Second Nuclear Reactor Pressure Vessel Missing from Phipps Bend

first-reactor-pressure-vessel-Phipps-Bend
There are plenty of media accounts of the first reactor pressure vessel’s snail-pace journey to Phipps Bend. There is no photographic evidence the second pressure vessel ever arrived to Phipps Bend.

In April  2015 I published an article about the “Incredible Disappearing Nuclear Reactor” from the Phipps Bend Nuclear Plant in Surgoinsville TN. To recap: in 1980, a 2.3 million pound pressure vessel, the housing in which the nuclear fuel core itself resides, was transported from Knoxville to Phipps Bend over a period of several weeks, the heaviest load ever to travel across Tennessee roads. It took months of preparation to reinforce roads and bridges; when the convoy finally started, roads had to be shut down and power lines lifted for the 100 foot long, 26 foot wide, 30 foot tall load to move through at 3 mph. In other words, you couldn’t miss it.

At some point however, that huge reactor pressure vessel disappeared into thin air.

Now I’ve found a second nuclear reactor pressure vessel that was supposedly transported to Phipps Bend in 1981. It too, is nowhere to be found.

The disconcerting part about the transfer of this second nuclear reactor pressure vessel to Phipps Bend is that there was virtually no media coverage of it. Whereas the first pressure vessel was watched by hundreds of people gathered along the roads, it’s like this one slipped by unnoticed. The first pressure vessel’s voyage was covered in local media: newspaper photos taken, many news articles written, and there was even video coverage.

I’ve found one article about the second pressure vessel in Kingsport’s paper, the Daily News. Here is the June 1981 article in its entirety (click here for link to paper):

Unit-2-on-its-way

Unit 2 on Way

The Reactor Pressure Vessel now en route to Phipps Bend Nuclear plant near Surgoinsville is identical to the one at left, moved the site in 1980. The 92-mile trip by barge and overland for the vessel to be placed in Unit No. 2 of the two-unit nuclear facility began Monday and will take several more days, perhaps another week, to complete.

That’s it. Not even a picture of the event or the RPV itself. To add insult to injury, a photo of the first pressure vessel reactor was used for the story. Note the time of transport, ‘several more days, perhaps another week,’ is a substantially shortened amount of time for the vessel to reach its destination compared to the amount of time it took the first pressure vessel to arrive. Quite simply, it was a ghost when it arrived, and it was a ghost when it left. No photos. No video. Seemingly no eyewitnesses.

One of these pressure vessels were transferred to Dewberry and Davis, who claim they don’t know what happened to it. Below is a link to the only document the TVA FOIA officer could find relating to the sale, disposal or other transfer of the vessel.

1989 Letter: TVA Transfers Nuke Reactor Pressure Vessel to Dewberry and Davis

I will rephrase the original question:

How do you make two, 2.3 million pound nuclear reactor pressure vessels, disappear into thin air?

Update: Chicago Bridge and Iron worker confirms 2nd reactor vessel never shipped to Phipps Bend proving the above newspaper article was disinformation.

 

Nuclear waste from Three Mile Island dumped in KY?

The Middlesboro Tanning Company and Yellow Creek

Back in the eighties, a Middlesboro, Kentucky tannery that processed leather hides was under fire as perpetrators of massive pollution in Yellow Creek.

A Middlesboro Daily News article dated April 8, 1990, “Yellow Creek: Microcosm of environmental movement,” states high levels of chromium were found in the creek bed of Yellow Creek in 1987:

A study by a University of Louisville chemist discovered the pockets of chromium, a byproduct of the tannery process that can cause cancer.

and

Three health studies of  [Yellow] creek residents investigated elevated rates of cancer, leukemia and intestinal problems. (1)

Chromium use in the Middlesboro Tannery began in 1965. Dr. Lorann Stallones research, “Final Report on Cancer Mortality in Bell County 1979-1985” indicates

Two studies performed in the early 1980’s reported waste waters flowing through and being discharged from the [sewage treatment plant] were highly toxic to aquatic life….the actual cause of toxicity was not determined….(13)

The first study (that I can find) that shows deposits of chromium in Yellow Creek occurred in 1984, coincidentally after the Three Mile Island cleanup began:

Settleable solids deposited in Yellow Creek were shown to contain chromium, copper, nickel, lead and zinc. (13)

In defense of the Middlesboro Tanning Co.,

Dirk Anderson, manager of the Middlesboro Tannery Co. , says it ‘has done an excellent job in meeting state and federal guidelines’ and ‘installed the most efficient pretreatment system in the tanning industry today’. (15)

Could the federal government have asked the tannery to accept contaminated water from Three Mile Island under the pretense the tannery’s pretreatment system could handle it? Remember- the tannery’s pretreatment system was designed to deal with chromium in the wastewater. Did officials think it could also “pretreat” the chromium from the contaminated water at Three Mile Island? If so, were Middlesboro officials aware of it as well? Remember, there had never been a nuclear disaster of this proportion before Three Mile Island. I could just imagine the panic, and mistakes that most likely were made.

Or, could the chromium in Yellow Creek possibly have trickled out of Cumberland Mountain from buried nuclear waste? Research carried out by Zachara et al. tells us this very thing occurred at another nuclear facility where waste was being stored, the Hanford nuclear site:

Chromate (hexavalent chromium as CrO42-) is a significant groundwater contaminant at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Hanford Site in southeastern WA.

and

Chromate in ground water is readily transported through flood deposits…resulting in groundwater contamination plumes…”(2)

Interestingly, there continues to be elevated amounts of chromium in the eastern Kentucky water supply, even after the environmental cleanup of the tannery and Yellow Creek. This is evidenced in the Division of Water’s report, “Potentials for Levels of Arsenic and Chromium in Drinking Water Contribute to the Higher Cancer Rates Found in Eastern Kentucky as Compared to the Rest of the State.”(11)

Sobering data from the Environmental Protection Agency shows elevated levels of chromium in Gap Creek and its tributaries within the town of Cumberland Gap as well as the National Park. See STORET’s data here.

