July 18, 2007 Public Meeting Summary with Public Comments / Questions & Answers
(Slides are reproduced from presentation; speaker comments follow.)
(Statements are not direct quotes, they are paraphrased.)
(Public comments and questions made during the meeting are preceded by the word “Public.” Response to the questions/comments are preceded by the responder’s name when available.)
Phil Green, CDC: I’ve been the Project Officer for a number of years. To take care of some bookkeeping business I want to inform you that the funding for the next work year has gone forward to our contracting office. We expect that the funding will be added to the contract in the next 30-40 days before September 29. It will be the second to last year as planned to date. We expect, as we have all these years that we will get the funding for completion of the project as started for number of years. I am here with C.M. Wood who has been the technical point of contact. Also from CDC is Lynn Evans. She will take the position of technical lead. She is a health physicist who is new to CDC but has many years of experience with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration. She is very well qualified. I think C.M. intends to retire in January. We appreciate all the good work he has done over the years and possibly his work in the future.
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Tom Widner, Principal Investigator: We have been holding these meetings once a year throughout the project. We are glad to see such a good turnout. We will be summarizing progress to date, key issues and the path forward. Other project team members attending the meeting were introduced.
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Since we have new people attending the meeting I would like to go over some of the project goals. The main one is to retrieve and evaluate historical documents from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to determine their usefulness for an offsite dose assessment. We are focusing on offsite releases of chemicals and radioactive materials. We are having documents declassified as necessary to make these materials available to the public. The documents are contained in a collection at Zimmerman Library at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. We are also developing a prioritized list of contaminant releases from 1944 to the present. Products of the project include a database and a report documenting the most important releases from the Laboratory over the years.
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In a dose reconstruction, CDC starts out with information gathering. This has been a longer information-gathering phase than at most locations. We have been here for about eight years. We have found that there were more documents than expected. Plus, security complications made access to the documents more difficult. We are coming toward the end of the information-gathering phase, and while we are doing that we are stepping up our prioritization of releases. Later phases can overlap, as some activities have overlapped with this project.
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I touched on this already, but our products include a database and a collection of relevant documents. The latest version of the Interim Report was issued about two months ago. The report has been updated each year to reflect the newest information and progress made, summarizes what issues we think will be most important to offsite releases, and provides a chronology of events and off-normal events.
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Today I will explain where we are in the project and the progress we’ve made. In addition, we will discuss our investigations of airborne plutonium releases and recent investigations of potential public exposures from the Trinity test. I will also discuss our prioritization of historical releases.
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To date, we have completed our review of records contained in centralized depositories. This includes the Records Center, Archives, and Report Collection. Now we are reviewing records from different LANL divisions. We have discovered that each division has its own documents and active records stored within its facilities.
We have issued Version 5 of the Interim Report. Copies are available on CD and we can provide a hard copy upon request, or you can download the report from the project Web site.
We are increasing our efforts to prioritize releases. The review is taking longer than expected, so as we are finishing information gathering we are picking up our efforts to prioritize releases. Document review has been a challenging portion of the project, but today we will give you a picture of how that work is going.
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Basic changes to the Interim Report are summarized in the slide. D Building is the first location in the world where plutonium was processed in quantities that allowed weapon parts to be manufactured. D Building was the main facility at LANL for processing plutonium in 1944 and in 1945, until DP West Site took over. But D Building operated until the early 1950s, when it was torn down. D Building releases were not monitored or filtered. So that is the big question: How much was released from D Building. The appendix about Trinity summarizes the many reports and memos we have discovered about the test. Tonight, I will summarize what we found and what may warrant a closer look. The Health Division reports are a key set of documents that contain information on many of the topics we are most interested in.
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As I mentioned, we have completed our work in the Records Center, Archives, Report Collection, Litigation Database, and the ES&H Records Center. Some of these venues now go by different names. We are currently reviewing the Engineering Drawings collection and the holdings of different LANL Divisions.
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This summarizes some of the statistics regarding what we have reviewed to date. During the second quarter of 2007, we have been working mostly with Environmental Restoration Database documents (tracked with ERID numbers). We have reviewed close to 33,000 ERIDs, and have written 308 summaries. Documents that we determine as relevant to the study are summarized on a document summary form and each document is processed to make it available for public release. Once the document is released, we scan it and add it to the database for bibliographic and full-text searches.
