Page 2.4 Item number 53.
G. E. Intersil Inc.
10710 North Tantau Avenue
Cupertino, CA 95014
Given that the Superfund site is the G. E. Intersil site, this associates it with the San Jose G. E. nuclear reactor assembly plant where they were assembling portable nuclear reactors for the US Army, a project started in the mid 1950s when radiological contamination levels were very relaxed and when they were strengthened in 1959 to 1/3 of what they were before, so all of these reactors were too hot for safe use. The entire program was scrapped by 1965. But this program required a large amount of new electronics and this brought about the beginnings of Silicon Valley.
Unfortunately for the people of San Jose they were dumping waste directly into the sewer system using 1955 standards which are nuclear accidents today. That is the problem with nuclear radiation, the clean up standards of the past, including the most recent past have been less and less radiation so that a site cleaned up 25 years ago is an accident today!
These were portable nuclear reactors that you could put on a truck, a transport plane, a ship or a train and bring it to a military site that had a deep pool with all of the necessary hook ups to set up a nuclear reactor to power the base or for colleges and universities. These reactors had no meaningful shields and were a serious radiological hazard to modern specifications.
San Jose CA – GE Nuclear Fuel Processing Facility at The Plant Shopping Center
There were several other portable nuclear reactor plants in the Bay Area, two I featured in this article Two nuclear reactors sites, 369 Whisman Road Mountainview (now Google) and San Ramon CA where the EPA should also look into assessing the damage to the environment and the people who now live within range of those reactor sites. The 369 Whisman Road reactor site had a high curb surrounding the building to contain the radioactive waste!
The EPA has regulations on conducting radiological surveys for sites and basically everything within 200 feet of a site is considered on the site, that goes for chemical contamination as well as radiological. DTSC has interpreted this to mean the property lines of toxic waste sites but the EPA has different rules. Then there is the distance from the contamination to a quarter of a mile is considered a near neighbor and the distance from a quarter of a mile to a mile is also a near neighbor but with a different set of calculations. The danger is evaluated based on the population near a site so in the case of Apple, this could be a big problem for them. How many people work in their Wheel?
The Federal Law, 40 CFR Appendix A to Part 300 – The Hazard Ranking System which is used to determine if a site is subject to Superfund status, the range of contamination goes out to various distances from the exact contamination site.
It depends on what happened to the Kr 85 which is a Byproduct Material, meaning it came out of a nuclear reactor and cannot be dumped in low level radiation facilities but would have to be disposed of most likely in the Nevada Test Site.
In order to use an isotope like this, the facility would require a hot cell which is a device or room to store radiological isotopes usually with mechanical hands to remove the isotope from the container and use it in whatever industrial process GE was using at the time and the necessary Geiger counter device to measure the Beta radiation from this isotope. It has a half life of 10 years so its still hot. Some hot cells are portable and look like aquariums or those isolated rooms with hands you see in movies or TV shows.
I outline the distances using San Francisco as an example showing the ranges of contamination that can result from Chemical, Biological and Radiological contamination in this article:
“Downtown San Francisco within Contamination Range of Treasure Island Atomic, Biological and Chemical Warfare training sites”
If the radiation was used on a device that has since decomposed in the soil, then you have the larger ranges of water and air contamination that can go out 4 miles from the site.
The Question is, does the EPA know that the isotope was used on the site. Given the other sites in the Bay Area I would give my opinion as to say no, but this will have to be looked into.
If the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had done its job, then there would be a set of inspections and a series of surveys to confirm the radiological isotopes were disposed of property and how they were used.