Saturday, May 3, 2014

Waste from U.S. nuke weapons lab might be source of leak

English: PA-98-0520 — Trinity Site explosion, ...
English: PA-98-0520 — Trinity Site explosion, 0.016 seconds after explosion, July 16, 1945. Türkçe: 16 Temmuz 1945 yılında New Mexico'daki Socorro'nın 56 km kadar güneydoğusunda şu an üzerinde komuta merkezi Alamogordo'da bulunan White Sands Missile Range'in bulunduğu yerde yapılmış Trinity patlamasının, infilak anından 0,016 sn sonra çekilmiş görüntüsüdür. Görüntülenen yarım kürenin en yüksek noktası yaklaşık 200 metre yüksekliğindedir. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Waste from U.S. nuke weapons lab might be source of leak | Shanghai Daily

 U.S. nuke weapons lab might be source of leak

HOUSTON, May 2 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Department of Energy indicated Friday that waste from a nuclear weapons laboratory stored in an underground dump in New Mexico might be the source of a major radiation leak that had exposed 21 people and closed the repository for months.
The Energy Department said in a statement Friday that crews in their recent trip to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico uncovered the disintegration of several heavy bags containing magnesium oxide. The bags sit atop several sealed drums containing nuclear waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory, a leading nuclear weapons manufacturer of the country.
"The team is looking at the possibility that a chemical reaction may have occurred within a drum, causing a potential release," the department said in the statement.
Investigators were also looking at whether the cause could be related to the waste packages themselves. The department said earlier it was not clear what damaged the bags. And the crews had not found any structural damage in the waste storage area of the repository.
Officials said a possible cause of the problem might be the presence of untreated nitrate salts in some of the containers, which could result in an "energetic chemical reaction" if they came in contact with certain other material in the containers.
Shipment of the waste in question from the laboratory to a temporary storage dump in Texas had been halted. Los Alamos National Laboratory had been forced to relocate its nuclear refuse to the Texas dump after a radiation leak shuttered the New Mexico dump on Feb. 14.
Last week, the Energy Department released its preliminary findings of the radiation leak, citing poor management, ineffective maintenance and a lack of proper training and oversight at the plant. The federal department found much of the operation failed to meet standards for a nuclear facility.
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant stores "transuranic waste" leftover from nuclear weapons research and testing from the nation's past defense activities, according to the Energy Department's website. The waste includes clothing, tools, rags and other debris contaminated with radioactive elements, largely plutonium.
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USS Harlan R. Dickson (DD-708)

Naval Warfare

Figure 1:  USS Harlan R. Dickson (DD-708) off Manhattan Island, New York, en route from her builders, Federal Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company, Kearny, New Jersey, for delivery to the Navy in February 1945. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2:  USS Harlan R. Dickson (DD-708) underway in Hampton Roads, Virginia, 8 May 1964. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image. 

Figure 3:  USS Harlan R. Dickson (DD-708) underway, during the 1960s. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Named after Lieutenant Commander Harlan R. Dickson, a highly decorated naval aviator who was killed in 1944, the 2,200-ton USS Harlan R. Dickson (DD-708) was an Allen M. Sumner class destroyer that was built by the Federal Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company at Kearny, NJ, and was commissioned on 17 February 1945. The ship was approximately 376 feet long and 40 feet wide, had a top speed of 34 knots, and had a crew of 336 officers and men. Harlan R. Dickson was armed with six 5-inch guns, 12 40-mm guns, 11 20-mm guns, ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, and depth charges.

After being commissioned, Harlan R. Dickson spent the balance of 1945 assigned to the Atlantic Fleet before arriving at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in December 1945. The ship spent most of its time involved with naval exercises and various training programs before returning to the Atlantic in March 1946. Harlan R. Dickson engaged in further training exercises before leaving in February 1947 for duty with the US Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea. This was the first in a lengthy series of deployments to the Mediterranean, with occasional trips made farther east to the Persian Gulf. Throughout the next two decades, these deployments to the Mediterranean were punctuated by operations in the western Atlantic and in the Caribbean.