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As we bring our information gathering work to a close, we will focus on key divisions at LANL. We have prioritized the divisions as they stand and have identified the six divisions that we think are most likely to have records relevant to off-site releases. We started out with the Environmental Stewardship Division, and will probably go to the Environmental Health, Safety, and Radiation Protection group next.
We began the project with systematic searches of large document collections. As we approach the end of the project, we are conducting directed searches looking for specific information. During these directed searches, we are going to those venues that are most likely to contain information relevant to key topics.
We may not get to records at other sites. Some records that LANL generated have been sent to other federal repositories. If time and budget allows we would like to see what types of records were sent to these facilities and see if it warrants a closer look.
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We have identified these six divisions as most relevant to our study. The review of records at the divisions is taking longer than expected, so we are looking for ways to pick up speed. The main challenge is efficiency.
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One of our key areas of concern is the evaluation of early airborne plutonium releases from Los Alamos operations to answer the question of how much airborne plutonium has been released from the Lab. This slide lists some of the documents that we have found useful for this task. The Lab was first asked to quantify its releases in 1973 in preparation of an environmental impact statement. The results of that effort are contained in a series of binders. An article by Jordan and Black looked at soil samples to try to estimate how much plutonium was released. The 1979 final environmental impact statement gave a release estimate of 1.2 curies (Ci) of plutonium-239 from Los Alamos. Maraman et al. reported essentially the same numbers, which added up to 1.2 Ci, but makes it clear that these numbers only include releases from DP West and the four main stacks at that facility.
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Recently, we located documents and notebook pages by Edwin Hyatt and John Nyhan that present a different story. This is one of the hand-written pages that form the basis of the 1.2 Ci in 1973. You can see at the bottom that 1.198 Ci is the release from Building 12 at the DP Site.
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This table from the environmental impact study reports similar amounts.
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The Maraman et al. publication reports similar data.
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Annual releases from 1948 through 1972 as reported by the Lab are presented in this graph. Data from 1948 and 1949 were estimated by the Lab, but the bases for that estimation are not stated. The official release estimates do not include any releases from D Building, the first facility that operated, or any facilities other than DP West. One of the major challenges is to estimate releases from the early years.
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The first official release estimate was 1.2 Ci from 1948 through 1972. Documents that we have found recorded releases of plutonium in terms of grams (g) from Building 12 stacks for each year from 1948 to 1955. The total of 683 g equates to 14.28 Ci. With correction factors, this corresponds to 43 Ci over a period of eight years. The two correction factors address material that did not make it all the way through the sample line, and material that was on the filter paper but was not analyzed because alpha particles, with their short ranges, can be trapped in the filter paper and not be detected.
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This is a table from one of the referenced Hyatt memos.
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Hyatt’s data is pretty much reproduced in more recent work by Nyhan.
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If you look at the summary of Hyatt’s data, you come up a 14.28 Ci release during this eight-year period. This can be compared with the 0.724 Ci reported as LANL’s official release during the same period.
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Plutonium was first processed in D Building during 1944 and 1945. We have counted up to 85 rooftop release points. These stacks were unmonitored and largely unfiltered.
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In the latter part of 1945, plutonium production was transferred to DP Site.
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The main process buildings were lined up with connectors between them. Process effluents were collected and filtered in Building 12, then released from its four stacks.
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These are the main components that contributed to the overall site total release of plutonium over time. D Building stacks, DP Building 12 stacks, and DP ventilation were different sources of releases. Incidents, the CMR Building that handled plutonium in later years, fires, waste disposal operations, and modern-era plutonium facility also contributed. Modern releases were much more controlled. Lessons learned during the early years were applied to modern operations at TA-55 to improve controls and decrease releases.
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The 43 Ci release estimate for 1948 through 1955 only accounted for releases from Building 12 at DP Site via its four stacks.
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If the Hyatt/Nyhan data are valid, the other sources and time periods could well drive total releases from LANL well above 43 Ci. The total might even be higher than the combined airborne plutonium release totals from Hanford, Rocky Flats, and Savannah River. These sites handled more plutonium, but they applied more efficient controls. LANL was slower to apply multi-stage HEPA filters. One of reasons we are interested in these release totals is that people were living so much closer to production areas at LANL than at these other sites. Apartments were located within 200 yards of the original Technical Area and within ½ mile of DP West.