In addition to the the continuing presence of chromium found in the creeks, tributaries and water supply,  a nuclear waste site upstream would explain the sicknesses reported by those living downstream: eerily, they match the same ailments as radiation poisoning.  The National Institutes of Health states:

The bone marrow and gastrointestinal tract are especially sensitive to radiation injury…(3)

The Center for Environmental Health studies continues:

Strong evidence has been recorded of a possible connection between forms of leukemia and exposure to ionizing radiation. …These findings are consistent with the National Research Council’s determination that radiation can cause acute leukemia and chronic myeloid leukemia.

In a Los Alamos Science piece, “Low-level radiation: How harmful is it?” author Roger Eckhardt points out

Nearly all tissues and organs of the human body are susceptible to radiation-induced cancer….Leukemia was at one time thought to be the principal type of radiation-induced cancer; however, solid cancers, such as lung, breast, and thyroid cancers, are the more numerous result…(4)

Remember the Department of Defense sponsored lung cancer study?

In 2011, Arnold and her colleagues were awarded a $1.43 million grant by the Department of Defense to study potential environmental reasons — such as trace elements in soil or water — for the high lung cancer rates in Eastern Kentucky.

“We know that tobacco is the number one cause of lung cancer, but that isn’t the only factor causing the high cancer burden for southeastern Kentucky,” Arnold said. “So we started to look for other possible reasons. Could environmental carcinogens play a role?”(12)

A coincidence that cannot be ignored: the timing of the Cumberland Gap Tunnel construction in relation to the Three Mile Island incident.

March 28, 1979– Three Mile Island experiences partial meltdown of Unit 2’s reactor core

October 1979– Although Congress approved the construction of Cumberland Gap Tunnel in 1973, funds were not authorized until October 1979.

July 1980– the first time personnel were able to venture inside the Three Mile Island reactor building.

1981-1985- Officials, with the help of Oak Ridge National Laboratories, must remove the “high (radio)activity level water (HALW) at TMI-2” which “includes approximately 2650 in3 (700,000 gal) of contaminated water in the floor of the Reactor Containment Building (CB) and approximately 340 m3 (90,000 gal) of circulating cooling water that remains in the closed-loop Reactor Primary Coolant System” (14)

October 1985– Five years later, fuel removal from the melted core of Three Mile Island Unit 2 can begin.

December 1985– a 10 foot x 10 foot pilot bore is in progress under Cumberland Mountain in order “to incorporate data” for engineers in charge of the tunnel project.

July 1986– Off-site shipment of reactor core debris from Three Mile Island begins.

December 1986– The pilot bore under Cumberland Gap is complete. We know from previous accounts from engineers this initial 10 x 10 tunnel must have intersected the “maze of limestone caverns” located underneath the area of Cumberland Gap which then would afford endless underground storage for any nuclear waste.

1986-1990– cleanup of the Three Mile Island meltdown continues, yet Cumberland Gap Tunnel engineers indicate in spring 1987 that construction of the main corridors of Cumberland Gap Tunnel will not begin until 1989 (8).    Even more noteworthy is the notice to proceed was issued even later: February of 1991 (see pdf file here). If nuclear, even transuranic waste from TMI-2 was being buried under Cumberland Mountain, the pilot bore permitted access under the mountain to the limestone caverns; this must be why the main tunnel corridors were not started until four years after the initial bore. I am confident the matching dates are more than a coincidence.

August 1993– Processing of radioactive, contaminated water from Three Mile Island is complete. This would include the transuranic sludge that must be disposed. Schmitt et al. states in “Historical Summary of the Three Mile Island Unit 2 Core Debris Transportation Campaign” that

As the cleanup progresses, some waste materials, (e.g., sludges) may be found to be contaminated with transuranics at levels above which commercial low-level [radiation] burial facilities are authorized to accept. Alternatives….could include archiving, R & D evaluation or temporary storage onsite, or at a DOE facility awaiting further processing and/or disposal in a permanent repository offsite. (5) page 234

December 1993–  monitoring of Three Mile Island stored waste begins.
Both main corridors of the Cumberland Gap Tunnel are completed.

*The timeline for the Three Mile Island cleanup can be found at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s website here.(9)

What is transuranic waste?

Transuranic waste, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, is

Material contaminated with artificially made, radioactive elements, such as neptunium, plutonium, americium, and others—that have atomic numbers higher than uranium…. (6)

The EPA states

Some TRU waste consists of items such as rags, tools, and laboratory equipment contaminated with radioactive materials. Other forms of TRU waste include organic and inorganic residues or even entire enclosed contaminated cases in which radioactive materials were handled…(7)

Transuranic waste is not considered low-level radioactive waste.

Taking Possession of The Nuclear Waste from Three Mile Island

The Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory took possession of the core debris. (5) ch 2, p 2. We know the cleanup contractors and General Public Utilities used evaporative measures to remove as much of the contaminated water as possible.(9)  But we don’t know what happened to the rest of the radioactive waste, especially the more deadly transuranic sludge and materials:

The accident’s radioactive waste was shipped off-site to an appropriate disposal area…(9)

but the NRC doesn’t tell us where.

If Yellow Creek is carrying chromium in its waters from Cumberland Mountain, it can only be coming from the Dark Ridge area:

…the valley of Yellow Creek at the end of Dark Ridge, a spur from the main Cumberland Mountain…(10)

The final piece of evidence I have that supports my theory that southeast Kentucky and Cumberland Gap was sacrificed as a nuclear waste dump is this: the military industrial complex contractor who was put in charge of the Three Mile Island cleanup was none other than Oak Ridge-based and the DOE’s primary contractor, Bechtel Corporation.

Evidence is circumstantial but heavily suggests that the Cumberland Gap region of southeast Kentucky and East Tennessee was a repository for radioactive waste from the Three Mile Island meltdown. The chromium in the creeks: the cancers and sickness… identical to those who have been exposed to radiation in a nuclear setting. Undeniably, the timeline for the Cumberland Gap Tunnel construction matches perfectly with the Three Mile Island cleanup. Then Bechtel, a local, primary contractor for the Department of Energy, becomes responsible for the plant’s cleanup. The pieces of the puzzle fit.

