22 December 2009

Quick Overview of Environmental and Health Impacts of USDOE's "preferred alternatives"

The draft Tank Closure and Waste Management Environmental Impact Statement, released in October 2009, outlines the Department of Energy's "preferred alternatives" for the future of Hanford cleanup.  These include:
  • Never cleaning up the million gallons of deadly radioactive waste leaked from Hanford's High-Level Nuclear Waste tanks - despite the fact that contamination is moving faster towards the Columbia River than USDOE presiously claimed was possible;
  • Never characterizing, or cleaning up, the 40 miles of unlined soil trenches into which DOE dumped massive amounts of chemical and highly radioactive wastes - including plutonium;
  • Not dismantling the FFTF reactor, instead "entobming" it;
  • And, adding even more waste to Hanford's existing problems.
The impacts to public health and the Columbia River of these "preferred alternatives" are nothing short of deadly - for future generations of our children, Native American tribes with treaty rights to live along the River at Hanford, and for the Columbia River itself.  Heart of America Northwest's expert team is busy reviewing this 6,000 page document.  Our team includes hydrogeologists, retired regulators and risk assessment experts.  We're finding that USDOE's own hidden analysis within the 6,000 pages reveals:
  • Plutonium contamination entering the Columbia River will grow to over 300 times the Drinking Water Standards over the next thousand years due to existing wastes - this is not including the impact of dumping even more wastes at Hanford;
  • Using Hanford as a national waste dump - USDOE's own analysis shows - increases the cancer risk from groundwater tenfold - to 100 times WA State's cleanup cancer risk standard;
But no matter how many deaths are projected from USDOE's plans, USDOE is still free to adopt its "preferred alternatives."

It is up to us - with your help - to stop this from happening! 

18 December 2009

Hanford plutonium finishing plant ready for demolition

Thursday, December 17, 2009, marked the first time the plutonium finishing plant at Hanford was open those without high security clearance.  Media, community leaders and plant employees were invited inside to look at the plutonium storage vaults and celebrate the finalization of shipping the high-security materials from the plant.  Until now, this plant was one of the most secure sites in the entire United States.

2/3 of the plutonium for the US's nuclear arsenal during the Cold War passed through the finishing plant, which is now slated for demoltion.  The plutonium discs, the size of hockey pucks, were stored in canisters the size of coffee cans in a giant rack inside the plant.  Read the full Tri-City Herald article here.

17 December 2009

Hanford B Reactor passed over as National Park

In 2004, the Bush administration mandated a study of four historic Manhattan Project sites to determine their eligibility for inclusion in the national park system. The four sites considered were:
  • Hanford Site (WA)
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory (NM)
  • Oak Ridge Reservation (TN)
  • Sites in Dayton (OH)
Five years later, in fall 2009, the National Park Service released a summary document of the findings of its study and a list of "preferred alternatives." The Park Service has ruled out the potential of including all four sites together as a Manhattan Project unit because of the vast distances between the sites and other limiting factors. In addition, the Hanford Site B Reactor, the nation's first production-scale nuclear reactor, was dismissed as an option for a stand alone national park. New Mexico's Los Alamos National Laboratory is the only site remaining under consideration.

If you're interested in being involved in the conclusion to the study, the National Park Service is holding a series of public meetings in late January and early February 2010 at each of the sites under consideration. Information is on page 7 of the study summary.

New cancer package for Hanford workers approved

An article in today's Tri-City Herald reports that the automatic compensation granted to Hanford employees who developed cancer due to radiation exposure will be expanded. Hundreds of past claims that were previously denied will be reviewed again, in addition to 340 pending claims.

A new exposure cohort will be developed, granting "automatic $150,000 compensation and medical coverage [...] to any Hanford worker who was employed for at least 250 days from Oct. 1, 1943, through June 30, 1972." Workers during these years may have been exposed to polonium, thorium and neptunium. Dozens of cancers qualify for the extended coverage.

The issues represented in this article remind Hanford stakeholders of the necessity to ensure both effective cleanup of environmental contamination while arduously protecting workers' safety on site.

