Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Pile of Nuclear Waste Now a Tourist Attraction in Weldon Springs, Missouri

In Saint Charles County, Missouri, near Weldon Spring, adjacent to Highway 40, lies an enormous mound of rocks, rising out of the ground like an ancient burial tomb. Underneath it lies tons of hazardous waste produced by a chemical plant that once stood in its place. Today, Weldon Spring draws thousands of curious visitors each year. They climb to the top of the 75-foot tall dome to read the placards that tell the story of the sad history of communities that disappeared in 1940 to make way for the world’s largest explosives factory.

Between 1940 and 1941, the US Army purchased over 17,000 acres of land in Saint Charles County, just outside of St. Louis On those land happened to sit three pretty towns with rolling wooded hills - Hamburg, Howell, and Toonerville. They were immediately evacuated. Hundreds of homes, businesses, churches, schools and any other buildings in the area were either demolished or burned and within a few months the three towns ceased to exist. A massive factory was erected to manufacture TNT and DNT in order to supply Allied troops in the Word War II. The Weldon Spring Ordnance Works, operated by Atlas Powder Company, employed more than 5,000 people and contained more than 1,000 buildings. By the time the plant ceased production on Aug. 15, 1945, the day the Japanese surrendered, it had produced more than 700 million pounds of TNT.

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After the war the Army began selling off pieces of the land. The State of Missouri acquired 7,000 acres, while the University of Missouri bought another 8,000 acres, which was later sold to the Conservation Department. These pieces of property are today the Busch Memorial Conservation Area and the Weldon Spring Conservation Area.

A small patch of land – about 2,000 acres - was retained by the United States Atomic Energy Commission. It was there the Commission built a uranium ore processing plant in 1955. The Weldon Spring Uranium Feed Mill Plant, operated by Mallinckrodt Chemical Works of St. Louis, processed raw uranium ore into “yellow cake,” or concentrated ore which was shipped to other sites.

The processing plant operated until 1966. During the Vietnam War the Army planned to use part of the old uranium processing facilities to produce Agent Orange, a herbicide used to defoliate jungle during the war. The Army later abandoned the plan without ever producing the chemical at Weldon Spring. The site sat abandoned for more than 20 years, but still contained contaminated equipment and hazardous chemicals. Waste lagoons were filled with thousands of gallons of water contaminated with radioactive wastes and heavy industrial metals.

Beginning in the 1980's, the U.S. Department of Energy began extensive decontamination of the area, eventually building a gigantic waste disposal cell to entomb the waste materials. The official name of this site is the Weldon Spring Site Remedial Action Project (WSSRAP).

Completed in 2001, the mountainous structure covers 45 acres and stores 1.5 million cubic yards of hazardous material. Stairs lead up to the top of the cell where there is a viewing platform and plaques that provide information about the local area, the history of the site, and the construction of the waste disposal cell. Visitors can also visit the 9,000-square-foot interpretive center housed in a building at the base of the cell that was once used to check workers for radioactivity. Incidentally, the top of the Weldon Spring waste disposal cell is the highest point in St. Charles County.

There is a similar nuclear waste dome in on Enewetak Atoll

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Satellite view of Weldon Spring Site Remedial Action Project (WSSRAP)

Sources: Ruralmissouri, Vice, Wikipedia

16 comments:

  1. Possibly the world's dullest tourist attraction...

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    1. Maybe you need to think before you comment. It provided jobs for myself and many others in St. Charles county for a lot of years.

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    2. that doesn't mean its not boring.

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    3. Your job was the result of poisoning people for years. Shame on you, asshole.

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    4. Watch your language. If you have nothing nice to say, then shut-it!
      God help you, you cannot help how you are.

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    5. Has anyone ever used a Geiger counter there

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  2. I went to high school next door to this structure. At the time it was still a dilapidated refinery we called the equadome or something like that. I still have a radiation sign from the back fence hanging in my garage from about 1990. I didnt know about this project until recently though.

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  3. You can't trick me government!

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  4. It seems that the govt used, and contaminated many areas in and around the St. Louis area, I grew up in North County within a few blocks of cold water creek in Berkeley. We played in it all the time. Until recently I assumed that my moms passing from a brain tumor was just the luck of the draw, but maybe not

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  5. I was disgusted when I went to attend my child's fieldtrip. The paper I received stated they were going to Weldon Springs to learn about rocks. To take children to such a place is bad enough, then to leave out that it is a nuclear waste dump for parents to make an educated decision on whether their kids should go...just wrong. There are many free (and much more interesting) places to take our children that pose NO POSSIBLE THREAT. Another reason why I am disgusted I public "education".

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    1. our government still dumping there

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  6. What about the thorium processing? I grew up there and have battled two types of Leukemia, The goings on there most likely caused my condition. Put that on a plaque up there!

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  7. A very reliable source explained how the ALS Foundation was shut-down from attempting to study the area for an unusually high number of cases.

    What gives on this?
    Is anyone following up with well inspections?
    I'd be interested to know

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  8. I went for the first time today, and one thing that ran thru my mind, of all the people that cleaned it up, are there any still alive?

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  9. army still disposes of hazardous waste. in this area. just earlier this,spring,the Quincy il unit with ss king brought materials down un placard on our state highway . I have audio account of his ordeal. they ran with no permits as is typical army standard according to him but didn't find out the true hazards of his trip till he arrived.. why put our soldiers and civilians at risk.. what if something happened and his about was he didn't know the hazards of his load until he arrived in Weldon springs

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  10. I went there recently (October) with a geiger-counter watch. Negligible radiation levels. Negligible. As in, cellphone levels negligible, as in, radioactive by technicality. Look up the word. Read the definition. Read it again and again until you don't feel like spreading ignorant hysteria. Yeah, looking at you, crazy person who went there on a field trip. I'm sure the local zoo has some nice animal pens your kid can safely fall into.

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