At this point I am pleading for help from the professional community. Scientists, chemists, geologists, doctors…whoever would come to my town and do a comprehensive study of my area to determine if our soaring rates of cancer and connective tissue disease could be related to radiation exposure. The people of southeast Kentucky have been carpetbagged and took advantage of by government entities and conglomerates and corporations for two hundred years.

I have had enough.

These people and their children deserve better. Will you help?

 (1) “Yellow Creek: Microcosm of environmental movement.” Middlesboro Daily News; Wells, Rob: April 8, 1990

(2) “Chromium Speciation and Mobility in a High Level Nuclear Waste Vadose Zone Plume.” Zachara et. al, March 2004

(3) “Radiation Sickness.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

(4) “Low-level radiation: How harmful is it?” Roger Eckhardt, Los Alamos Science, 1981

(5) “Historical Summary of the Three Mile Island Unit 2 Core Debris Transportation Campaign”.  Schmitt, Quinn, and Tyacke, 1993

(6) U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission website

(7) Environmental Protection Agency, Radiation Protection, Transuranic Waste.

(8) “Contracts seen for Cumberland Gap Tunnel.” Kentucky New Era, March 5 1987

(9) “Backgrounder on the Three Mile Accident.” U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission website

(10) 1869-1870 Annual Report. Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company

(11) “Potentials for Levels of Arsenic and Chromium in Drinking Water Contribute to the Higher Cancer Rates Found in Eastern Kentucky as Compared to the Rest of the State.” Commonwealth of Kentucky, Energy and Environmental Protection Cabinet, Department for Environmental Protection and Division of Water. June 2013

(12) “Tracing Lung Cancer in Appalachian Kentucky.” K. Bowman. July 2013, University of Kentucky

(13) “Final Report on Cancer Mortality in Bell County 1979-1985”. Lorann Stallones, PhD. MPH, August 1988

(14) “Evaluation of the Submerged Demineralizer System (SDS) Level Water at the Three Mile Island Unit 2 Nuclear Power Station” Campbell, Collins, King, and Knauer. July 1980

(15) “Yellow Creek: Grassroots environmentalism at work.” Rob Wells, The Times-News, October 5 1990

Petrospheres Discovered During Tunnel Excavation

A petrosphere is a perfectly round stone sphere that could only have been made by human hands. They are considered rare occurrences and almost always are prehistoric; examples are the Costa Rican petrospheres and Scottish petrospheres.

A May 1993 article from the newspaper, Kentucky New Era, “Cumberland Gap tunnel to boast modern design,”  describes what can only be petrospheres, discovered when engineers began digging through the rock of Cumberland Mountain to form the tunnel. The engineers’ work revealed a “maze of limestone caverns.” In one of these caverns the petrospheres were found:

…perfectly rounded chert rocks were found mysteriously stacked in a careful pyramid, the way cannonballs might have been stacked years ago. That cave was nicknamed “the cannonball room,” said project engineer David Robinson. (1)

Here’s the conundrum: how did this rock formation, obviously human made, get 1000 feet or more below the mountain if there was no access to this cavern until the tunnel was excavated? 

Efforts so far to locate the eyewitness mentioned in the newspaper article, engineer David Robinson, have failed.

Even though Dan Brown, a former Park historian for Cumberland Gap National Park, was not aware the petrospheres had been found, he said in a recent phone interview that the formation could be a cairn used by prehistoric people for ancient burial:

They used stone cairns. I’ve run across those, and they’re older than Cherokee. The stone cairns for burial, as a matter of fact, we had a whole hillside of them at [Brushy] Mountain [Georgia]: we could never get a date on it- cause there were no artifacts within it that we could determine…why we didn’t get any positive dating: we found evidence of [a] crematorium…a rocky area adjacent to the site, right on the site… tests that were done had repeated high intensity fire on the rock. This would have been Woodland period probably, maybe even Archaic. But they were cremating their dead and then putting whatever remains there were, somehow, inside these rock cairns…Some of these rock cairns were probably three and four thousand years old. (2)

Is it possible the pyramid of petrospheres discovered during the Cumberland Gap Tunnel excavation were also part of an ancient burial ground? And how ancient could this site be, if no entrances to this cave existed in modern times prior to the tunnel excavation? Most importantly, what fate befell the “cannonball room” and the mysterious pyramid of perfectly rounded stones? Were workers allowed to carry the stones off as souvenirs? Did they simply bulldoze the pyramid over to make way for the mile long thoroughfare under the Gap?

I am going to continue to work to find the answers to these questions.

Ironically, Brown says it was a government construction project that ultimately sealed the fate of the archaeological site on the long, low ridge of Brushy Mountain, Georgia. While performing “salvage archaeology”, otherwise known as “archaeology in front of the bulldozers,” on an earthwork that was a fortification of the 1st Minnesota Battery, he and a Cobb County archaeologist discovered the ancient cairns.

You had to be a big brouhaha and we couldn’t save it. I had to watch them bulldoze probably one of the most gorgeous battery positions on the Park. And they kept it very quiet, and they even sneaked it in on the county archaeologist. They couldn’t have done it today. Because…the burial sites would have stopped them. Once we hit those rock cairns, today, you got to stop.

 

(1) “Tunnel to boast modern design”, Kentucky New Era, May 13, 1993
http://tinyurl.com/tunnel-to-boast-modern-design

(2) Personal communication, Dan Brown, June 3, 2015

The Incredible Disappearing Nuclear Reactor

How do you make a 1150-ton nuclear reactor pressure vessel disappear?

In 1980, the heaviest load in state history crawled through East Tennessee toward the Phipps Bend nuclear plant, a TVA venture located near Surgoinsville. A nuclear reactor pressure vessel so large strengtheners had to be added to the roads and bridges to prevent crumbling and collapse.

The nuke plant never materialized, supposedly due to falling energy prices.