From 2 July to 4 December 1956, during her sixth Mediterranean cruise, Harlan R. Dicksonplayed a key role in the evacuation of American citizens from Haifa, Israel, as war loomed between Israel and Egypt. In October 1962, Harlan R. Dickson was assigned to the hunter-killer antisubmarine task force which participated in the quarantine of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Once the crisis ended, Harlan R. Dickson resumed her deployments to the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, always on the lookout for Soviet warships that were on patrol in the area.

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Veterans groups call for investigation into Phoenix VA

Disabled American Veterans
Disabled American Veterans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Veterans groups call for investigation into Phoenix VA | Air Force Times |

Veterans groups are calling for a thorough investigation into delays in patient care at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care System that may have resulted in deaths and say new allegations of a cover-up are troubling.
Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki’s decision to place three Phoenix VA hospital officials related to the case on administrative leave, announced Thursday, signals the department’s commitment to investigating the issue, said officials at the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
But a report in the Arizona Republic on Thursday indicating that records were destroyed at the facility last Sunday — days after the House Veterans Affairs Committee called for preservation of all material related to the case — has raised fears that the truth may never be known.
“If it is determined there was willful negligence on the part of the staff that resulted in the deaths of veterans, any ensuing cover-up or destruction of records that could assist in the investigation, employee terminations and criminal charges must be brought against those responsible,” American Legion National Commander Daniel Dellinger said.
“We are waiting to see what the VA inspector general turns up,” said David Autry, deputy national director of communications at Disabled American Veterans. “VA has been taking a lot of heat recently and we certainly hope for full accountability on this issue, as we do with all VA services, from claims to medical services.”
Shinseki placed hospital director Sharon Helman, Associate Director Lance Robinson and another hospital employee on administrative leave while the VA inspector general investigates allegations of delays in care that may have contributed to 40 deaths at the facility.
The step is unprecedented for Shinseki, who did not remove the director of the Pittsburgh VA Medical Center during an IG investigation and criminal probe into the deaths of five veterans related to Legionnaires’ disease contracted at the facility or other medical center directors involved in investigations.
Shinseki said he made the move to allow for an independent objective review in Phoenix.
“These allegations, if true, are absolutely unacceptable and if the inspector general’s investigation substantiates these claims, swift and appropriate action will be taken,” Shinseki said.
House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., said the Arizona Republic article alleging that documents already have been destroyed related to the case point to a “despicable situation.”
“Shinseki did the right thing by placing three Phoenix administrators on leave. But by no means does that common-sense step, which should have already been done weeks ago, take VA out of the hot seat,” Miller said.
VA Undersecretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday that an initial review found no evidence of a “secret list” of patients waiting for appointments or any indication of a cover-up.
Petzel promised a thorough investigation and cautioned against a rush to judgment before the inspector general releases its findings.
According to reports by CNN and the Arizona Republic, VA leaders reported false wait times for patients to higher officials in order to fake progress in getting veterans timely care.
According to the reports, a second, private wait list included thousands of veterans who waited months or years for appointments, with as many as 40 patients dying while waiting for care.
Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., on Thursday sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder calling for a criminal probe into the Phoenix allegations as well as delays in patient care elsewhere.
“Because these cases involve individuals working in their capacity as federal employees, and these incidents have occurred at federal facilities throughout the nation, I urge you to work with the state attorneys general in Arizona and across the country to investigate these preventable deaths thoroughly,” Rooney wrote.
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Friday, May 2, 2014

