On the left is a nuclear reactor core, on the right is the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve Trailhead. This company would have a nuclear disaster in a sister plant in New Jersey which resulted in the closure of all of their plants nationwide due to mismanagement.
International Nutronics Inc ran the Palo Alto reactor also had a reactor in Dover New Jersey (below) that had a serious nuclear accident which the company did not report to the NRC and this resulted in the closure of this reactor in Palo Alto. The company started off at 200 Third St. Los Altos but they had three reactor sites, one in Irvine and this one and the Dover New Jersey plant and a sewage Treatment plant in Menlo Park where they irradiated sewage to kill bacteria.
The Palo Alto facility had 750,000 Curies of C0-60 source and was used to irradiate food to kill bacteria and for cleaning medical equipment. Basically they would place these things in containers over the reactor and open it up to be irradiated.
“The potential personnel radiation exposure hazard posed by the sources at large irradiators is substantial. For example, the unshielded dose from a 250,000 Ci Co-60 source is approximately 250,000 rem/hr (69 rem/sec) at 4 feet and approximately 25,000 rem/hr (6.9 rem/sec) at 13 feet. Therefore, a lethal dose could be received within minutes.” – Review of Events at Large Pool-Type Irradiators, E.A. Trager, Jr., Division of Safety Programs Office for Analysis and Evaluation of Operational Data U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Washington, DC 20555 March 1989
Here is an example of one of the rods placed in the core from the GE Vallecitos Nuclear Reactor in Pleasanton California.
The plant was closed after the nuclear disaster in the sister plant in Dover New Jersey. To best explain the plant operations and how and why it was closed can be explained by the following documents.
The Dover New Jersey INI Nuclear Disaster December 31, 1982
Do you remember in the movie “The China Syndrome” where the sirens went off in the reactor and the water level dropped too low and was in danger of exposing the core? Well that happened to the International Nutronics Inc, reactor in Dover New Jersey. on December 31 1982
The water level dropped because they had a water leak from the core which spilled radioactive water all over the floor of the building and the workers were tasked with dumping the water into the sewer system using buckets. The amounts of radiation exposure was off the scale and they would have gotten away with it if not for one of the employees told the NRC about what happened about 8 months after the event. He was mad that the company was not addressing his concerns about the exposure.
Meanwhile in early 1983 the NRC conducted an “inspection” of the facility where they were not informed of the nuclear disaster and the inspector was concerned with the company not issuing regular reports that were required of all nuclear companies. Quality Assurance Reports . The inspector reported no problems because the company had not filed the reports so there were no errors to be found in reports that did not exist.
His inspection report is below, remember that at the time of the inspection the place was a Nuclear Disaster Area, and the inspector was a bureaucrat and while the radiation was pulsing through his body, he made this report about the paperwork.
Suffice it to say the Inspector was fooled.
The State of California does this too; they usually send inspectors after they tell the company they are coming ahead of time. So there are no real regulation or inspections.
When the NRC finally realized what had happened, that their inspector was lied to, the company officials were arrested and the company was closed down. They eventually get 2 years of probation and the company was fined $36000 for the nuclear accident which had to be cleaned up and because of the radiation, it was a very complex clean up exposing workers to dangerous levels of gamma radiation. There was a huge lawsuit over the sales of the cobalt 60 and of course for the contamination.
The Palo Alto plant shutdown
The discovery of the 25 mr/hr of radiation is a nuclear accident. The threshold for a nuclear accident is 2 mr/hr of exposure. And the safe level of radiation for a year is 100 mrems /year.
“3.6.5 INI, Palo Alto, CA
As the result of bankruptcy proceedings, the inventory of sources had been sold and removed from the storage pool of the International Nutronics, Inc., facility in Palo Alto, California. In May 1988, while the pool was being drained, radiation levels increased to about 25 mr/hr with five feet of water still in the pool. The draining was stopped. Analysis of the pool water showed the radiation was not due to contaminants in the water. Further investigation found the elevated radiation level was due to sources still in the pool that were not part of the facilities inventory (ref. 50).
This loss of accountability for the sources in the storage pool shows the need for quality inventory records.” – Review of Events at Large Pool-Type Irradiators, E.A. Trager, Jr., Division of Safety Programs Office for Analysis and Evaluation of Operational Data U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Washington, DC 20555 March 1989
The Sewage Treatment Plant in Menlo Park
The company also ran a sewage treatment plant in Menlo Park where they irradiated the sewage to remove bacteria.