If you were old enough to remember the reactor coming to Hawkins County, chances are you still haven’t forgotten it. Power lines had to be raised up and roads were shut down for the reactor and its entourage. Person after person I’ve talked to vividly remembers the reactor arriving…but no one knows when it left.

Missing documents about Phipps Bend reactor

I sent a Freedom of Information Request to TVA to determine the fate of the reactor pressure vessel. After several weeks, the only document the FOIA officer was able to find was a letter from the Chattanooga TVA office to Chris Umberger of Dewberry and Davis. The letter first noted the original transfer of the reactor (and land surrounding it) from TVA to Phipps Bend Joint Venture; it then went on to indicate PBJV was going to sell the reactor to Dewberry and Davis for scrap.

1989 Letter: TVA Transfers Nuke Reactor Pressure Vessel to Dewberry and Davis

At the least, it is an interesting chain of ownership. The problem is, Dewberry and Davis is not a salvage company  (now known as Dewberry).  They are major players in the military industrial complex.  See “Wright receives President’s medal from the Society of American Military Engineers” -dewberry.com

Mysterious buildings constructed near the reactor

Without any other documentation existing, it is hard to know precisely when Dewberry took possession of the reactor. But we do know that by April of 1990, Claude Cain, a member of the Industrial Board and contractor himself, had begun work on a spec building at Phipps Bend that comprised 50,000 square feet.

To “spec” means building something and speculating that someone looking for real estate will find it desirable and purchase it after it was built. In other words, there was no buyer, there was no interest, yet it was built anyway under the guise it would help attract businesses to the area.

Chris Umberger, of Dewberry and Davis, oversaw this Phipps Bend development project including the spec building built by Cain. Incidentally, Mr. Umberger later went on to work for Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon, Inc., a governmental engineering company based out of none of other than Oak Ridge, Tennessee. From bargewaggoner.com:

As the industry revives nuclear power generation options, we have provided critical studies in support of new nuclear reactor permitting. Barge Waggoner offers a wide array of planning, permitting, design, compliance, and remediation services for new energy facility startups and modifications to existing facilities engaged in coal-fired, hydroelectric, natural gas, solar, and nuclear power generation.

Eight months after the TVA letter was written, Dewberry and Davis secured approval from city council to spec a second 40,000 square foot building at Rogersville Industrial Park, a mere fifteen miles away.

To sum up, Dewberry, a well-known military engineering company, ends up with possession of the nuclear reactor at Phipps Bend. Almost immediately construction of a massive building with seemingly no purpose begins. Then a few months later, Rogersville City Council approves Dewberry and Davis’ bid to build another massive spec building a few miles away, again, without a buyer.

Al Gore arrives to the Phipps Bend site

Interestingly, a few days before the city council voted their approval on the second mysterious building at Rogersville Industrial Park, Senator Al Gore came to town to hail the development of Phipps Bend. Coincidence? Gore was a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee as well as the Armed Services committee. One of the aspects of defense the Armed Services committee oversaw was nuclear energy and its role in national security. Did Senator Gore come to Hawkins County to look in on the progress of the nuclear reactor’s relocation?  Did Senator Gore come to town to meet with council members and persuade them to put the vote for Dewberry and Davis’ spec building through?  “Senator Gore says Phipps Bend park is a ‘great site’“, Rogersville Review, Thurs. Aug 16, 1990

I have called the actual Phipps Bend Industrial Park. I have called the Hawkins County Sheriff. I have posted messages on the internet asking members of the Hawkins County community to come forward with any information about the missing reactor. I have called the courthouse. I have called environmental health. Each time I have received the same response- no one knows what happened to the 2.3 million pound reactor pressure vessel.

Even Chris Umberger, the Dewberry and Davis project manager at Phipps Bend and the recipient of the TVA letter that indicates his company was to take possession of the reactor, claimed he did not know what happened to the reactor during an April 16th phone interview. (Telephone interview transcript available upon request.)

I submit the U.S. Government utilized the engineering firm of Dewberry and Davis to place the the reactor underground using the spec buildings in Phipps Bend and Rogersville Industrial Park as cover. Once underground, engineers were able use the massive caverns, underground river (it stretches almost the entire length of Cumberland Mountain), and possibly even old mines to move the reactor precisely where they wished. I believe, in the end, the reactor ended up 40 miles away, near Cumberland Gap National Park (but not within the Park itself.) I don’t know how they did it. Perhaps one building was used to modify the reactor to make it more easily transported to the second site. I’m unsure. I just know that reactor pressure vessel has vanished into thin air, leaving behind the biggest elephant in the room for the United States government in 99 years.

Update December 2015: a second reactor pressure vessel is missing from Phipps Bend- find the story here.

Nazi Germany, Vemork, and Cumberland Gap

Screenshot 2015-04-13 23.53.37What do the Nazis, a Norwegian hydroelectric plant, and the saltpeter caves of southwest Virginia (including Cudjo’s) have in common?

The ability to make heavy water.

Water contains hydrogen. Normally, the hydrogen in water contains no neutron in its makeup, just a proton. Heavy water, however, contains hydrogen that has the added “weight” of a neutron in addition to the proton, hence the name “heavy water.”

Deuterium is another name for heavy water.

During WWII, Allied forces learned of Nazi interest in a Norwegian hydroelectric plant that also produced fertilizer (specifically, calcium nitrate, or saltpeter). Heavy water, or deuterium, was a by-product.

To Norwegian Resistance fighters during World War II, heavy water was a mysterious substance considered so perilous that they were willing, under orders from the Special Operations Executive in London, to sacrifice the lives of their countrymen in order to keep it out of Nazi hands.  – (1) PBS, Nova, “Hitler’s Sunken Secret”

The Allies surmised the Nazis wanted the factory for its by-product of  deuterium, which is critical to creating weapons-grade plutonium-239.

I believe the United States knew of the potential of creating fertilizer with hydroelectric power when the national defense act of 1916 went into effect.