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The review of these reports presented questions that needed to be asked of LANL scientists. LANL personnel informed us today that the people that had worked on the official record were unaware at the time of the work that had been done by Hyatt. Current LANL staff does not know of any work that discredited Hyatt’s data, and they could not help the LAHDRA team locate additional effluent monitoring data or Jordan’s thesis.
Questions and Comments
Public: How much was too much? Could you make a comparison to other sites or to Three Mile Island or Chernobyl?
Tom Widner: Most of the plutonium released would be from weapons plants or weapons testing. But I don’t have any numbers in my head that I can use to make comparisons.
Public: Curies from Three Mile Island were under 2.
Tom Widner: I believe that the release of radioiodine released from Three Mile Island was less than 20 curies. I’m not prepared to make comparisons with Chernobyl. We will be working on meaningful and not misleading comparisons.
Public: Have you found documents related to Hempelmann?
Tom Widner: Oh yes. He was among the most important figures from the health group.
Public: A few months ago I was speaking with his former ranch foreman. He recalled a time when Hempelmann was really upset about something and burned 20-30 boxes of lab records in the fireplace one weekend.
Tom Widner: We have not heard about that.
Public: I can recall that. I don’t know details, but I grew up here in the 1940s and can recall that incident.
Public: I think at one point you had estimated about 100 times more plutonium. You are now up to about 90. This is a pretty stunning figure in comparison to other sites. Can you tell us more about that?
Tom Widner: It seems to come down to lab not using high-efficiency filters as early as the other sites. D Building was very crude compared to modern-day facilities. They were asked to do amazing things with crude facilities. When they moved to DP West they made improvements, but they still had a ways to go. At first they used pretty primitive chemical warfare service filters, then they applied high-efficiency filters to individual glove boxes. Then in the 1970s second stage filters were applied. In my mind, releases were significantly higher than reported, and we are approaching that from different angles to provide an accurate picture.
Ken Silver: Would you have any quarrels with saying order of magnitude higher?
Tom Widner: I would say one order of magnitude higher. We are going to let the data take us where it will. We’re looking at soil samples, human tissue samples and effluent data. We will be conducting some independent reconstruction of data to determine how the original estimates came together.
Jay Coghlan: I am looking at a hard copy of the report that raises two questions. In one place you state that excess plutonium occurs in non-worker residents. How much higher is their exposure as compared to a control population and how does their exposure relate to full-scale dose reconstruction? Could you also comment on the difficulty of the review of records by the team at LANL as compared to other sites?
Tom Widner: Your first question refers to our human tissue sample analysis. We have a dataset of samples collected from people across the country. We have analyzed that data. As part of that dataset, we have data from 200 Los Alamos area residents and have their residence history. We will be analyzing those data in terms of arrival dates, distance and direction. However, it is too early to make assumptions and comparisons. We will have the analysis in the future. In terms of the difficulty of the review, LANL is unusual because had it has had the same contracting organization for many years. At first we had pretty free rein. Then security incidents and the fire had a great impact on procedures. The number of researchers working at one time became limited. We are now required to have escorts, and documents have to be prescreened before we review them. The restrictions grew all along. The difficulty is all related to timing and security.
Public: You were taking about non-worker residents being screened. Are you going to screen former workers that lived there in the 1940s but no longer live there?
Tom Widner: If you are talking about our human tissue analysis, we know if the person was a worker, what area they worked in, and whether they were judged to have had reasonable likelihood of plutonium exposure. For evaluating offsite releases, the non-worker residents are most useful to us. We are not processing samples, just reviewing paper documents. The samples still exist, and we are trying to determine if analyzing the samples with more sensitive modern procedures could be an avenue to better data.
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Recent work has included a review of the world’s first test of an atomic bomb (Trinity Site, July 16, 1945) and potential radiation exposures to residents of New Mexico. The Trinity Test was conducted 62 years ago.
Three types of weapons were developed at the Lab: a plutonium gun that was abandoned, a uranium gun, and a plutonium implosion weapon. The implosion weapon was the more complicated weapon, so the scientists decided they needed to test it. Scheduling of the test was driven by how fast the lab could produce the device, picking favorable weather conditions, and scheduling of the Potsdam Conference. In the end, it was Potsdam that set the schedule. The scientists just had to deal with the weather that happened that day.
