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"Watch for Water"

     I hesitate to call this a rant at all, even though those who
believe that plutonium is not "very" dangerous, and those who
believe the lies the Department of Energy teaches will not shrink
from calling it that.
     My friend, Dan Kerlinksy, drove us to Carlsbad on June 1, to
visit a very unique man.  Charles Hyder, Ph.D., geo-
astrophysicist, is now [June 4] on the 71st day of his fast,
protesting the opening of the DOE's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
[WIPP], the nation's first nuclear waste repository, located in
salt beds about twenty miles east of Carlsbad, New Mexico.  On
March 25 the first truckload of plutonium-contaminated materials
from Los Alamos arrived at WIPP.  Charles has not eaten since.
     He greets the trucks as they turn off the Carlsbad-to-Hobbs
highway on their approach to the WIPP site.  He sits there, under
a tattered American flag, and smiles and waves.  The people who
pass by as he waits for the truck to arrive seem supportive. 
Charles wanted Dan and me to feel the good will, hear the honking
horns and see the waves and thumbs-up of the people of the area.
     WIPP security guards stop and talk to him.  He tells them
that the explanation of what he is doing is contained in his
book, and they buy it.  [HUMAN SURVIVAL ON A PLUTONIUM-
CONTAMINATED PLANET, Amador Publishers, $10]  The book contains
the science, the philosophy and the personal credo which underlie
such a radical protest.
     Charles believes plutonium will escape from WIPP inevitably,
and that plutonium is deadly.  He calculates the number of hld's
[human lethal doses] in exponents of ten, that is, in billions
and billions.  It is a crime against humanity and the future
itself to put plutonium in a place where it is not contained. 
WIPP will never be a successful container.  It has been dug out
of salt, and the salt is wet.  The entire formation in which it
lies is unstable.  
     After the WIPP truck passed us, both drivers waving and
smiling, Charles gave us geology lessons on our trip past the
site entrance and back to Carlsbad via the Jal highway.  He was
teaching Dan the meaning of the geological term, "karst."  "A
region made up of porous limestone [or salt, in this case]
containing deep fissures and sinkholes and characterized by
underground caves and streams."  [That's from the dictionary.] 
     Carlsbad Caverns, which is twenty or more miles away, on the
other side of the Pecos River, was hollowed out of limestone by
water flow.  On the WIPP side of the river, the karst occurs in
salt.  It takes millions of years to dissolve limestone, but salt
dissolves as you watch -- we have all seen it in our kitchens.  
     Signs of karst are unevenness on the surface, humps,
hillocks, depressions, sink holes.  "See!  There!  See!"  Dan
began to say, "Oh, yes.  There's one!  There's karst!"
     Charles bellowed, "It's ALL karst!"
     There are sinkholes everywhere around the WIPP site.  The
DOE had to build an elevated roadway from the highway to the HQ
building, in order to cross a sinkhole.  The name of the entire
area five miles southwest of the WIPP site has been named, for a
hundred years, The Big Sinks.
     Beyond The Big Sinks lie Salt Lakes, shown on a state
highway road map.  They are up to a mile long and half a mile
wide, shallow.  Flooded mesquite is dead.  The water tastes of
salt, a strong concentration.  Crystals have formed in thick
layers around the edges of the water.
     Nash Draw is a sign of a huge underground collapse, 28 miles
long and four miles across.  The closed end of the draw is less
than five miles from the WIPP site.
     Warning signs on the highway, those bright yellow diamond-
shaped signs, state, "Watch for Water."  They refer to rainwater
and run-off, flash-floods so-called, but for persons who are
aware of the hazards of plutonium, they are signs that the DOE
should have heeded decades ago.
     Drilling done by the DOE on the site before the shaft and
storage rooms were dug, revealed in one case a pressurized brine
well that blew the casing out of the well and high into the air. 
The sections of pipe "looked like matchsticks flying in the sky,"
one driller reported.  At another spot on the WIPP site, DOE
drilling struck an artesian well that gushed hundreds of gallons
of water, with no sign of stopping.  They finally capped it.
     Dr. Lokesh Chaturvedi of the state's Environmental
Evaluation Group has a video of water flowing in a stream in the
main shaft.  He does not know where it comes from or where it
flows.  The DOE has never noted it.
     Dry salt, the salt that the DOE labels "dry," when analyzed
contains 2% water.  The salt is not dry, and the beds are not
flat and unbroken.  There is water in there.  The salt has been
there for millions of years, the DOE says.  They neglect to pay
attention to the fact that half of it is gone, carried away by
water.  Watch for water.  It will contain plutonium, if what the
DOE is planning is allowed.
     Meanwhile, the ceiling fall that is pending will blow
plutonium dust from the broken drums, up the shaft and out into
the prevailing wind, directly to Roswell.  So, Roswell has to
watch for wind, as well as water.

                            *   *   *

Copyright © 1999 Harry Willson

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