Col. J.W. Joyes…was instructed to inspect sites [for the location of the nitrogen/fertilizer plant] extending from Roanoke, VA., to certain Alabama sites…(2) 66th Congress, Second Session, War Expenditures Ordnance

The nitrate supply committee recommended this to the 66th Congress:

That the construction of the initial plant be started at once at some point to be selected by the War Department in southwest Virginia or adjoining territory in West Virginia reasonably near to the sulphur, sulphuric acid, and coal supplies of that region. (2)

The hydroelectric U.S. Nitrate plant was eventually built in Sheffield, Alabama with the help of a Norwegian named Berg. (I suspect it is the same Berg who would later be associated with the Vemork plant in his home country.)

Clearly the experts thought President Wilson was misguided when he chose the Alabama location:

Why the President selected the site at Sheffield Ala., for nitrate plant No. 1, contrary to all reports and recommendations, is not known. (2)

I think the President chose Sheffield Ala. to direct attention away from the southwest Virginia saltpeter caves and the real work of munitions production. He visited Lincoln Memorial University in 1918 under the guise of receiving an honorary law degree. (8) It’s certain the trip was actually a visit to the saltpeter/nitrogen operations in Cumberland Mountain, a few short miles away.

It is important to note that TVA was successful at large scale fertilizer production in the Alabama plants (see Dr. Jeremy Whitlock’s statement near the end of the blog post.)

Below describes the way limestone is used to help manufacture saltpeter:

[Nitric] acid can be neutralized with ammonia to form ammonium nitrate or with calcium hydrate to form calcium nitrate (Norwegian saltpeter).

and

 …we allow the acid to pass through open towers, filled with limestone, and afterward we destroy the small amount of remaining acid….  (3) Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering, Vol. 24

According to the above journal, this process takes 15,000 tons of limestone, 500 tons of lime, and  2500 tons of soda to produce 29,000 tons of saltpeter.

The November 2001 issue of Virginia Minerals “Geology and History of Confederate Saltpeter Cave Operations in Western Virginia” states:

In the 1860s the southern war machine benefited immeasurably from the conditions of climate, vegetation and geology that gave it the greatest concentration of saltpeter cave deposits in North America. (4)

Luckily for the U.S. Government limestone was abundant in western Virginia as well:

Cumberland Mountain has an extensive limestone cave system on the Virginia side. – Sherpa Guides, “Highroad Guide to the Virginia Mountains” (5)

But the government struck a home run when they discovered a small college named Lincoln Memorial University already had a hydroelectric plant deep inside one of these limestone saltpeter caves: Cudjo’s Cave.

…an active stream runs inside the cave, and was harnessed for drinking water and hydroelectric power. – us-highway.com (6)

It is unknown if it is the same hydroelectric plant mentioned in the 1911 edition of Southern Electrician:

Plans are underway for the erection of a hydro-electric plant for the purpose of supplying power to manufacturers near Cumberland Gap. The plant will be located on the Cap creek.(9)

It is not known if “Cap” is a misspelling of “Gap”.

All three elements needed to produce deuterium are located right here in southwest Virginia: the naturally thriving saltpeter, a catalyst (limestone) that would replenish and produce even more, and the power of hydroelectricity.

I asked Dr. Jeremy Whitlock, a Canadian reactor physicist with decades of experience, how the massive amount of heavy water needed for pressurized heavy water nuclear reactors, or PHWRs, is produced today:

In the future if industrial-scale production is needed again (and I hope it is), we will likely use a catalyzed exchange process attached to an existing process based on electrolysis or hydrogen reformation (e.g. fertilizer production). (7)

SOURCES:

1. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/hydro/water.html#h06

2. http://tinyurl.com/sheffield-nitrate

3. http://tinyurl.com/chemical-saltpeter

4. http://www.dmme.virginia.gov/commercedocs/VAMIN_VOL47_NO04.pdf

5. http://www.sherpaguides.com/virginia/mountains/app_plateau/cumberland_mountain.html

6. http://www.us-highways.com/cgap25.htm

7. Personal email, April 9 2015; copies available upon request

8. http://tinyurl.com/wilson-at-lmu

9. http://tinyurl.com/hydro-electric-gap

 

Cudjo’s Cave, Cumberland Gap Tunnel, and World Events: A Timeline

UPDATED April 11: the date of 1942 added to reflect the Allied forces discovering the Nazis using saltpeter to make heavy water for nuclear bombs in Norway.

1740- Caves in the western portion of Virgina are mined for saltpeter, also known as nitre, a crucial ingredient in gunpowder

1765-1783 and 1812-1815- The American Revolution and War of 1812. The saltpeter caves in Virginia continue to be a valuable source of nitre needed for the war efforts

1815-1860- Consumption of western Virginia nitre increased so much the caves could no longer keep up: the state had to import nitre to satisfy the demand

1861-1865- The Civil War. If nitre production was going to be profitable for Virginia and the Confederacy in the war effort, they had to find more saltpeter caves and invest capital in their development.  The Confederacy established the Nitre Corps (which became the Nitre and Mining Bureau) to this effect. Their efforts were successful; Virginia nitre production easily kept up with the military demands.

NOTE: Because of their deep underground location, the scattered saltpeter caves were valued by the Confederate military, as they proved to be an elusive target for enemy forces. (1. Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy)

1920- Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate TN purchases Cudjo’s Caverns (one of the Virginia saltpeter caves) from private owners, including the caves known as Soldiers Cave and King Solomon’s Cave.

Although originally separate caves, these two caves “were connected by a passageway and a larger main entrance by blasting and tunneling” although the date this connection was accomplished is unknown. We do know the caves remained separate at least as late as 1937. (2. Thacker, 212)

1939- World War II begins

1940- Congress authorizes the acquisition of land in the Cumberland Gap area for Cumberland Gap National Park, only after language is omitted from the Act calling it a “recreational area” (3)

1941- Pearl Harbor attacked, the United States enters WWII

1942-Allied Forces discover a Nazi-occupied Norwegian hydroelectric plant that also makes fertilizer out of saltpeter. They discover the real purpose of this plant: the production of heavy water, an essential component of nuclear weapons.