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This slide summarizes our information gathering related to Trinity. Also, Cheryl Allen and Susan Flack have interviewed residents to document their personal experience and the experiences of family members.
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Trinity Site was set up with a series of observation and control shelters about 10,000 yards from ground zero. Members of the project team toured the area yesterday.
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Some people think that not many people were living in that area at the time. We have maps that identify locations of ranches, mines, windmills and more. On this map, each yellow dot translates to where there was a ranch, town, or camp where people were living. While there was no major population center within 50 miles, the area was far from uninhabited. There were more people living in the area in the 1940s than there are now.
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This is a map showing the area northeast of ground zero. This map was developed by Andi Kron.
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One area of particular interest is about 20 miles from ground zero. It lies north of Highway 380, the main highway in the area, and includes the town of Bingham and Hoot Owl Canyon. Because of the amount of radiation recorded in Hoot Owl Canyon, it became known as “Hot Canyon” by the field monitoring crews. Because of the terrain and airflow patterns, the highest levels of radioactivity passed through that area.
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There were five off-site monitoring teams. Their instrumentation was crude. It was not designed to be portable, and it had limited capabilities. The monitoring teams checked exposure rates and reportedly took air, soil and water samples. We have found no analysis results for those samples.
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This chart presents data reported from the field monitoring teams. The cloud skipped a distance then touched down around Bingham and east of there in the Hot Canyon area. In the book, The Day the Sun Rose Twice, the maximum reported exposure rate is said to have been a little higher (20 R/h). The monitoring teams took measurements waist high and near the ground. One of the “hottest” areas in Hot Canyon area was near the Ratliff Ranch. However, the monitoring teams did not get numbers during the day of the shot because they did not know the ranch was there. Measurements were recorded on the day after the test. If you apply corrections based on variations between day one and two, the exposure rates could easily have been upward of 30 R/h.
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Some work has been done to map the fallout from Trinity. But these representations are limited by the crude nature of the measurements that were made. We know that fallout was transferred around the country. Kodak noted damage to their film, which was traced to contaminated cardboard made in Indiana using river water that had been contaminated by Trinity fallout. Kodak figured out the cause, but kept the secret until the test was made public. Some of the issues related to the test were that a good fraction of the plutonium did not fission, it was dispersed across the countryside, but the instrumentation available at the time was unable to measure it. A comprehensive analysis of plutonium from the test was not completed until a couple of years later.
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Exposure rates were as high as 15 or 20 R/h. This was upwards of 10,000 times higher than the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) allows today. I am not trying to be judgmental. I am just trying to describe what the exposure levels could have been at the time.
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Ranchers were not informed of the test either before or after. Even after the bombs were dropped on Japan, the ranchers were not informed. Ranchers reported that fallout fell down “like snow” for several days after the tests. It rained the night after the event, and the rain was collected from metal roofs and stored in cisterns. The cistern water was used for drinking. These people that collected water from their roofs likely ingested fresh fission products. The remnants of two cisterns are visible at the Ratliff Ranch.
Livestock was raised in the area. Documents show that the Ratliff’s had 200 goats. Much work has been conducted with goats and goat milk. Goat milk has been shown to be a very efficient pathway for concentrating radioactive iodine. This is one of the factors that need to be considered.
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The government put together a cover story for Trinity. The government was very concerned about secrecy. The story was that ammunitions dump containing explosive gas shells exploded. Because of the gas shells, a justification for a possible evacuation was created. The mechanism for evacuation was in place if necessary. However, it was determined that an evacuation would be ordered only in an extreme emergency.
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A radiation exposure limit was established 75 R over two weeks, with an exposure rate limit of 15 R/h. This limit was exceeded at two places: Bingham and Hot Canyon. At one point they were preparing to evacuate Carrizozo because the readings were off the meter, but then the wind shifted and evacuation was considered unnecessary. The only evacuation that took place was by workers in the North Shelter after they were told the cloud might have been coming toward them. They drove so fast to the South Shelter that they were driving “on rims” when they arrived. Their badges showed no measurable doses.
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All dose assessments for members of the public from Trinity are seriously incomplete because they do not reflect internal doses from food, air, or water. The main concern at the time was for immediate effects, not long-term effects. I believe that if the government had the knowledge they have today, they would have been more likely to have issued evacuation orders.