14 December 2009

HOANW's Final Comments on the Proposed Settlement

The comment period on the Proposed Settlement & Consent Decree and TPA Changes ended last Friday, December 11th. Heart of America Northwest worked hard to generate turnout at each of the 5 public meetings held in Washington and Oregon and encouraged everyone to submit comments. Thank you to everyone who attended hearings and gave comments!

Our comments are now posted on our website - check them out! Now we wait for Washington State and USDOE to issue their responses to the comments and see what their next actions will be.

What's next? USDOE released the draft Tank Closure and Waste Management Environmental Impact Statement (TCWMEIS) in late October. Heart of America's attention is now turned to reviewing and analyzing the EIS and we are preparing a Citizens' Guide and organizing efforts for the public hearings to be held on it in early 2010. Stay tuned for updates & more information!

10 December 2009

Hanford Bracelets, Just in Time for the Holidays!

There is always a way to raise money for a good cause! A Hanford-focused anthropology department class at the University of Washington has created bracelets that show how simple projects can raise money for a good cause. The bendable copper bracelets saying STOP DUMP, HANFORD, WA concisely state what advocates for clean-up work for continuously.

To order a bracelet, contact rdgaspard1@gmail.com.
All proceeds go to Heart of America NW; while supplies last.

09 December 2009

McCain claims Hanford stimulus funds a waste

Hanford ranks #10 out of McCain's top 100 wasteful stimulus projects, according to a list released Tuesday, December 8th.  The Hanford cleanup, McCain and fellow Republican Senator Coburn claim, has received "billions of dollars of stimulus funding that have been wasted, mismanaged or directed toward silly and shortsighted projects."  The Tri-City Herald reports here.

Topping their list of concerns is the fact that of the 177 underground High-Level Nuclear Waste storage tanks at Hanford, none of them has been permanently closed.  They are right to be concerned about this fact, and Heart of America Northwest is even more concerned that the State of Washington agreed to 22 more years of delay in emptying these leaky, outdated tanks in the recent settlement proposal that is under comment period until this Friday, December 11th.  Submit your comment today - email TPACH@rl.gov. 

08 December 2009

Demolition of first Hanford processing canyon begins

An article in the Tri-City Herald over the weekend reports on the initiation of a multi-year project do demolish a "processing canyon" at the Hanford site. A processing canyon is a long, narrow plant that chemically separated plutonium from irradiated fuel rods, similar to the nuclear "re"processing that is a current topic under hot debate. Hanford is home to 5 such processing canyons; this first one to be demolished was never actually used to extract uranium and thus is the least contaminated of the Hanford canyons.

The article comments on the final destination of contaminated materials from the canyon:

Plans call for leaving radioactive waste permanently in place as the lower level of the plant is made into a giant waste receptacle for contaminated equipment from the plant.

Then the ceiling and walls will be collapsed and covered with an environmentally protective earthen cap that would form a huge berm standing 40 feet high along the length of the former processing canyon.

07 December 2009

Hanford pulls down big stimulus dollars

An article in yesterday's Oregonian again analyzes the effect of $2 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) stimulus dollars at the Hanford nuclear waste dump in Southeastern Washington.  The Hanford site is the "single biggest recipient of federal stimulus contracts."

However, the influx of stimulus dollars, that doubles Hanford's annual operating budget, will not significantly expedite cleanup, an effect the public strongly desires.  Plans to empty Hanford's outdated and leaking single shell tanks that store 53 million gallons of High-Level Nuclear Waste are unaffected by stimulus dollars.  In fact, in a legal settlement reached in August 2009 between Washington and the US Department of Energy (USDOE), deadlines to empty these tanks - that have already leaked over one million gallons of radioactive waste and contamination is spreading towards the Columbia River - were delayed by 22 years.

The Oregonian article quotes Heart of America Northwest's Executive Director, saying, "They could be spending the money on emptying those tanks," says Gerry Pollet..."What should be the highest priorities of the Energy Department are not getting funded with the stimulus."

Pollet is bothered as well by the inequity of spending so much stimulus money at Hanford when other areas are hurting for jobs. "You could pay for an enormous number of teachers and an enormous number of health clinics with that $2 billion," he says.

