And it’s expanding.

  15. 15
    piratedan says:

    get back to me when these guys think about anything other than how to line their pockets with money….

  16. 16

    @The Moar You Know: I don’t think they’re lying, I think they honestly don’t know, at least re: this particular fact.

  17. 17
    TenguPhule says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    I’m guessing the amount was in tens of grams. You need kilograms (1 kilogram = 1000 grams) to make a bomb, so if someone diverted it, they would be far short of what they needed. Not to mention a bomb design, conventional explosives, and a bunch of specialized electronics.

    I’m not worried about it being used in a bomb, I’m worried about things like accidents, exposure of people to materials they don’t realize are radioactive and that because there is no effective management and all the people who knew the ins and outs of what to do are leaving, the next incident will take much longer to be addressed.

    I’m worried about the nuclear site cleanups which are next to water resources and which once shut down, take longer to start back up and risk critical failures to the containment measures currently in place.

    I worry that another contractor is going to make an organic cat litter mistake.

    I worry that the state power grids which are part of the infrastructure are still a hodge podge which only gets addressed in specific regions when something happens, not before.

  18. 18

    @Yutsano: Yes, I was told something like that after I cleaned up a three-acre site for much less than the project office predicted. And removed from the project.

  19. 19
    Jeffro says:

    Hey get this folks the Wall Street Journal’s interview with Trump was so off the rails that they wouldn’t even publish the transcript … so politico did it for them 😜

    Let me go dig up a link real quick…

  20. 20
    Jeffro says:

    Here you go: full transcript.


  21. 21
    The Moar You Know says:

    I don’t think they’re lying, I think they honestly don’t know, at least re: this particular fact.

    @Major Major Major Major: They are lying. They know how EMP works, they’ve known since the 1970s. I work with someone who actually did the work for DOE and the DoD back then. None of this shit is a mystery.

  22. 22
    TenguPhule says:

    @The Moar You Know:

    None of this shit is a mystery.

    Cites Republican intelligence not in evidence.

  23. 23

    @TenguPhule: All of that is something to worry about, and urge our congresscritters to make sure it’s being done right.

    The one thing you’ve mentioned that I think could result in “And then lots of people die” is major failures in the power grids. But I don’t know much about that, so I can’t evaluate it the way I can plutonium in the mail.

  24. 24
    TenguPhule says:


    Baker said that anyone who claims the Journal has been soft on Trump is peddling “fake news,” and that employees who are unhappy with the Journal’s objective, as opposed to oppositional, approach to Trump should work somewhere else.

    WSJ joins FOX News as things that must be destroyed for Democracy to have a chance.

  25. 25

    @The Moar You Know: You think Newt Gingrich knows anything about electricity? Really?

  26. 26
    NotMax says:

    For us laymen, have always found All Things Nuclear to be a valuable resource.

  27. 27
    TenguPhule says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    You think Newt Gingrich knows anything about electricity?

    I suspect he finds it useful in the bedroom.

  28. 28

    @Jeffro: I’ve put up an open thread for the WSJ – Trump interview.

  29. 29
  30. 30
    Mike in DC says:

    Re: EMP
    I’d note that the Russians armed a few SS-18s with 20 megaton warheads for possible use as EMP weapons. Though even the electrical damage from a couple dozen such detonations is a lot less than just dropping 20-30 multimegaton devices on urban centers.

  31. 31
    TenguPhule says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: I suppose my biggest concern is as I stated near the top, the idiots that Trump is throwing at the DOE is endangering the institution itself. And once all those smart appointed people left, it was mentioned they were legally barred from advising their successors.

    I can’t even imagine a transition to an actual legitimate president’s appointees from this hot mess now. None of the Trumpsters in DOE will be able to educate them on shit. And that means a future competent management is going to be left hanging.

  32. 32

    @TenguPhule: It’s not good. But there are people within the organization and in the national laboratories who have a good idea of what the issues are. And if we get a good president (vote, vote, vote) or reasonably competent Congress (vote, vote, vote), they can consult with the people who left the department, perhaps reinstall them. There’ll be some work to do, but all is not lost.

  33. 33
    sharl says:

    This is a most excellent post Cheryl.

    I often think back to when Newt and his bomb-throwing GOP allies took over from the Bob Michel GOP “wimps” faction. That still doesn’t get the attention I think it deserves, and still leaves me with questions, e.g., how much was that a symptom of something bigger (like changes in the national political zeitgeist), vs. how much was it just Newt wanting power and driving events to get it (leading to changes in the aforementioned national zeitgeist). A bit of both, I assume. The WWII-era folks were retiring out, and the history of that generation created in them a certain internal dedication and cohesion – at least among the ruling white social cohort – that subsequent generations simply didn’t feel. That’s my two-cent overly simplified view anyway.