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Pathways of contamination included inhalation, ingestion of milk from cows and goats, and ingestion of garden produce and water, as well as fallout on ground surfaces. We are preparing preliminary estimates of how much exposure residents could have had from cistern water and goat’s milk. Once we gather the data, I believe these internal doses will prove higher than external doses. Observable effects were noticed on cattle grazing on Chupadera Mesa. They had radiation burns on their backs and had lost hair. Many of the cattle were bought and shipped to Oak Ridge, TN, for long-term observation and research. We are not at the stage where we can do detailed dose reconstruction, but we are prioritizing doses so they can be properly compared to other LANL activities.
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From Trinity, the government learned that explosions made close to the ground lead to increased fallout. Even though the bomb was 100 feet from the ground when detonated, it was still close enough to the ground to suck up sand and dirt that was then deposited as fallout. It was also determined that terrain and airflow will create hot spots by influencing fallout patterns. General Groves also determined from the blast that this site was too small for future tests.
Questions and Comments
Public: It seems surprising that all the monitoring records are not available.
Tom Widner: We have exposure rate measurements from the monitoring teams. And we have records that state that samples were taken from cisterns and soil. However, we have not found any of the results from the sampling. We will go back to log books as part of a directed search to see if we can locate relevant sample data.
Public: I also wanted to ask about pathways. You mention drinking and eating, but what about inhalation?
Tom Widner. Oh certainly inhalation must be considered.
Public: Is there any point or plans to go back to the ranches and check cisterns for residual contamination?
Tom Widner: People have suggested that. Anything there would be heavily weathered. If it can be done, it might be worthwhile.
Public: Are than any estimates of the number of people exposed?
Tom Widner: So far we have identified where the ranches were. We have not done the number crunching to estimate what the total population exposed was. If the fallout was dispersed all the way to Indiana and caused problems for Kodak’s film even after dilution in a river there, many people across the country were exposed. The number of ranchers close-in is estimated to have been well over 100. The Ratliffs were an elderly couple with a grandchild. What did they do with so many goats? There were also mining camps in the area with undetermined numbers of workers. Cheryl, would you agree that it is well over 100?
Cheryl Allen: Yes. I am still trying to determine which ranches had children, the number of children, the number of ranch hands in the area, and that is a real sketchy area.
Public: You showed radiation rates that appeared the day after the test. Do you have numbers of radiation exposure as a function of time over days? Also, did they take samples that would identify the types of isotopes present?
Tom Widner: They did collect soil and water samples, but we have not found documentation that explains what they did with the samples. Most data were collected the day after the test. Two additional ranches were found in the area of highest concentration on the second day following the test. In the Hot Canyon area they were limited because their instruments became so contaminated they could not take more measurements. One of the data points I do have was that they went back to Hot Canyon one month later and the exposure rate was 32 milliRoentgen per hour. Reports put together by Hoffman at the lab studied decay over time and looked at differences between structure types (adobe vs. wood frame). So if Mrs. Ratliff were inside most of the day, what would she really have been exposed to? All those things are being looked into.
Public: The 150 miles you were taking about needing as a buffer, wouldn’t Japan have that available?
Tom Widner: Well the objective in Japan was likely maximizing damage, not limiting damage. There were a lot of people lobbying for demonstrating the potential of the weapons in a limited population area, but that was overruled.
Public: On your chart you say you need to study an area of at least 150 miles without population.
Tom Widner: That is when the Army determined they needed a bigger area for subsequent testing. Thereafter, the Marshall Islands and Nevada Test Site were identified as potential test sites. I want to point out that the U.S. has conducted a lot of testing above and below ground. Back then they didn’t know if the bomb would work or the extent of contamination. A number of world-class scientists thought the blast could ignite the atmosphere. Scientists at Trinity Site started a pool on how big the blast would be. A containment vessel called Jumbo was constructed and was planned to hold the device for testing in case it didn’t work and they had to recover the plutonium. It is important to know how uncertain things were back then.
Ken Silver: It is a fascinating bit of detective work. But what is the point? There are a couple of hundred people. You have not heard a cry of injustice from them. You can’t do an epidemiology study with a couple hundred people. You told us earlier that the contract funds are running out. There are at least 20,000 up here on the hill. Wouldn’t it be better to spend the remainder of the funds on the main purpose of reconstructing doses on the hill?
