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On our Navy exercises show last Friday we got a call from a man who noted that, in his days as a submariner from 1979 to 1983, it was routine to dump radioactive waste from the submarine. He said:
The navy dumps the radioactive waste from its reactor, and the secondary loop, into the ocean.... The nuclear reactor has to be evacuated or it will contaminate the ship.
This was surprising to us, so we noted on the show that we'd check into the claims and provide more information on our website.
I've since heard a very different take on the US Navy's protocol for the disposal of radioactive waste aboard nuclear submarines from someone who operated the nuclear systems aboard such a submarine in the 1990s. In particular:
- Steam/water in the secondary loop is normally not radioactive. Steam/water in the secondary loop would only become radioactive if there was a primary coolant leak from the primary to the secondary loop.
- Chemists periodically sample both primary and secondary loops
- Once sampling is completed, primary coolant sample waste is stored in a retention tank
- Periodically and only under certain conditions, the contents of this tank can be emptied into the ocean
So I called the Navy last Friday to ask about all of this. They said they'd try to get me an answer on their nuclear waste protocol by the beginning of this week. But there's still no word.
We'll keep you posted.
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