Heart of America Northwest believes that stimulus funds should have gone to amending USDOE's legal violation and catching up for years of delay in emptying the single shell tanks, instead of to the many projects on which USDOE is spending money.

While USDOE hypes talk of cleaning up the contaminated groundwater flowing to the Columbia with stimulus funds - only 7.5% of the stimulus funds at Hanford are directed towards groundwater cleanup.  Hundreds of million of dollars are going to projects to demolish buildings that do not pose high environmental of safety risks, but do make for nice photographs of "progress".

Simultaneously, USDOE "saved" over 400 million dollars by unilaterally slowing down the emptying of the High-Level Nuclear Waste tanks in the past five years.  USDOE stopped or slowed down other important projects in violation of cleanup schedules, and USDOE has yet to commit to using sitmulus funds to attempt to reach compliance with the prior schedules.

The comment period on the proposed settlement ends this Friday, December 11th.  For more background information and details on the proposed delays, read Heart of America Northwest's Citizens' Guide to the Settlement. And don't forget to submit your thoughts, directly to the agencies, by sending a quick email to TPACH@rl.gov!

01 December 2009

One million years of isolation

In an interview conducted by BLDGBLOG, Abraham Van Luik, a US Department of Energy geoscientist currently based at Yucca Mountain, Nevada - a controversial site chosen for nuclear waste storage - highlights the specialized aspects of his position.  The interview illuminates the technical nature of nuclear waste storage from a geographical standpoint and is a great introduction to nuclear waste issues.

When questioned about the design of the Yucca Mountain facilities and other projects of similar magnitude, Van Luik emphasized the need to access all available storage resources.  What geologies are available in the country in question?  For instance, Sweden plans to use granite to isolate waste because that is the material most readily available in its geologic landscape.  Meanwhile, France chose to use clay.  In the United States, however, Van Luik argues that there are "many possible sites" for radioactive storage.  In a situation where there are multiple potential sites, Congress tends to favor the most cost-effective option.  As a result, cose was a significant factor in selecting Yucca Mountain as the nation's nuclear waste storage site.

He goes on to explain that the storage design involves "wrapping the stainless steel packages, in which we would receive the spent fuel, in Alloy 22 and sticking them inside this mountain with a layer of air over the top."  Alloy 22 was chosen because it will stand up well to the top layer of oxygen.  Additionally, it is compatible with Nevada's dry climate.

Van Luik notes that other nations, with the exception of Mexico, are approaching storage quite differently by using only salt, only granite or only clay.  The United States' "philosophy of containment" for nuclear waste is that "two systems" must be used.  He goes on to add that although it is not feasible to do a realistic mock-up of Yucca Mountain, the DOE has tested safety assessments by simulating how water moves through ranges and how spent fuel dissolves.  When asked to comment on waste transportation, Van Luik assured the interviewers that specially made containers and cargo trains will ensure that "everything is shielded."  Workers as well as the public will be protected from exposure.  Van Luik then explains that there are no current plants to seal the repository's exterior door because these openings have little to do with how the mountain funtions; rather than harming the environment, these openings will serve as ventilation shafts, which are needed because the waste is so hot.

Currently, however, the world's 270,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel have no final repository.  The Obama administration slashed funding for the Yucca Mountain project earlier in 2009, and has yet to appoint a Blue Ribbon panel to assess what to do with the US's nuclear waste.  Finland is leading the world in actually moving on with it's repository - as this recent IEEE article illuminates.

30 November 2009

Fair Trade Holiday Shopping Event!

The event will take place at Ten Thousand Villages Seattle - 6417 Roosevelt Way NE #101, Seattle, WA 98115. 

This is a great opportunity to get some holiday shopping done while supporting fair trade and Hanford cleanup. 15% of the net sales will be donated to Heart of America NW.  We hope to see you tomorrw evening!

