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Texas Nuclear Weapons Plant Facing Emergency

Midday Tuesday, the Pantex plant in Texas faced a sudden emergency response after a number of past serious safety violations.

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By Dane Larsen | @therealdanelars

The Pantex Nuclear Weapons Plant in Amarillo, Texas has undergone the activation of its ‘Emergency Response Organization’ on Tuesday. The security and official board state that “operational emergencies” triggered the primary breach.

So far, the surrounding communities and counties have not reported any injuries or deaths. However, officers of Public Safety Departments and emergency management assistants in the neighboring Armstrong and Carson Counties are now responding. So, it is possible, though not certain, that this may change.

The Pantex Plant has been a vital branch in the nuclear arms industry. Capable of assembly, disassembly, and activation of nuclear weapons, it has also been subject to legitimate concerns in the past. In the past, employees with a combined “189 years of experience” wrote a complaint letter to the US Department of Energy. The Pantex Plant workers described humanitarian issues and subpar employee conditions in the complex.

The letter stated “excessive work hours are resulting from pressure by Pantex operator BWXT and the National Nuclear Security Administration to meet unrealistic production goals given the size of the workforce. In 2007, the disassembly production goals will increase by 50 percent.”

Past Problems of the Pantex Plant

Furthermore, safety violations have been evident since the turn of the century. In 2004, the plant was fined $124,000 for a crack in a 1200-kiloton W56 arm. Though workers were disassembling the arm, it still was not of adequate quality. In 2005, they received another $110,000 DOE fine for a faulty disassembly tool.

Throughout its history, the Texas nuclear plant has not been without its share of workplace illness. In fact, nuclear radiation has given well over 1,000 plant workers cancer. It is currently unclear whether today’s incident will expand that figure to the surrounding community.


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