Uh Oh — Missouri Trash Fire Could Ignite World War II Atomic Waste
What a mess
Near St. Louis, Missouri, there’s a landfill. And in this Bridgeton Landfill there’s nuclear waste dating back to the Manhattan Project, which produced America’s very first atomic bombs during World War II.
Next to the Bridgeton Landfill is the West Lake landfill. This is a problem because the West Lake Landfill is on fire — and that long-burning underground fire is creeping closer to Bridgeton and its nuclear waste, which was illegally dumped there in 1973.
The possible consequences if the blaze meets the radioactive waste — they’re currently 1,000 feet apart — are … well, dire, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Government officials have quietly adopted an emergency plan in case the smoldering embers ever reach the waste, a potentially “catastrophic event” that could send up a plume of radioactive smoke over a densely populated area near the city’s main airport.
Although the fire at Bridgeton Landfill has been burning since at least 2010, the plan for a worst-case scenario was developed only a year ago and never publicized until this week, when St. Louis radio station KMOX first obtained a copy.
The emergency plan involves building so-called “interceptor wells” that vent heat and “maintain a kind of thermal quarantine line between the fire and the nuclear waste,” according to design Website BLDGBLOG.
“However, the fire already appears to have circumvented these buffers,” the blog notes.
For example, some safety reports from the site have allegedly “found radiological contamination in trees outside the landfill’s perimeter,” implying that the nuclear waste has already, in at least some capacity, entered the biosphere, and “another showed evidence that the fire has moved past two rows of interceptor wells and closer to the nuclear waste.”