1947
-the start of the Cold War

-the title to Cudjo’s Cave (also known as Saltpeter Cave) is signed over to the state of Virginia and eventually transferred to the federal Park. Originally, the saltpeter cave was a separate holding within the National Park.

1954- a Masonic lodge, Martin’s Station Lodge No. 188 opens 1000 feet below Cumberland Mountain in Cudjo’s Cave. 345 Masons are present for the conferring of a Master Mason degree. (4)

1955- Although acquired in 1940, the Park was not opened to the public until 15 years later in 1955. (5)

1972- in November, hijackers threaten to crash plane into the Oak Ridge nuclear complex in Tennessee (6)

1973- Congress tells the National Park to construct the tunnels under Cumberland Gap (5)

1990 to 1991-  The Gulf War (Operation Desert Shield) begins, leading to Operation Desert Storm
– Construction of the Cumberland Gap Tunnel begins (5)

1992- the federal government closes Cudjo’s Caverns to the public indefinitely

1996- the Cumberland Gap Tunnel opens. The road to Cudjo’s Cave and over Cumberland Gap is removed soon after.(5)

It is 2015, and only recently did the Park start allowing very limited access to Cudjo’s Cave. See my post here about Cudjo’s Cave.

 

The federal government has had a keen interest in the saltpeter caves of western Virginia (including Cudjo’s Cave) from the 1700’s. As our government becomes less transparent, it’s hard to ignore the coincidental timing of Congress to act on the development of these caves, the Cumberland Gap area and the Cumberland Gap Tunnel in relation to world events, specifically military conflicts.

Coincidence? Or conspiracy?

Sources:
1. Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy;  http://dmme.virginia.gov/dgmr/civilwar_niter.shtml

2. Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia; Thacker, Larry. 2007

3. Cumberland Gap National Historic Park; Luckett, William. 1964
http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online_books/cuga/luckett/index.htm

4. “York Lodge No. 22 Bulletin”; 2010
http://www.masonsinmaine.org/york22/TB112010.pdf

5. “Cumberland Gap Tunnel marks fifteenth anniversary”; Simmons, Morgon. 2011  http://www.knoxnews.com/news/nation-and-world/cumberland-gap-tunnel-marks-15th-anniversary

6. “Convicted hijacker  shares story; details 1972 threat to Oak Ridge”; Welsch, Anthony. 2011 http://archive.wbir.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=170845

 

Comparing the Lehigh Tunnel in Pennsylvania with the CGT

The Lehigh tunnel in Pennsylvania

The Lehigh Tunnel carries interstate I-476 under Blue Mountain in Pennsylvania. It’s part of the northeast extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Although the original single tunnel was dug in the 1950’s, the southbound passage of Lehigh Tunnel was tunneled in the early 90s, the same time period as Cumberland Gap Tunnel.

The southbound passage of Lehigh Tunnel is an ideal tunnel to do a side-by-side analysis with as it was built approximately in the same time period and is almost as long as the CGT at close to 4400 feet. (The CGT is 4600 feet.)

Local newspaper article about the Lehigh Tunnel

Comparing the Lehigh Tunnel with the Cumberland Gap Tunnel

And the contract goes to…(the bidding process…or lack thereof)

Lehigh Tunnel- open, transparent bidding process where the contract was awarded to the low bidder, a company out of Chicago. Find the article here.

Cumberland Gap Tunnel- I find no record of a bidding process or how it was determined to award the contract for CGT to Parsons Brinckerhoff, worldwide leader in D.U.M.B. base design

 

Cost per structure
(keep in mind the figures for the Lehigh Tunnel are for a single tunnel vs the double tunnel at Cumberland Gap- this is accounted for in the analysis)

  • Lehigh Tunnel– $37.8 million dollars plus an additional $10 million for the portals, a total cost of $47.8 million for one tunnel
  • Cumberland Gap Tunnel-$280 million for two tunnels, or, $140 million per tunnel

The Cumberland Gap Tunnel cost $100 million more dollars per tunnel to build than the Lehigh Tunnel, for approximately the same distance.

Why?

I am sure the tunnel contractors would tell you “tunnels are like snowflakes- no two are the same”- and therefore you cannot predict the obstacles or ease one might encounter when tunneling. Fair enough.

But note the current proposal on the table for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission: do away with the tunnels completely and cut a road over the mountains. A consultant to the Turnpike Commission stated, “Annual maintenance costs for a tunnel would exceed…several times what an open highway segment would cost.”

We already had a highway over Cumberland Gap. If the consensus by industry professionals is that a road over a mountain can be safely traveled by tens of thousands of people and save untold millions of dollars in the long run, why did the Feds do away with ours? Why wasn’t our highway widened at a fraction of the cost to taxpayers, making it a safe, viable route over the Gap?

 

Security and surveillance

  • Lehigh Tunnel– state-of-the-art 360-degree view IPIX security cameras/ surveillance systems ARE NOT installed in the tunnel
  • Cumberland Gap Tunnel-outfitted with Oak Ridge-based company’s IPIX “Photobubble” security cameras at several locations at both north and south approaches to the tunnel as well as inside the tunnel spaced approximately 10-15 feet apart. This is a total of between 100-200 security cameras in operation at Cumberland Gap Tunnel. The IPIX company has direct ties to the Oak Ridge nuclear complex (see post here).

Hazmat Escorts and Restrictions

  • Lehigh Tunnel– hazmat trucks prohibited so there are no tunnel escorts while traffic waits
  • Cumberland Gap Tunnel-all hazmat materials permitted except explosives. Hazmat material permitted inside tunnel includes radioactive material.  The tunnel must pay the cost of several employees to run the hazmat “checkpoints”.

This is the one part of the equation that I’m having trouble reconciling. If there is sensitive equipment or a military installation that they are protecting from terrorist attack, why not just prohibit all hazmat traffic (and therefore potential ‘weapons’)?