Navy marine mammal worker dies

Navy marine mammal worker dies |

A handler gives a clamp to one of their trained California sea lions that it will clamp to a person simulating a "threat swimmer''s"  thigh, during a demonstration at the Navy's Point Loma facility.ORIGINAL REPORT:
A 29-year-old government contractor died Monday during a nighttime exercise with the U.S. Navy’s marine mammal program in San Diego Bay.
Coll Perske, an employee of Science Applications International Corp., was given CPR at the scene by paramedics and taken to UC San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest, where he was pronounced dead.
A Navy spokesman said the training exercise involved two boats and SAIC contractors. The team was practicing a skill called “swimmer interdiction” – when Navy dolphins and sea lions detect and mark an incoming swimmer with a claw-like device.
But Jim Fallin, spokesman for Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific on Point Loma, said the marine mammals were always either in the boat or in sight of the boat crews and were not engaged with the swimmer -- in this case Perske, whose job description was marine mammal specialist.
The Navy’s $28 million marine mammal program, headquartered in San Diego, uses 80 bottlenose dolphins and 40 California sea lions. This is the first time a person has been killed in connection with the program, Fallin said.
Deferring to the continuing investigation, Fallin said he didn’t have any releasable information on the cause of Perske’s death. A San Diego County Medical Examiner's report released late Tuesday said Perske drowned during a diving exercise. After he failed to resurface, co-workers assisted him to the surface but found him unresponsive.
The commander of SPAWAR’s Point Loma operation has called a temporary halt to all training events that are not considered mission-essential, Fallin said.
"This is a tremendous loss to all of us," said Capt. Kurt Rothenhaus, commanding officer. "I want to express my sincerest and deepest condolences to the family, along with the many friends and teammates our SAIC colleague had here at SSC Pacific." 
SAIC, based in McLean, Va., released a statement that said the company is “deeply saddened” by the loss.
“Perske had been a member of the SAIC family and the marine mammal program for more than five years. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends,” the company said in a statement released Tuesday.
The Navy uses marine mammals because they are armed by Mother Nature with superb eyesight, sophisticated sonar and the ability to dive 500 feet without getting “the bends.”
Navy dolphins and sea lions have deployed to Iraq and Bahrain during the post-Sept. 11 wars to keep ports safe for American ships. Their roles including patrolling for enemy divers and finding mines. It’s a program that goes back to naval research that started in the late 1950s and at one time included killer whales and sharks.

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USS Bairoko (CVE-115)

Naval Warfare

Figure 1:  USS Bairoko (CVE-115) photographed during the later 1940s or early 1950s, off San Diego, California. This photograph was received by the Naval Photographic Center in December 1959, many years after it was taken. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.  

Figure 2:  "The 10,900-ton escort aircraft carrier USS Bairoko(CVE-115) is shown as she arrived at Pearl Harbor Thursday evening, July 28, 1949, from San Diego, California, with 30 officers and 150 enlisted personnel from Composite Squadron 25, which will receive six weeks' training with Fleet All Weather Training Unit at Barber's Point Naval Air Station, Oahu, Hawaii. Bairoko is commanded by Captain S. Gazze, USN, of Coronado, California." Quoted from the original picture caption, released by 14th Naval District Public Information Office on 29 July 1949. Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image. 

Figure 3: "Escort carrier the USS Bairoko (CVE-115), part of the Air Support Group under the command of Rear Admiral M.R. Greer, USN, steams past snow covered mountains of Kodiak, Alaska, while recovering Marine support aircraft during a training exercise.” Quoted from the original picture caption. This view was taken by a USS Boxer (CV-21) photographer on 10 February 1949. A US Marine Corps F4U Corsair aircraft is flying over the carrier and other F4Us are parked on her flight deck, forward. Kodiak Island is in the background.Official US Navy Photograph, from the collections of the Naval Historical Center. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 4: Aerial view of USS Bairoko(CVE-115) underway. This photograph is dated 20 April 1950, but was probably taken during the second half of 1949, as Bairokoreported to San Francisco Naval Shipyard at San Francisco, California, for pre-inactivation maintenance on 15 December 1949 and was placed out of commission and in reserve on 14 April 1950. US Navy and Marine Corps/Naval Aviation Museum photograph, from the Robert L. Lawson Photograph Collection. Click on photograph for larger image. 