Tom Widner: That’s a comment that we have received from some folks, “why do you care what happened 62 years ago.” Part of the benefit of a project like this is to determine what happened. We have learned a lot about Trinity, and we are about as far as we can go with it right now. We are turning toward plutonium releases and I think that will be the lion’s share of work as it continues, but 200 ranchers or so is not the entire extent of people exposed. The first thing you have to do is to see what happened. Then you can determine the priorities once you know what you are working with. We are not planning to spend a lot of money on continued Trinity research at this point. We will look at the potential significance of water and milk ingestion. Then it will be up to the CDC and stakeholders to decide what is important.
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I want to provide an update of the prioritization of historical releases. We have a set of human tissue analysis data for 148 Los Alamos area residents. Within the dataset, 60 were LANL workers. Of these, 15 were likely exposed to plutonium at work and 45 were not likely to have suffered exposure. LANL personnel made the judgment on whether the workers were likely exposed or not. Non-worker residents totaled 88. We have tracked down where these people lived when they passed away, and we have determined where they lived over time.
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This is a graph to show you that we have quite a bit of variability in the different organs. What we are trying to do is come up with the most powerful analysis to answer the question of importance to the project. How do residents of Los Alamos compare to people living in other areas?
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Our data places year of arrival for residents in the dataset ranging from 1943 to 1974. Residency ranges from 1 to 27 years. We have determined the latitude and longitude of where these people have resided.
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In this photo composite of Los Alamos, yellow dots show where one of the individuals lived. Our analysis will be based on a function of distance, direction and arrival. A dataset like this is rarely available. We intend to use it wisely.
Public: Where is DP Site?
Joe Shonka: South of the airport.
Tom Widner: DP Site is designated by the pushpin.
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One of the other things we are doing is developing a profile of how the releases from LANL varied over time.
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If you ran a dispersion model with a unit release or a known release that followed this profile over time and then calculated what you would expect to find in the organs of these people based on where they lived, you could compare this to actual measurements and determine how much you would have to “scale up” your unit release to best match actual measurements.
That could be another way of measuring what was released from the Lab. This is another piece of the puzzle--another angle.
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In summary, we are nearing the end of the information-gathering phase. We will tie it up as efficiently as possible so that we can answer questions and identify issues that warrant more detailed investigation. We talked about Trinity Site. Back calculation of soil samples is another area we are going to pick up again and try to refine.
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Please feel free to contact us.
Public: You mentioned other releases like accidents and stuff. Did you put together a chart of accidents and releases and then estimates like from fires or where they may have blown.
Tom Widner: We have compiled accidents and incidents in a chronology. We have not done much independent estimation of releases for them. We have not had the luxury of time to get into much detail. There does not appear to be a major accident that stands out other than the fire at MDAB in 1948 that is some concern for off-site contamination. But we have not yet put that into scale of where it belongs.
Public: What is MDA B?
Tom Widner: MDA B was the Material Disposal Area B, a waste dumping ground west of DP Site. They are in the process of doing an archaeological dig to determine what might have been buried there. They don’t know what went into the site. We are sharing information whenever it is helpful.
Public: My question is directed to Phil Green in order to understand the funding issues. I understood that there were decision points along the way. But now it sounds like everything is going to be decided in two years. What has happened to the decision points we discussed back in 1999 about whether there would be a dose reconstruction?
Phil Green: Initially this project was only to be a document retrieval and assessment project--collection only and no analysis. Based on lessons learned from other sites we decided to do some analysis, and at some point, do directed searches. I’m not sure if I am answering your question totally.
Public: In 1999, when the project started you said this would be a three-phase project, and the first phase would be the document review, then some prioritization and then determine of there was going to be a dose reconstruction. As I understand it now the document review and prioritization were conducted simultaneously to save money, and then it will be determined if there would be a dose reconstruction. When will the decision be made about the dose reconstruction?
C. M. Wood: At the conclusion of this study, ChemRisk will present a final report to the CDC. Then the CDC will make the recommendation of whether or not to conduct a dose reconstruction, but CDC will not be able to fund the work.
Public: If the CDC makes the decision to go ahead, then the Department of Energy (DOE) will need to fund the dose reconstruction?
C. M. Wood: Yes. We cannot make a decision at this point. I don’t have a crystal ball to show me what the decision will be or what issues might be present. The dose reconstruction at SRS cost upwards of $1.5 million just for the last part that I was involved with. Prior to that, it cost in the tens of millions. I do not know if the current climate will support that level of funding or not. The lead that Tom is giving us for those areas that are likely subjects is a possibility.