One answer could lie in the fact Highway 25E is a “nuclear highway”, or a designated route for hauling radioactive materials through less populated areas to lower the general public’s exposure risk. Below is a screenshot taken from the WIPP Transportation Program that shows not only is Cumberland Gap Tunnel located on a preferred route for nuclear transport, but the route is designated an HRCQ route.

Screen shot 2015-02-08 at 10.06.03 AM

What is an HRCQ route? From Oak Ridge Associated Universities online library:

A “Highway Route Controlled Quantity” (HRCQ) requires Type B packaging, and has certain highway routing limitations and requirements (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations).

The HRCQ applies to the content of a single package – not to the sum of contents of all packages, i.e., in a shipment which exceeds: (1) 3000 times the A1 value of the radionuclide as specified in §173.435 for special form Class 7 material; or (2) 3000 times the A2 value of the radionuclide as specified in §173.435 for normal form Class 7 materials; or (3) 1000 TBq (27,000 Curies), whichever is least.

In other words, the really dangerous, most highly radioactive shipments are sent down Highway 25E through Cumberland Gap Tunnel.

If the contents of the package being shipped are determined to be a HRCQ, the package must be transported under specific routing controls: (a) The carrier must operate on “preferred routes” that conform to §397.101(b) of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

An educated guess is the tunnel was built because 25E is a nuclear highway. They needed a safer route for their enriched uranium coming from the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion plant down Corridor B to Oak Ridge. It wasn’t to benefit our community like they espoused.

And heck, if you’re already letting the worst of the worst radioactive material through, what’s it hurt to let the gasoline tankers go through as well?

Cargo bays and mysterious passageways leading under the mountain

  • Lehigh Tunnel– No.
  • Cumberland Gap Tunnel– Yes

The Cumberland Gap Tunnel: One big, fat anomaly

Cargo bays run end to end in Cumberland Gap Tunnel

Cargo bays. A lot of them. Lining the entire length of the tunnel, separating the north and south bound lanes. According to former workers they are rooms, and in these rooms are more doors, leading from one room to the next. It is not a simply a hallway between two ends of a tunnel like you might think.

The ceiling of the southbound side of the tunnel is significantly higher than the north bound side. Is it to accommodate larger military vehicles? Could the tunnel be some kind of “flight deck” or loading zone for fast, efficient loading of arms, even nuclear arms, on military vehicles in times of conflict?

mysterious doors in the tunnel lead deep into cumberland mountain

Little is known about these doors as current employees of the tunnel are forbidden to enter.

Former workers that helped build the tunnel say the door on the right of the northbound lane leads you to the water pouring down inside the mountain that makes up the lake the tunnel is supposedly built over.

The door on the right in the southbound lane leads you to the underground lake itself. This lake has no measurable depth. The former workers weren’t sure of it’s surface area either, for a miner’s headlamp shone across the waters would still not reveal an opposite shore. In other words, it’s big.

Still another door opens to another passage leading into the mountain above the southbound lane in the second story of the tunnel in what I refer to as the administrative section of the tunnel:  the office-and-lobby-type areas behind the big glass windows. No one has any information about this passageway, other than the door is often propped open at night, visible when you are entering the northbound side of the tunnel toward Kentucky.

Other than this information, no one knows how much farther these passageways lead into the mountain, or their ultimate destination.

Extensive security cameras in place designed by former Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists

Ipix is a Tennessee company that makes surveillance cameras capable of projecting 360-degeree panoramic images. This company was founded in Oak Ridge by former scientists from the nuclear laboratory. These scientists’ company initially started working with “recording robots” for use in nuclear plants. But the invention of their PhotoBubbles and 360-degree camera surveillance put them at Cumberland Gap Tunnel, in what they describe as “mission critical imaging”.

IPIX Security is the leading supplier of Full-360 degree video surveillance technology for critical government and commercial security applications.

and

IPIX Security is a division of IPIX Corporation, a leader in mission critical imaging.

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/ipix-technology-evaluation-successful-us-congressman-sees-national-potential-72240267.html

Congressman Wamp called the tunnel a “critical part of our nation’s infrastructure” and the reason why the expensive, high tech cameras were needed. If this is true, then how much more critical are the tunnels located on major interstates like I-40 and I-77?  Yet these tunnels have no security cameras, let alone state-of-the-art cameras invented by nuclear scientists from the Secret City.

Hazmat escorts that seem more for the tunnel’s protection than ours

They make hazardous materials trucks, like gasoline tankers, pull off for private escort when both sides of the tunnel are open and operating normally.

They send the same hazmat trucks through the tunnel with regular traffic when they are working on one side of the tunnel. This destroys the logic that they make hazmat trucks stop for escort for our protection.

Not only do the hazmat truckers have to stop for escort through the tunnel 99% of the time, their records and logs are carefully checked by tunnel personnel while they are waiting.

Trucks that display a hazardous material placard are required to stop at the Cumberland Gap Tunnel inspection lanes. After stopping in the lane, a CGTA operator requests information from the driver such as Trucking Company name and address, DOT #, Truck license #, Truck Order # or bill of lading, origin and destination of goods, and driver’s name and signature. The operator then performs a walk around inspection of the truck and looks for possible hazardous material leaks. Trucks transporting Class 1 Explosives are prohibited and are turned around at the tunnel.

 

In retrospect, it almost seems like a security checkpoint. For a tunnel on a highway most people in the United States have never even heard of.

 

Is Cumberland Gap Tunnel Part of a Secret Underground Military Installation?

MENTION THIS TO MOST OF THE LOCALS AND THEY’LL SCOFF AT YOU.

However, a growing number of us are questioning the federal government’s official reason for building the approximately mile-long tunnel: the highway over the mountain was responsible for an average of 5 deaths a year. This will be safer, they said, and it would allow the park to restore Cumberland Gap Trail to the way it looked when Daniel Boone walked it 200 years ago, they lauded.

It appeared the federal government really cared about us. But one of the first negative impacts the tunnel had was on tourism: Cudjo’s Cave, one of the area’s largest tourist attractions, no longer had a road to bring tourists to visit. Essentially whatever economic impact the impressive cave had on the region was suddenly strangled. Fast forward to today: visits to the cave are strictly regulated and only offered a few times a year. They tell us it’s because of white nose bat syndrome.