Hanford Summit in the works

A week before Thanksgiving, a Seattle-based group, Hanford Challenge, organized a meeting with a number of interested parties and stakeholder groups to discuss how to move forward in the dialogue on Hanford cleanup and plan a broadly based summit.  The morning of the meeting, the Tri-City Herald ran an article framing this preliminary meeting as Western Washington vs. Eastern Washington, a significant setback to expanding and building trust between the participants.  The issue with the article is that the Herald used Hanford Challenge's own words, taken directly from their website:

    Western Washington and Portland are "concerned about Hanford's environmental impact past, present and future," the advocacy group says on its website.
    Tri-City residents "are less concerned with environmental impacts," it said, and characterized Tri-City groups as focused on jobs and economic development. 
    "This polarization has interfered with the ability to hold a dialogue about the important issues facing the region when it comes to Hanford," the group said, describing Hanford environmental cleanup as "broken."

This language is most likely aimed at a first-time visitor to the website, an audience unfamiliar with the dialogue which already occurs with surprising consensus at the Hanford Advisory Board on the values that should drive Hanford cleanup and which the US Department of Energy is loathe to adopt and apply.  As Heart of America Northwest's Executive Director, Gerry Pollet, works in the Board and serves in the Board's leadership, we have seen the entire range of stakeholders on the Board forcefully join for a common vision.

This vision is what Heart of America has been the leading voice for: "Clean-Up First," the most basic environmental principle.  No more waste should be added to Hanford until existing wastes are brought into compliance and cleaned up.  In addition, everyone on the Board agrees that USDOE should investigate and remove the massive quantities of Plutonium and other wastes in soil and over 40 miles of unlined ditches at Hanford, and that groundwater needs to be cleaned up and restored for future use.

Ideally, the Hanford Summit will create a space for meaningful dialoge and will reinvigorate openness at Hanford.  Much discussion is needed on an investment in sustainable, clean energy at Hanford tied to the cleanup mission and vision, for the benefit of the local and regional economy.  The planning meeting had good participation from USDOE managment, the Washington Department of Ecology, the Environmental Protection Agency and a range of stakeholders.

And today, Tom Carpenter, the Executive Director of Hanford Challenge, has a guest editorial in the Tri-City Herald, arguing that everyone's interest in cleanup and protecting future generations is the basis for common ground.  

25 November 2009

Raging Grannies Sing at Seattle Hanford Hearing

At the Seattle hearing on the proposed Settlement between WA and USDOE on November 12, 2009, the Raging Grannies were the first to give a formal comment, recorded here!

You can still submit comments to the agencies on the settlement until December 11th. Email your thoughts directly to TPACH@rl.gov and check out Heart of America Northwest's Citizens' Guide for more information!

23 November 2009

Hanford Stimulus Funds Update

"If you want to win the stimulus sweepstakes, it helps to have one of the planet's nastiest toxic waste sites in your backyard" [Mike Stuckey, MSNBC]

Why has Hanford received stimulus funds while some cities have been overlooked?

In this article on stimulus funding for Hanford cleanup, Mike Stucky argues that the Benton County area, which is home to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, deserves stimulus dollars because government-employed or contracted workers are working, doing everything from "sealing up old reactors" to experimenting with vitrifying radioactive waste. Stuckey explains that Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allows the Department of Energy, which oversees Hanford (and other nuclear waste sites') cleanup, to use stimulus funds to accelerate clean-up efforts. This year, Hanford received an extra $1.96 billion to aid cleanup, in addition to the $2 billion that the project receives annually.

The stimulus package has certainly boosted the Tri-Cities economy. In fact, Hanford employment is projected to peak in 2010 at 10,800 workers. A decline (towards 2,100 employees) is not expected to take place until 2050, when most of the environmental cleanup work is expected to be completed. The stimulus money has created or saved the equivalent of 2,500 jobs. The creation of jobs has spurred retail sales in the Tri-City area, keeping the economy well-lubricated. This economic upswing during a national depression suggests that the Tri-Cities is "one of those communities where it [the stimulus package] has worked exactly like it was supposed to," as expressed by Carl Adrian, president of TRIDEC.

Unfortunately, other cities across the US have not fared as well. Elkhart County in Northern Indiana received only $49 million in stimulus funding, compared to Benton County, WA's $1.99 billion. This is despite the fact that the counties are economically and demographically similar - both counties are dependent on single-sector economies and agriculture, the cost of living in comparable, etc. So why the discrepancy in the amount of stimulus funds awarded to each county? Stuckey asserts that government money is better spent on clean-up activities because Hanford is an environmental threat & a hazard to those around it; in addition, the project cleanup project is ongoing, so the extra funds provided a burst of momentum, and jobs did not have to be created from scratch.