    My impression of people who’ve been in battle (or have loved and/or supported those who have been) is that you suck it up and demand the bad news that you need, not just messaging that rings sweetly upon your ears.

    My obsession is with Newt & Co’s termination of the Office of Technology Assessment (non-FTFNYT article here), an evidence-based group with a mission to tell Congress what they needed to hear, rather than what they wanted to hear. It would be nice if more people would figure out that we need adult solutions like the OTA before one or more massive disasters force that realization on us all.

  34. 34
    TriassicSands says:

    Why not write a post about “What Trump Knows about the DOE?” It would be zero words long and require no classified material.

    The chaos in the White House may soon lead to failure to come to an agreement on the debt ceiling. What Trump doesn’t know about the budget and the debt ceiling is just like everything else — he knows virtually nothing beyond a few bland, general talking points.

    Has anyone ever heard Trump speak on any subject related to government and provide and detail or specificity? Things are great and beautiful. They’re disastrous and terrible. Any fourth grader third grader second grader first grader preschooler could do as well.

  35. 35
    Uncle Cosmo says:

    Thanks for the link to the Jeffrey Lewis article. I will no longer lie awake nights worrying about an EMP disabling modern civilization (if you can call it that).


    In passing Lewis mocks Bert the Turtle & the whole “duck & cover” shtick. As I commented a week or two ago, d&c was not entirely stupid. If a large fraction of the targeted population (e.g., in a number of large metro areas) could shelter in structures far enough from the explosion to block the radiation & strong enough not to get knocked down by the blast, then d&c might have saved significant lives.

    But that was only true so long as any atomic bombs that could be dropped on our cities were relatively low-yield. And there was never a time when this condition held: By the time the USSR had a delivery system with long enough range to reach US cities (the Tu-95 bomber, which started series production in January 1956) it also had an H-bomb it could deliver (RDS-37, first test November 1955, 3 Mt nominal yield) that would have flattened pretty much any of them.

    So, not entirely stupid – simply designed for a situation that never existed. (And continued no doubt out of bureaucratic inertia long past the point of being entirely stupid.)


  36. 36

    @sharl: Thank you!

    The Office of Technology Assessment was an extremely useful part of the government. Destroying it was part of Newt’s contribution to the culture of ignorance cited by the Vanity Fair article author. OTA people interviewed me on a couple of things. About a year or so ago, I was contacted by the Government Accountability Office. They wanted to interview me on a technical matter. After the interview (they knew the subject well), I commented that it was very much like what the OTA had done. One or maybe two of the people had been in the OTA. So some of the function remains, but it would be better if it were more explicit and fully funded, as the OTA was. The GAO has other responsibilities as well.

  37. 37
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @Uncle Cosmo: We had a workable example of why duck and cover was a reasonable thing to teach and train for when the Chelyabinsk meteor exploded high in the atmosphere over Russia a few years back. A lot of people stood by windows looking at the bright light and then suffered severe cuts and lacerations when the windows shattered and sliced them up badly. That blast was roughly equivalent to a 500kTonne nuclear weapon going off about 40km up.

    Sure, duck and cover won’t keep someone alive if they’re very close to the hypocentre of a nuclear explosion but there’s a lot of damage to the area around that point where duck and cover will prevent injury and death. Pointing and laughing at duck and cover is like laughing at seat belts because they won’t keep you alive if you drive off a cliff.

  38. 38
    The Simp in the Suit says:

    @Cheryl Rofer:

    So: how do you think a lot of people will die as a result of the Trump administration’s wanting primarily to punish people in the DOE?

    1. Scenario of climate change: Trump puts teeth behind the climate change deniers by firing long-time gov’t employees who are expert in it. Result: fewer people even think about vaguely pursuing climate changes issues. Temps go up, the levies break, etc. Rinse, repeat. We all die.

    2. Scenario of nukular proportions, with regards to loose nuke material (not bombs, just material): Perry never gets around to hiring replacements for all of the upper and upper-middle management types who either were asked to leave or left on their own. The lower level guys now start taking on responsibilities literally above their pay grades. Nobody does the lower level chores anymore. We start to lose track of nuke material. Not much, but enough to sow FUD. It becomes known because it becomes obvious. Again, nothing necessarily big, but we know that we don’t know what we used to know to a dead nuts certainty. And… Putin knows this. IS knows this. Everyone knows this. One of those players decides to poke Trump to see what will happen. Maybe the “threat” is a dirty bomb of relatively high scariness, made from accumulated materials we may or may not have lost track of, coming from some Russian bit player for some plausible reason (give us back Lower Bumfuckistan!). We don’t know. Putin knows we don’t know. But it’s Putin who is pulling the string of the LB “terrorists.” Trump screams at Perry. Perry screams at a bunch of DOE people whose names he never bothered to learn. They direct him to a pile of memos they’ve been sending him that cover this very problem, in detail, but bottom line answer from them is: Shit boss, we don’t know. Perry calls Trump on the bat phone and says “Shit boss, we don’t know. Not my fault; I guess you shouldn’t have led the charge on cutting the DOE budget in half.” That pisses off Trump, who’s just watched Aliens for the umpteenth time (Sigourney is so HOT), and decides that the only way to be sure is a tac nuke from outer space. Or maybe just an LNG bomb to flatten a village. Hits the wrong village, happens to be the one where Putin’s mom’s favorite babysitter, the one who gave Pootie his first BJ eva, lived. Up to that morning. Pootie-baby takes umbrage. Something Trump cares about (a golf course? the orange dye factory?) gets leveled. Rinse repeat. We all die.