Public: From the public’s point of view, when Rocky Flats has 13.6 Ci released and a dose reconstruction was done, and Hanford had 1.78 Ci released and a dose reconstruction was done, it seems logical that LANL would have a dose reconstruction. My concern is that the language is being used to presuppose that a dose reconstruction is not being considered. Based on the data presented tonight we need to be moving in that direction.
C. M. Wood: This site, unlike the others did not have a federal advisory committee set up to address those issues. The voice of stakeholders in New Mexico has always been listened to. Whether that brings us to a conclusion of a full-scale dose reconstruction I cannot speculate on tonight. When the information is available, we will look at it and hope that stakeholders will be part of the decision making process. When the final report is released to the public, we will have a public meeting to discuss the report, even if not have an active contract. At that time all those issues can be discussed.
Public: How were the tissue samples of internal organs collected?
Tom Widner: They were done after an individual died. The coroner would conduct an autopsy. There was cooperation between the coroner and the lab to release samples.
Ken Silver: I really want to give commendations for the most recent release of the report including the listing of Health Division progress reports, the list of occurrences and the creative use of autopsy and soil samples. I recommend a focused analysis at hot cells around the lab. First I urge you to do an appendix for a key operational area of hot cells at TA-3, 35, 48 and 21. They all had large inventories of fission products. There is some documentation on Building 4 in TA-21 and Wing 9 [of CMR] in the mid 1960s that is provocative and suggests that source terms could have been quite large. Then, as soon as possible, focus on partially spent fuel sources from test reactors. Rover was one such project, but not the only one. Your information on Rover does not quite acknowledge these large inventories of fission products. There was another step. Fuel elements were brought back to Los Alamos and some were screaming hot. When I discovered stack-monitoring data at Zimmerman I created a simple crude plot with the y-axis as a crude source term for relative comparison and the x-axis with years spanning most of the 1960s. Then I overlaid the dates of the Rover test at NTS. In a number of cases there was a spike in the fission product releases about a month after each Rover test. The month of the spike is a month that the Health Division progress report is missing. Also, I-131 is not the only radioactive iodine to look at.
Tom Widner: Thank you. We will look into the topics you raise.
Public: Back to the 148 tissue samples. You showed levels of DPM. Was that radionuclide specific? And the second question- you certainly must now have a median value for workers and non-workers. How does that compare to Rocky Flats workers who have sizable body burdens? If some of these levels are not significant as compared to Rocky Flats workers who are not dropping off like flies then you are just wasting our time and money.
Joe Shonka: The samples were isotope specific for plutonium-239 and -240. We do not have autopsy data from Rocky Flats workers. There were a limited number of workers with high exposures. At Los Alamos, they were called the IPPU Club or UPPU Club. These were followed very closely, and many of them at their death donated their body to science for research programs for atmospheric worldwide fallout. Concentrations vary. We don’t have actual tissues that we know were from Rocky Flats unless the worker donated his body to science after death. The difficulty with the samples is the Denver is so large and so far from Rocky Flats you don’t actually know if the Denver samples came from Rocky Flats.
Public: Is there are any data on workers that worked there all the time (at Rocky Flats) with their poor safety standards and equipment. My point is that their body burdens are likely to be much higher than anyone anywhere.
Joe Shonka: In actual fact, we just recently got the death certificates, so I do not have a useful comparison between the two. But that is a useful suggestion for our work in the next year.
Public: Tom, you addressed the problem regarding classified records mostly in the past tense. Does this mean the problems have been resolved? In the last year have there been any new issues?
Tom Widner: It has been a pretty smooth year mainly because we have been reviewing unclassified documents. The issues we face now are primarily budgetary. But the lab had been very supportive providing us support personnel. The budgetary constraints are limiting the number of people we can have here and the number of weeks we can spend here. If we get into the weapons division, we may have to use the appeals process. We have to use our remaining time wisely.
Public: Is the weapons division one of the high priority divisions to look at?
Tom Widner: It is not in our top six. We are mainly focusing on health and safety and chemistry and physics. But it would be nice to get into some of the other divisions. At the divisions, we determine what is available then we make decisions as to what we should look at. We will have to pick those that are highest priority.
