If You Want A Liar, Don’t Hire A Geologist

In 1983, I was working on the Safety Analysis Report for the Department of Energy’s nuclear waste disposal site in southeastern New Mexico. My job was doing modeling of groundwater flow around the site, to asses the risk of contamination with nuclear material.

One day in early June my bosses’ boss (a fine gentleman from India) flew into Albuquerque, walked into my office, and said :

You guys are doing a great job, a really great job!

Please remember that if you find any problems, don’t put them in the report.

I walked out of the office immediately, and spent the summer working as a wilderness ranger in the Pecos Wilderness north of Santa Fe.


One year ago, they had a radiation leak at that facility.

ScreenHunter_7958 Mar. 16 06.45 Serious “radiation incident” at NM waste facility has public concerned | Red Dirt Report


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31 Responses to If You Want A Liar, Don’t Hire A Geologist

  1. Disillusioned says:

    Tony, I follow you because of your relentless pursuit of truth. Again, you make a piss-poor example for a “fossil fuel trained” propagandist. Actual propagandists don’t have a chance against people of integrity. Truth will always out. Political correctness be damned.

  2. Oliver K. Manuel says:

    I was at the USGS in Denver in 1979-80 comparing K-Ar and K-Ca ages of the salts in New Mexico where radioactive waste was to be stored.

    After AGW promoters, members of the UN’s IPCC, UK’s RS and US NAS lost the AGW debate, I realize Climategate was but the tip of a giant, 70-year old iceberg of government deceit initially intended to save the world from possible nuclear annihilation.

    The 1945 decision to hide the source of energy that destroyed Hiroshima has destroyed the integrity of government science and isolated mankind from the Reality that sustains our lives:

    Click to access God.pdf

  3. tabnumlock says:

    To be fair, modest amounts of radiation are good for you. No, I am not joking. The same goes for microbes, toxins and carcinogens. Today’s kids who are raised in a sterile environment are weak, sickly asthmatics. Please, ladies, let your kid play in the dirt with other kids.

    I might go so far as to install a radiation emitter in every home. You’d remove and bury it in case a of a nuclear accident, of course. Remember, people evolved in close contact with the soil and usually rock. There was a lot of dirt in their food as well.

    • Rob says:

      I don’t want to distract too much from the main point, but the term “radiation leak” is not indicative of any problem. Radiation “leaks” from any radioactive material because you cannot shield realistically 100%. Even if you could, there is radiation naturally occurring in the environment so why would you bother to shield to below background levels? You shield to reduce the energy levels of the source as well as the intensity of the flux to reasonable levels using the principles of time/distance/shielding.

      I believe you mean the uncontrolled release of radioactive material(s).

      But again, I’m not taking away from the main point of the post.

    • Disillusioned says:

      “I might go so far as to install a radiation emitter in every home.”

      We’re already doing that. These devices are commonly known as granite counter tops. 😉

    • rah says:

      An argument can be made for the exact opposite concerning microbes actually. We modern humans are actually exposed to far more microbes today than our ancestors because modern transportation. In much of America in early 1800’s right into the very early 1900’s , especially in the west, it was not unusual at all for a person to live their entire life in the county they were born in.

      During the Civil War, men from the west, (IN, IL, MI, WI, IA, MO) that ended up in units that would serve in the Army of the Potomac suffered terrible losses to disease long before they saw battle. The men from the west were generally larger and stronger than their countrymen from the east, but most had lived the rural agrarian life and not been exposed to the plethora of maladies the eastern men, living in the urban centers where the migrants entered had been.

      Then came WW I. The same effect was noticed though not as pronounced as it had been during the Civil war in part no doubt due to some what better immunizations. But it can certainly be argued that the mass of people moving around exacerbated the spread of the great flu that killed more people than the war did.

      • gator69 says:

        Try the water in Mexico, Gringo. 😉

      • rah says:

        Guys I’ve been some places where the water was probably as bad if not worse. Lebanon, Liberia, Nigeria? Survivor man has nothing on me in that respect. Though I really do respect that guy and have learned some great stuff from his programs.

        And even in Europe. You actually think that water from a high alpine stream that’s so cold and clear is safe? HA! Not even above the tree line unless your close to the source is it wise to drink it untreated.

        • gator69 says:

          I have zero respect for any ‘survival experts’ who do not have sense enough to carry a Bic lighter. I have three in my truck, three in my backpack, three in my daypack, and NEVER leave home without one. I do not smoke and I am no pyro. What kind of jackass remembers a Bowie knife and flint, and cannot pack a Bic? It takes two hands to even attempt a steel and flint or friction fire, so what happens when one arm is broken? You die.

          Take a tip from a real expert, always have a Bic lighter on hand, and when lost, stay put and light a fire.

          Those guys are showmen.

    • AndyG55 says:

      Me Mum had a saying..

      “A bit of dirt, doesn’t hurt”

      Lucky, because there were 3 of us boys.

