By: Duane Craig
According to an article in the Amarillo-Globe News online, the Pantex Nuclear Weapons plant, just 17 miles from Amarillo is expanding once again with a $65 million high explosive pressing facility — basically a place where serious explosives are made. One good thing about this expansion is that it will modernize operations by replacing some aging facilities.
All told, the plant and its grounds cover 16 thousand acres with much of the facilities having been constructed in the 1940s and 1950s. A large portion of the work going on at the plant is the dismantling, repairing and re-certification of existing weapons.
Environmental Issues at Pantex Plant
According to its environmental report for 2010 there are higher than background levels of tritium released airborne when the barometric pressure changes and at certain times of the year. The report notes that is probably due to a tritium release that contaminated soil at the plant in 1989.
There are also plumes of groundwater contamination below the plant and beneath properties south and east of the plant. The primary contaminants are the explosives RDX and TNT and breakdown products, perchlorate, boron, hexavalent chromium, and trichloroethene. One domestic water well north of the plant has been contaminated and the water in the perched aquifer below the plant and south and east of the plant is not safe to drink.