There are so many surprising aspects to this story including the two salient points that we use kitty litter in nuclear plants and using the wrong kitty litter can cost you half a billion dollars. However, a recent report states that the mismanagement of the kitty litter issue at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico by its private operator, Los Alamos National Security LLC, led not only damage, but the injury of at least 20 workers — and the creation of a type of kitty litter dirty bomb. The concerns of an Al Kitta threat however may be premature. It turns out that you can avoid the risk by selecting clay-based kitty litter over wheat-based kitty litter.
A single damaged drum caused much of the damage and reached the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant where it cracked open.
The report by the Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General portrays the plant as being run in a hasty and unprofessional manner to meet short deadlines for the disposal of material. The mismanagement however was only disclosed after a long and costly investigation by the Santa Fe Mexican. Once again, there is virtually no transparency on such issues by the government, which never informed the public of the scope of its mismanagement and blundering at a nuclear disposal site.
The report includes the finding that the resulting radiation leak not only sickened dozens but “may have led to an adverse chemical reaction within the drums resulting in serious safety implications.” This included the result that the mixing of the waste created a mixture akin to plastic explosives.
The mistaken use of the kitty litter was found to have been due to a typo in a policy manual. Previously, DOE rejected the kitty litter hypothesis the report indicates that it may in fact be the culprit. It may turn out that the problem was “organic kitty litter” — an indication that the organic movement could be an actual threat to national security? I knew that there was something suspicious about Whole Foods.
The contractor was allowed to stay in control of the plant and under federal contract. Simply four managers were replaced. It could take years to reopen the plant and will cost at least $500 million. The new manager, identified only as a Dr. Oppenheimerfuzzypants, has been brought into the plant supervise any operations.