Jay Coghlan: Looking at the report’s introduction, the primary purpose of the project is to collect and analyze data relevant to historic releases. Going back to 1999, I recall the primary purpose was to collect historic documents that will lead to a recommendation of whether or not to conduct a dose reconstruction. This report lacks such language. How can we have a site where the releases of plutonium are an order of magnitude higher than other DOE sites, in conjunction with a population that lived closer to the lab, and not have a dose reconstruction?
Tom Widner: I never thought it would be our responsibility to make a recommendation for or against a dose reconstruction. Rather, we are assembling the documents and preparing a report that stakeholders and the CDC can use to support their decision making. The project is laying the groundwork so that the CDC can decide what to do next in an informed manner.
Public: Is there a requirement to have a federal advisory board under the federal advisory act to bring this decision forward?
C.M. Wood: Based on my experience, I can make an educated guess that we will keep marching down the road we are going down now. We will continue to prioritize what is important. If I were a betting man, I would bet that in August or September of next year we will either be holding a discussion about whether to pick this, this, and this and do a dose reconstruction or start talking about how to wrap up Los Alamos. We do not need a Federal Advisory Committee to proceed or not to proceed. The rule says that if I take consensus advice from the public then by default that is a Federal Advisory Committee and I must comply with the Federal Advisory Committee Act. Having or not having a committee does not preclude the decision to have a dose reconstruction.
Public: This is a matter of clarification. The issue is not just plutonium. Plutonium is a popular subject. But looking through the report there are gaps. You don’t even have valid tritium data up to 1976 because the laboratory has not provided it. You are also missing data because the lab hasn’t given you data on mixed activation products. This goes on and on down the line. Yes be concerned about plutonium, but do not let it be your only focus.
Tom Widner: We agree, and will list and prioritize a wide variety of contaminants. As was mentioned, people were living closer to the action at LANL. We are working out ways to deal with the gaps in our knowledge in order to assemble a complete picture. We will take your advice and address as many holes as possible.
Public: High explosives tests are another factor.
Tom Widner: Compared to other chemicals, high explosives are not as toxic. We are going on a tour of TA-15 and 16 this week, areas where high explosives were manufactured and tested. We are looking at that topic, and we have relatively good data.
Public: The issue is not over the high explosives components, but it is what was blown up with them. What kind of dose does that create at one time?
Tom Widner: We hear your point and share your concerns.
Public: Have you gained any knowledge that can be applied to improve today’s monitoring?
Tom Widner: One of our goals is to find and sample undisturbed soil, which may be impossible. Our focus is mainly on the past. The most important occurrences happened before the 1970s.
Joe Shonka: We have started to look at the MDA areas where there are releases. We are looking at modeling non-point source emissions to get the curie totals for today’s releases as well as historical ones.
Public: I think that air stations 76, 77 and 78, which are in the depleted uranium firing sites, should be turned on for monitoring.
Public: I got the impression that there have not been any dose reconstructions for plutonium at any United States sites except for Rocky Flats. Is that correct?
C.M. Wood: We have estimated plutonium releases at other sites. But once we had estimates of the source terms, we have not gone on to a dose reconstruction.
Tom Widner: I think they did it for the waterborne release pathway at Hanford.
C.M. Wood: We did the Columbia River pathway. At Hanford they were taking water from the river through the reactor as a coolant, and then back into the river. We can check the Hanford reports to determine what was looked at.
Tom Widner: I think that the 1.78 Ci number that I mentioned was an estimate of airborne releases of plutonium from Hanford.
Ken Silver: A common basis for comparison at DOE sites is the volume of air required to dilute emissions to the maximum permissible concentrations. It controls for the proximity of the population. When you first came here, Los Alamos was high as compared to other sites. Also, that 43 Ci that gets bandied about is for eight years. There are another 20 years of DP West operations that have not been accounted for. And one last point, House Speaker Ben Lujan is in attendance and it is not often that a political figure of such importance shows up at a community meeting like this. I know he has always lent a willing ear to the blue-collar people and worker health concerns, but I thank you for coming.
Public: When you are out on tour of the firing sites, it would be really great if LANL could point out where the Airnet stations are at the firing site. Those are where the highest levels of uranium and depleted uranium were measured. The stations are currently turned off. If you could suggest that those stations be turned back on, the public who are concerned about the movement of such materials would greatly appreciate it. Thank You.
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- Page last updated: November 06, 2018
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