Did Cat Litter Precipitate the Nuclear Waste Dump Fire?

Feline toilet or fire hazard?

Feline toilet or fire hazard? xamnesiacx/Shutterstock.com

Specifically, the organic variety is under scrutiny.

The combination of cat litter and nitrate salts designed to suppress fires in drums of waste generated by the nation’s nuclear defense program may have led to a Feb. 14 fire at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant 26 miles southeast of Carlsbad, N.M. That’s what the Albuquerque Journal reported today.

Lauren Villagran reported that it’s “just a theory, but it’s the best they’ve got.”

The nitrate salts and cat litter are mixed in drums of nuclear waste to help suppress fires, but recently this mix has been changed from using inorganic cat litter to organic cat litter.

Trais Kliphuis , WIPP staff manager in the New Mexico Environment Department’s Hazardous Waste Bureau, told Villagran the salts and litter “were dissolved in a liquid sludgy matrix. If they weren’t neutralized appropriately, they could have combined with cellulose in the kitty litter” and caused a reaction.

The department plans an investigation into the change of cat litter types. Meanwhile let this be a lesson that “organic” isn't always synonymous with best. 

(Image via xamnesiacx/Shutterstock.com)