Named after a small harbor on the northern coast of New Georgia in the Solomon Islands, the 24,275-ton USS Bairoko (CVE-115) was a Commencement Bay class escort aircraft carrier that was built by the Todd-Pacific Shipyard at Tacoma, Washington, and was commissioned on 16 July 1945. The ship was approximately 557 feet long and 75 feet wide, had a top speed of 19 knots, and had a crew of 1,066 officers and men. Bairoko was armed with two 5-inch guns, 36 40-mm guns, and 20 20-mm guns, and could carry 33 aircraft.

After being commissioned, Bairoko served in the Pacific throughout her career. She was deployed to the Far East after the end of the war in October 1945 and remained there until January 1946. The ship returned to the United States in January 1946 and in February steamed to Tacoma, Washington, for three weeks of modifications designed to allow her to operate jet aircraft. After spending over a year ferrying aircraft to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and to Tsingtao, China, Bairokoreturned to the west coast of the United States.

On 7 January 1948, Bairoko went to Terminal Island at San Pedro, California, to prepare for an unusual assignment.  She was given the task of supporting Operation Sandstone, which was a three-detonation series of atmospheric nuclear tests that were held at Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Bairoko was equipped with an instrument repair laboratory and a decontamination center on her hanger deck. The ship left San Pedro on 15 February and was loaded with reconnaissance aircraft, helicopters, and a radiological safety group of scientists.

Bairoko arrived at Eniwetok Atoll on 17 March 1948 and joined 27 other Navy ships supporting the nuclear weapon tests. Bairoko carried six helicopters for scientific use and served as the radiological operations center during the three small tests held on 15 April, 1 May, and 15 May. As the escort carrier remained in the lagoon during each nuclear explosion, observers on deck were only 8.5 miles away from the 15 May eight-kiloton blast, close enough to look up through the bottom of the mushroom cloud. Following each detonation, helicopter and LCVP small boat crews from Bairokotook radiation readings in the lagoon and collected film and soil samples from the blast area. After her crew helped decontaminate aircraft and equipment, Bairoko returned to the United States in early June and arrived at San Diego, California, later that month.

Bairoko spent the next five months conducting pilot qualification operations, antisubmarine warfare exercises, and other battle drills off the coast of southern California. On 15 December 1948, owing to rapidly dwindling defense spending, Bairokowas sent to the San Francisco Naval Shipyard in San Francisco, California, for pre-inactivation maintenance. After the preservation measures were completed, Bairoko was placed out of commission and in reserve on 14 April 1950.

Bairoko’s inactivation a short one because North Korean communist troops invaded South Korea on 25 June 1950. Two days later, under United Nations (UN) auspices, the United States entered the conflict. Because of the urgent need for warships and aircraft carriers in particular, Bairoko was re-commissioned on 12 September 1950.

After fitting out with aircraft, supplies, ammunition, and a full crew, Bairoko left Alameda, California, on 14 November and arrived at Yokosuka, Japan, on 29 November. For the next five months, Bairoko and her aircraft participated in numerous antisubmarine exercises which were designed to locate and track Soviet submarines, just in case the Soviet Union entered the Korean War.

These operations, though, came to an abrupt halt on 10 May 1951, when Bairoko suffered an explosion and flash fire while in port at Yokosuka. The fire broke out in the flight hanger and spread into the engine room. Five men died before the flames were extinguished. The fire also damaged bulkheads and burned out numerous ventilation and electrical systems. Repairs were started immediately and, after they were completed in late June, the escort carrier resumed training operations off the coast of Japan on 3 July.

With her tour of duty completed on 30 July 1951, Bairokosailed to the United States on 4 August and arrived at San Diego 11 days later. The escort carrier remained in port until 10 September and began ten weeks of routine flight operations while based at San Diego. On 1 December, Bairoko once again left for the Far East and arrived at Yokosuka on 16 December.

Bairoko left Yokosuka on 28 December and was heading for Okinawa when, as she was leaving port, the ship struck a mooring buoy. Two propeller blades were bent in the accident and the damage forced Bairoko into dry dock for repairs. After being repaired, the escort carrier left for combat operations off the coast of Korea, arriving there on 16 February 1952.