Heart of America Northwest is interested too in the compensations the top officers of the contractors at Hanford receive - this data was required to be released as part of the stimulus package and is available on recovery.gov. Tom Zarges, the top officer of the Washington River Protection Solutions LLC, is compensated $1,955,909 annually. Another interesting aspect of the distribution of stimulus funding is that of the 10 largest contracts awarded, 9 are related to nuclear waste cleanup. Stuckey is absolutely right - the biggest asset for getting stimulus funds turns out to be the nation's nastiest wastes.

18 November 2009

Communicating danger of nuclear waste to future civilizations

People familiar with Hanford and its clean-up struggle already know how dangerous and critical the radioactive contamination is, but what about everyone else? How are we to keep informing people of this nuclear mess in order for future generations to understand the necessary precautions of radioactivity? During a 2004 cleanup operation at the Hanford nuclear site in Washington state, personnel digging through a trench uncovered a safe containing a glass bottle. And inside the bottle was white sludge later determined as plutonium. The potential danger of this accessible bottle of plutonium, which could have been discovered by nearly anyone, is a startling idea.

Juliet Lapidos published an article on Slate illustrating these points and how there is a need for getting the information out there efficiently to individuals, centuries from now. Language and culture are constantly evolving and differ all across the world. The English language has continually changed throughout the centuries, and "universal symbols" aren't so universal. A skull-and-crossbones is one example that is too ambiguous: Even today, it connotes danger only to some. Latin Americans may associate it with the Catholic Day of the Dead holiday. Mere markings and symbols to warn people that hazardous materials are nearby is inefficient for their understanding. People also need to know what the extent of such hazardous dangers are; stumbling upon a radioactive waste site cannot be weighed the same as spilling some toilet cleaner. Sticking a "KEEP OUT" sign on fences of nuclear sites has a minimal chance of deterring trespassers.

So far the committees in charge of accessing this information haven't done the most satisfactory job. Thousands of Washingtonians still have no idea what or where Hanford is. It's important to keep a long-term outlook when making plans for radioactive waste; plans that will include a wide variety of people from all over the world. Anthropological, political, economical, biological, and linguistic ideas all offer points of view that can lead to a encompassing solution.

17 November 2009

Seattle Crowd Opposes Hanford Cleanup Delays

Yesterday, the SeattlePI.com published a great article on the Hanford hearing held last Thursday. Reporter John Stang nailed the essence of the hearing with a few selected quotes from the members of the public who gave formal comments at the hearing:

"It seems we're getting the short end of the stick," said UW Masters of Public Health student Erin Hurley;

"We're here tonight because the Department of Energy has broken its word (on the original 2028 completion deadline)," said Gerald Pollet, director of the Hanford watchdog organization Heart of America Northwest.

And another ringer: "Also, an unresolved question exists on how the 1 million gallons of highly radioactive leaked tank wastes should be tackled." Heart of America Northwest is beginning to review the recently released draft Tank Closure and Waste Management Environmental Impact Statement, in which the US Department of Energy proposes to never cleanup the majority of contamination that has leaked from Hanford's High-Level Nuclear Waste Tanks, plutonium and other wastes which USDOE deliberately discharged from the tanks and Plutonium processing facilities into the ground! Check back for updates!

Don't forget that it's not too late to comment on the proposed Settlement, the subject of the hearing last week. Submit comments via email to TPACH@rl.gov; Heart of America Northwest encourages you to copy your comments to Governor Gregoire (WA), Governor Kulongoski (OR) and Attorney General McKenna (WA).

13 November 2009

Seattle Public Hearing 11-12-09

The Seattle hearing on the proposed Hanford clean-up delays was held last night.  We were excited to see that it was a packed house, with around 100 in attendance!  Thanks to the classes at the University of Washington for showing up and giving great comments! 

The first public comment was given by the Seattle Raging Grannies.  They prepared a statement that strongly denounced the proposed settlement for its 22 year delay in emptying the High-Level Nuclear Waste from Hanford's leaky Single Shell Tanks & because it does not include an enforceable ban preventing the importation of off-site waste to Hanford.  Then, they sang a brilliant song (I hope to get the lyrics to post here soon).  That much said, they stole the show.