    And that’s just me sober. Wait till I have some time to really think about this.

  39. 39
    sukabi says:

    @Jeffro: I don’t know how far I got thru the transcript, but I can tell you I’m pretty sure his brain damage is contagious.

    Had to quit reading. Actually felt my IQ dropping.

  40. 40

    Alex Wellerstein, a professor of the history of science at Stevens Institute of Technology, along with two colleagues, has just been funded for a project called “Reinventing Civil Defense.” I don’t know the whole of what it’s about, but I think it’s going to address some ways in which civil defense could make a difference.

    One of the things that I’ve thought would be positive in a project like this is that the attitude of readiness, and learning some skills for emergencies, could benefit all of us. Severe storms or accidents on the freeway need some of the skills that surviving a nuclear attack needs. If more of us had those skills, we could limit damage and save lives. I read some of that into Wellerstein’s post. He also hopes to raise awareness of nuclear weapons. Many people born after the collapse of the Soviet Union know little to nothing about nuclear weapons, including that they are still deployed by the United States and Russia against each other. There is a good video illustrating that, but I can’t find it just now.

    I’ll be keeping track of the project and will post here when there’s news.

  41. 41

    @The Simp in the Suit:
    1. Climate change. Yes, this is what I see as the most likely “And then lots of people die” scenario. The Trumpies wanted the names of everyone who had attended professional meetings on the subject. Talk about a witch hunt.

    2. Two scenarios here.
    2a. A few months ago, I would have put losing fissile material at a very low probability. Given some of what has come out recently about the management at Los Alamos and a few other places, I can’t discount it. But it is a small probability, and nuclear weapons are too complex to be built in someone’s garage. Not clear whether Trump and Perry know that.

    2b. The other part of your concern is Trump’s volatility. That worries me too, aside from questions of fissile material loss. We don’t know what would trigger him to use a nuclear weapon, and I don’t want to find out.

  42. 42
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷 says:

    When they say the “people” are they referring to the those at the DOE or the People?

  43. 43
    Jeffro says:

    @Cheryl Rofer: super and thank you !

  44. 44
    Jeffro says:

    @sukabi: I know, right? Derrrrrrr

  45. 45
  46. 46
    chris says:

    Thank you, Cheryl.

  47. 47
  48. 48
    tybee says:

    i worry because i live downstream from the savannah river plant and i hear those “containment” ponds leak.

  49. 49

    […] A similar article appears at Balloon Juice. […]

  50. 50
    J R in WV says:

    Another “worry” is the underground landfill fire on the outskirts of St Louis, not that far from the Mississippi river. It’s partly a landfill with (illegally) radioactive waste in it, and the underground fire (which is mobile, traveling through the waste) is getting closer and closer to the radioactive waste they know about.

    No telling if there’s other glow-in-the-dark waste in the burning catastrophe underground. I don’t recall where I read about this particular slow disaster, but I’m sure Google would be your friend.

    And of course low-wage people live all around this mess, and may have already been exposed to who-knows-what fumes from the chemical reactions taking place in a high-energy complex chemical environment like an industrial landfill not on the books. Anyone capable of forecasting the results of those chemical events would not be a scientist, they would be a majical predictor of the future…

    I live just SW of a river where fishermen are encouraged to NOT eat their catch, because of the Agent Orange factory which dumped their chemical waste in unlined landfills AND in the river. Where the EPA and the DEP have decided NOT to dredge the contaminated sediment on the river bottom, but instead to cover it with a rock fill “cap” to keep it from escaping into the river water for the rest of time… forever into the future.

    Amazeballs. What’s the half-life of dioxin, anyway??? Does it break down eventually? Are the break-down products themselves poisonous too? Does anyone know the answers to any of these questions? I know there isn’t much commercial interest in learning more about hazardous chemical substances regardless of their omnipresence around us. And in us.

    Nonstick Teflon pans are leading to people dying around the DuPont factory(ies?) that produced chemicals used in the production of Teflon. At high temperatures Teflon produces poisonous brown fumes, somewhat high for a skillet, but who among us has not burnt up a perfectly good skillet once or twice?? Did you know NOT TO BREATH the fumes???

    But the EPA is just in place to kill jobs and factories, we all know that, right?

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