For the next nine days, Bairoko launched fighters for patrol sweeps and targets-of-opportunity air strikes against communist positions between the Yesong and Taedong Rivers in Korea. Although modified to accommodate jet aircraft, Bairokocarried only piston-engine propeller-driven planes. During the 121 combat sorties flown in this period,Bairoko’s aircraft bombed and strafed communist-held bridges, enemy gun positions, and supply vehicles. Bairoko returned to Japan and arrived at the port of Sasebo on 25 February for fuel, ammunition, and provisions.

In March 1952, Bairoko conducted two more combat missions in the Yellow Sea, one between 5 and 13 March, and the other between 23 March and 1 April. Although 139 combat sorties were flown against communist targets, five planes were shot down during these attacks on heavily defended enemy positions, such as the Chinnampo rail yards and the Amgak Peninsula. One pilot was killed, two were taken off of ice floes in the sea and rescued by helicopters, a fourth was found by boat crews from the British frigate HMSCardigan Bay (F.630), and the last pilot dramatically jumped on board an American rescue helicopter just in time to avoid capture by North Korean troops. Two other pilots were wounded by shrapnel during this period, but both were able to make emergency landings on board the ship without incident.

After loading fuel and supplies at Sasebo during the first week of April 1952, Bairokoresumed combat operations along the west coast of Korea on 9 April. Over the next eight days, the ship’s aircraft flew 165 combat missions against communist targets in western Korea. These were primarily air strikes against buildings, North Korean garrisons, and the occasional train. Although 20 planes were damaged by small arms and antiaircraft fire, only two planes were lost in these operations. The first crashed on 11 April during a landing attempt on the carrier, leaving the pilot uninjured, and the second plane was severely damaged during a strafing run on a North Korean target on 14 April. The pilot managed to glide his stricken World War II-vintage F4U Corsair attack fighter over a beach and ditch the plane offshore. He was rescued 15 minutes later by a flying boat.

Bairoko was relieved by the British light carrier HMS Glory on 18 April 1952 and returned to Japan for some minor repairs. After participating in antisubmarine warfare training exercises, Bairokoleft for the United States on 26 May. She arrived at San Diego on 10 June and, two weeks later, entered the Long Beach Naval Shipyard at Long Beach, California, for repairs to machinery and equipment worn out during her long deployment in the Far East.

After completing her overhaul and participating in several training exercises, Bairokoreturned to the west coast of Korea and resumed combat operations on 14 May 1953. The escort carrier’s aircraft were assigned to enforce a blockade along the west coast of North Korea. Despite bad weather, Bairoko’s F4U Corsairs flew 183 combat air patrol, photo reconnaissance, and strike missions against communist positions. Her Corsairs also few close air support during an Army raid south of the Taedong estuary. After returning briefly to Sasebo on 22 May, Bairoko carried out four more patrols in the Yellow Sea between 30 May and 27 July 1953. Throughout this period, Bairoko’s aircraft cooperated with friendly Korean partisan infantry regiments in harassing communist troop movements and bridge reconstruction efforts. Between 17 and 26 June, Bairoko’s planes also covered the evacuation of partisan regiments and their families from the islands they had held off the coast of North Korea. Bairoko’s final combat tour of duty, marked by numerous air strikes against enemy logistic movements in northwest Korea, ended on the evening of 27 July 1953, the night the Korean armistice took effect.

Bairoko returned to San Diego on 24 August 1953. After completing an overhaul at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard, Bairoko participated in yet another nuclear bomb test at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. After the tests were completed, Bairoko sailed back to the United States and was eventually sent to the San Francisco Naval Shipyard for inactivation.Bairoko was decommissioned on 18 February 1955 and assigned to the Pacific Reserve Fleet at San Francisco. Although re-classified an aircraft ferry and re-designated AKV-15 on 7 April 1959, the ship was never re-commissioned. USS Bairoko was sold for scrapping on 10 August 1960.
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