Every base where legacy nuclear weapons (early-generation) were deployed (Bomber, Fighter Interceptor Squadrons (FIS), Nike Ajax, BOMARC Missile, ICBM), were maintained, or decommissioned, is potentially contaminated with highly classified 91(b) radioactive material (RAM) from the maintenance of the nuclear weapons during the replacing of the polonium-beryllium (Po-Be) TOM initiators.
There is an under-reported news story about radioactive contamination at Air Force bases that were closed and transferred to the public by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC).
Every base where legacy nuclear weapons (early-generation) were deployed (Bomber, Fighter Interceptor Squadrons (FIS), Nike Ajax, BOMARC Missile, ICBM), were maintained, or decommissioned, is potentially contaminated with highly classified 91(b) radioactive material (RAM) from the maintenance of the nuclear weapons during the replacing of the polonium-beryllium (Po-Be) TOM initiators. The short half-life of polonium (138.376 days) required frequent replacement of TOM initiators. The TOM initiators were phased out in 1962.
In 1966, the Air Force transferred Biggs Airfield to the Army but did not disclose the potential risk posed by a Weapon Storage Area (WSA) and radioactive waste burial site. The radioactive contamination at the site is from the maintenance of nuclear weapons from the 1950s and 1960s. The specific quantity of maintenance waste buried is not known due to incomplete records. According to the Air Force, it disposed of the radioactive waste in accordance with the Atomic Energy Commission and Air Force. Unfortunately, the standard procedure was to bury the radioactive material (RAM) in cardboard boxes. Please see page 4 “Characterization and Remediation of 91B Radioactive Waste Sites under Performance-Based Contracts at Lackland AFB, TX”
On 5/8/2003, the Air Force acknowledged that it routinely withheld information and records about radioactive material (RAM) burial sites from Federal, State, and Local regulators; contractors, and the public. Please see “Buried Radioactive Weapons Maintenance Waste”
On 6/2/2003, Peter Waldman, with The Wall Street Journal, wrote, “U.S. Air Force Investigates Radiological Waste Burial.” The full article is here.
On 9/8/2003, Mr. Waldman sent me a copy of a report written by the USAF Radioisotope Committee, “Burial of Radioactive Waste in the USAF,” Wright-Patterson AFB, 15 March 1972.
- In the report, forty-six Air Force bases, including George AFB, were identified as having radioactive material (RAM) burial sites. Page 4
- Additionally, nine of these Air Force bases were former Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) sites. Page 32
- “Accordingly, a Hq USAF survey letter (Radioactive Waste Disposal, Hq USAF SCN 71-28) was sent to all major commands. (Reference Appendix C.) It directed that all existing burial sites should be identified in the Base Master Plan (Tab C-1), and that certain details concerning construction and utilization of the site be forwarded to the USAF Radioisotope Committee, which would subsequently make recommendations on the maintenance of the sites. This report will summarize the survey returns, and make recommendations where appropriate.”
Page 2, paragraph 3
- “…separate letters being sent pertaining to sensitive or classified information, as all material in this report is unclassified.”
Page 8, paragraph (g)
These sites are required to be identified in the Base Master Plan, and the Base Master Plans should be in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) Air Force Administrative Record for the closed BRAC Superfund sites, but they are not.
FIOA – Base Master Plans
I have filed FOIA requests with the USAF Radioisotope Committee, Air Force Civil Engineer Center (AFCEC), and Air Force Historical Research Agency. The closest that got was with the Air Force Historical Research Agency (AFHRA). AFHRA stated that they had copies but stated they could not provide them because they did not have access to a large format scanner. Additionally, the radiological surveys of nuclear weapons maintenance and storage facilities at these closed facilities should be available.
FOIA – 91(b) radioactive material (RAM)
The term “91(b)” refers to highly classified radioactive material (RAM) covered under Section 91(b) of the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) of 1954 associated with current nuclear weapons material, legacy nuclear weapons maintenance wastes, residuals from nuclear weapons accident/incidents, some residuals from atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, and residuals from nuclear reactor operations. The custodian of these records is the Air Force Safety Center, Weapons, Space and Nuclear Safety Division (AFSC/SEW), Kirtland AFB, NM.
AFSEC Freedom of Information Act Office
9700 G. Ave
Kirtland AFB, NM 87117
Commercial: (505) 853-8794
Fax Number: (505) 853-0565
Fax DSN: 253-0565
1000 Air Force Pentagon
Washington, DC 20330-100