      • gator69 says:

        My summers were spent barefooted in the nearest creek I could find. As kids we built dams, forts, treehouses, tunnels, gocarts, boats, and anything else we could imagine. None of it was sanitary, and I attribute those days to my robust immune system and ability to assess any objects in my field of vision. The only models I built actually flew, drove or sailed.

        A few years back I had a pipe burst and the insurance paid a union carpenter about half my age to come out and do repairs to the damaged woodwork. At one point he could not maneuver his sawzall into a tight spot, so I handed him my Craftsman 15″ hand saw. He just stared at it like it was an unknown relic from another millennium, and then sheepishly admitted he never had been able to master a hand saw. I finished the job.

  4. Edmonton Al says:

    Was your bosses’ boss name Pachauri ? ;^D

  5. etudiant says:

    In the interest of full disclosure, the accident mentioned did not involve ground water flows.
    Rather it was because Los Alamos had started to use cheaper organic based kitty litter rather than inert diatomaceous earth to blot up contaminated nitric acid wastes sent to the WIPP in New Mexico.
    That caused the barrels in which the stuff was stored to overheat violently, burn and spew contamination. Because of WIPP negligence,( the fire doors had been wired open) the contamination spread beyond the facility as shown.

    • Gail Combs says:

      That is what you get when the order from the chemist/chem engineer/nuclear engineer has to go through a no-nothing in the purchasing department.

      I had a very similar thing happen back in the late 1970s. I ordered Vermiculite which is routinely used for packaging small quantities of chemicals for shipment. I got shredded unidentifiable – paper/cloth/fiberglass? insulation because it was ‘cheaper’

      I blistered some ears in purchasing. It was the last time they changed one of my orders.

      However if someone else had been assigned the job of packing the chemicals there certainly could have been a nasty leak.

    • nielszoo says:

      I understood that they had always used a specific brand of cat litter, which is primarily bentonite clay of which there are several different types. Cat litter also has additional ingredients besides just the clay. The problem occurred when the purchasing folks changed brands (due to price or availability) without checking with or informing the chemists to make sure the new litter was compatible. Obviously the same thing could happen with a reformulation of the brand as well. That’s what makes specifying a material for a different purpose than its packaged or designed use is a really dangerous thing to do. I cannot tell you how many times an accountant, purchasing or project manager substituting an “identical” part or material has screwed up a job I’ve been on.

      • Gail Combs says:

        Yes, the most recent one I encountered was Kaopectate.

        It used to be Kaolin (clay) and pectin ( jam or jelly-making )
        I used it for two purposes. The Doctor suggested 1/2 dose for the nausea that comes from post nazal drip of allergy suffers. Worked great. The second use is for horses that get liquid poops due to nerves at shows or other events.

        The new formulation doesn’t work for the first purpose and is also toxic to horses…. GRUMBLE.

        Pepto-Bismol sort of works in horses but not nearly as well. Lucily you can still get vet – Kaopectate.

        …As of the date the 2003 document took effect, manufacturers were to have withdrawn or reformulated all products labeled for diarrhea that contained attapulgite, polycarbophil, calcium/polycarbophil, or the combination of kaolin and pectin. This leaves only two ingredients now proven safe and effective for diarrhea: bismuth subsalicylate and loperamide. Because of the 2003 FDA rule, bismuth subsalicylate cannot be safely dosed in self-care patients younger than 12 years. Further, the youngest age for which loperamide can be used in self-care situations is 6 years. Therefore, the pharmacist must now refer any patient with diarrhea who is younger than 6 years to a physician for care….

        • rah says:

          Loparamide is pretty darn effective at slowing the motility of the gut. But then again it should be since it has some of the same effects, sans the CNS, of opiates.

        • nutso fasst says:

          From Wikipedia:
          “The active ingredient in kaopectate has changed since its original creation. Originally, kaolinite was used as the adsorbent and pectin as the emollient. Attapulgite (a type of absorbent clay) replaced the kaolinite in the 1980s, but was found to be unproven as to effectiveness by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in a ruling made in April of 2003. As a consequence, since 2004, bismuth subsalicylate has been used as the active ingredient in U.S. marketed products.[1] In Canada, McNeil Consumer Healthcare continues to market kaopectate using attapulgite as the active ingredient.”

          Medscape article says the 2003 FDA rule finds kaolin to be effective, but there are no products still containing it:

  6. Anto says:

    Australia is the most logical place in the world for nuclear waste storage. We have one of the most geologically stable land masses on the planet, with vast areas of desert which will never be of any use for anything else.

  7. Bob Knows says:

    I like to read Real Science because you usually cut off all the BS and greatly exaggerated nonsense about the “hazard” of CO2, etc. In stark contrast to the usual rational fare, this “serious radiation” release is probably trivial a its worst. You usually do better than that.

  8. nutso fasst says:

    Waste Isolation Pilot Plant has another claim to fame.

    There have only been 4 state high temperature records set since 1985 (38 state records were set prior to 1937).

    3 of those records were set in 1994: at Laughlin, NV, Lake Havasu City, AZ, and Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, NM.

    The Laughlin station was created in 1988, Lake Havasu City in 1991, and Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in 1986 — all in the hottest areas of their respective states.

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