Mammoth Cave, in south central Kentucky, illustrates how they control and prevent white nose bat syndrome from spreading while keeping their cave open to the public (taken from the National Park Service’s website about Mammoth Cave at http://www.nps.gov/maca/whitenose.htm):

Significant evidence indicates that humans can and have transmitted the fungus from one cave to another, hastening its spread. While no tours at Mammoth Cave National Park enter areas used by colonies of bats for hibernation, bats do occasionally fly through toured sections of the cave year-round.

On the remote chance that you might come into contact with Geomyces destructans spores during your tour of Mammoth Cave, all participants in Mammoth Cave National Park cave tours will be required to walk the length of an artificial turf mat to remove spores and dirt after exiting the Cave. We also ask for your cooperation by washing your hands and changing clothes and footwear before visiting any other caves or mines.

If Mammoth Cave can take precautions to prevent the spread of this disease without turning the public away then Cumberland Gap National Park has a moral and ethical duty to our community to do the same. Thanks to the federal government the future of coal is looking bleak. To counter that, tourism tops the list of  Southeast Kentucky’s possible revenue generators…but not if the Feds don’t give us our cave back.

DOES THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAVE AN ULTERIOR MOTIVE FOR MAKING CUDJO’S CAVE DIFFICULT TO ACCESS?

Did the federal government remove the road and then begin to use the excuse of white nose bat syndrome to keep the public out of Cudjo’s Cave?

A woman who has spent her life in the surrounding community tells an interesting story about exploring the cave as a child. As a small girl, approximately 50 years ago or so, she and a friend would sneak into the cave to go swimming in the pools of water, which was quite a treat back then. To do this, they would squeeze back behind the stalactites and stalagmites which their small size afforded them. She tells of finding obvious military storage in one of the cavernous rooms: boxes, crates and equipment in a part of the cave that was off limits to the public.

Aside from the cave’s use by troops during the Civil War, this woman’s story is the first indication the U.S. military has had a recent interest in Cudjo’s Cave and Cumberland Mountain. Oak Ridge lies approximately 50 miles southwest in the same mountain chain. This area is littered with hundreds of miles of deep underground coal mines and natural caves. Is it too far a stretch to consider the possibility that Cudjo’s Cave, Cumberland Gap Tunnel and Oak Ridge could be connected?

Parsons Brinckerhoff: a worldwide leader in deep underground military base design…and the contractor behind Cumberland Gap Tunnel.

PARSONS BRINCKERHOFF IS A RENOWNED DESIGNER OF UNDERGROUND MILITARY BUNKERS LIKE RAVEN ROCK AND NORAD. WAS THIS EXPERTISE PUT TO USE DURING THE CONSTRUCTION OF CUMBERLAND GAP TUNNEL?

In the 2010 Parsons Brinckerhoff publication “Tunneling to the Future” the company states (page 15):

During the Cold War, PB pioneered methods for the creation of large underground spaces for military fortresses. The firm’s work in this area began in the late 1940s with the design of a hardened underground defense facility at Fort Ritchie, in the Catoctin Mountains near Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, and culminated in the early 1960s with NORAD (North American Air Defense Command Center), an underground cavern deep within Cheyenne Mountain outside Colorado Springs, Colorado, comprising six huge chambers and several tunnels designed to sustain nuclear attack. Recently, mined caverns have been designed by PB for construction of transit stations or underground storage.

The history of Parsons Brinckerhoff shows they can and will operate in utmost secrecy and will even employ deception to hide the installations they are constructing. In their publication “Parsons Brinckerhoff Through the Years: 1885 to 2012” the company writes about their leading role in the construction of Raven Rock Mountain Complex, a military nuclear bunker near Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania, known as the “underground Pentagon”:

https://www.pbworld.com/book_pub_history/files/assets/basic-html/page84.html

We started design in 1948, under which time the project was under very tight security clearance…we did not even tell our families what we were doing. Once construction started and tunnel muck had to be deposited outside, it was obvious that something very important was under way [sic]. And the fiction that it was a mining operation could not be very long maintained.

That was 1948. It’s logical to assume this billion dollar company’s adeptness at concealing their activities grew with time (and technological advances).

But Parsons Brinckerhoff is not only a deep underground military base contractor- they also design subway tunnels, bridges and other public transportation systems like high speed rail projects.

the lead engineer at NORAD, Thomas R. Kuesel, was also the lead engineer at Cumberland Gap Tunnel

Kuesel’s most important job at NORAD was to design a way to reinforce rock to withstand nuclear attack. It is quite noteworthy that the same engineer responsible for the integrity of one of the United States’ most strategic underground command centers was later sent to work on a simple twin tunnel bore through a mountain for a highway that runs through small towns and villages. A highway that sees significantly less traffic than I-75, which is 45 miles away. Why was it so important that Kuesel be in charge of the Cumberland Gap Tunnel project?

S.A. Healy Inc: The subcontractor at Raven Rock Mountain Complex was also the subcontractor at Cumberland Gap Tunnel

A 1951 newspaper article from Gettysburg TImes indicates S.A. Healy is continuing work on the underground installation known as the “Little Pentagon” despite recently announced cutbacks in defense appropriations.  See “Work Goes On at Little Pentagon ,  Gettysburg Times. November 8, 1951

We already know of Parsons Brinckerhoff’s role in the development of Raven Rock, and the Gettysburg newspaper article proves PB has worked with S.A. Healy before on underground military installations.

Parsons Brinckerhoff’s, S. A. Healy’s, and Kuesel’s involvement in the tunnel construction is not a smoking gun that the tunnel is an underground military installation. Kuesel was involved with hundreds of other projects that had nothing to do with the military or defense, and the same goes for the tunnel subcontractor S.A. Healy. However, it is with certainty and accuracy that we can say the companies chosen for the tunnel construction certainly had the credentials, expertise, technology and prior experience to carry out construction of a deep underground military base in southern Appalachia at Cumberland Gap.