Over 20 unique individuals gave a formal comment, all of them concerned about the clean up delays.  The majority of the comments also included statements about how disappointed the public is that the State of WA didn't secure an enforceable ban on off-site waste as a part of this settlement. 

Last night marked the end of the series of five public hearings held during this comment period.  But don't despair!  You can still submit your own thoughts directly to the agencies by emailing them to TPACH@rl.gov.  See our Citizens' Guide for more information and Heart of America Northwest's comments and concerns.

11 November 2009

Ecology employee named new director

On Monday, Washington Governor Chris Gregoire named Ted Sturdevant the new director of the Department of Ecology. Sturdevant replaces Jay Manning, who recently became Gregoire's chief of staff. For the past seven years, Sturdevant worked at Ecology as the director of governmental relations.

Ecology is one of the three signatory parties in the Tri-Party Agreement (aka Hanford Clean-Up Agreement), and serves as a regulator for the clean-up activities at the Hanford site. Sturdevant stated that Hanford is on the short list of priorities for Ecology. Heart of America NW hopes he sticks to that statement. It comes at a time when the State of WA is agreeing to 22 years of dealys in emptying the High-Level Nuclear Waste from Hanford's leaky single shell tanks. Over 100 square miles of groundwater at Hanford are already contaminated, and delays to emptying the tank wastes are compounded into delays in cleaning up the surrounding contamination.

You can still comment on this settlement by emailing your comments to TPACH@rl.gov, or attending the public hearing in Seattle tomorrow evening. The hearing is at 7pm at the Quality Inn (618 John St, near Seattle Center), and Heart of America NW will lead a pre-meeting workshop at 6pm. We hope to see you there!

Feds add more radioactive waste to Hanford import ban

By Scott Learn, The Oregonian

After public protest, the U.S. Department of Energy is pledging to keep a significant chunk of radioactive waste -- including metal from decommissioned power plants -- out of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation until at least 2022.

The department had not included that category of waste -- known as "Greater than Class C" or GTCC waste -- in a proposed settlement with Oregon and Washington over cleanup of radioactive tank waste at Hanford. The three parties agreed to a moratorium on disposing of other forms of radioactive waste at Hanford until a plant to treat the tank waste is up and running. The plant is scheduled to be fully operational by 2022.

Heart of America Northwest, a Hanford watchdog group, first raised the issue of GTCC waste not being included in the moratorium. That generated protests at public hearings on the settlement, which led the Department of Energy to issue a statement last week saying that the GTCC waste "will not be imported to Hanford for the duration of the moratorium."

-- Scott Learn

09 November 2009

Hanford Advisory Board says to empty tanks more quickly

Heart of America Northwest's Executive Director, Gerry Pollet, played a key role in drafting the advise the Hanford Advisory Board passed on Friday, November 6, 2009. This piece of advise is in response to the Settlement Agreement the State of WA reached with the US Department of Energy in August, that delays emptying leaky Single Shell tanks at Hanford by 22 years. In addition, the State of WA did not secure an enforceable ban on the importation of off-sites radioactive & mixed radioactive/toxic wastes to Hanford.

The Hanford Advisory Board's advise urges the Tri-Party Agencies to
  • Develop more aggressive deadlines for emptying High-Level Nuclear Waste from leaky Single Shell Tanks buried underground at Hanford;
  • Not use bulk vitrification for supplemental treatment of low activity radioactive waste at Hanford;
  • Start up the Low Activity Waste portion of the main vitrification facility before the rest of the plant is operational. The settlement delays the "hot-start" date for the Waste Treatment Plant until 2019, with full operations not commencing until 2022;
Not surprisingly, the Hanford Advisory Board's advise is similar to Heart of America's own tips for commenting. What's remarkable about this, though, is that the Board is comprised of members representing the entire spectrum of stakeholder & public interests at Hanford. It's clear that the delays in emptying the leaky tanks are unacceptable for everyone.

You can read the Tri-City Herald article on the Board's advise here.

"Local landfills should not be the destination for federal nuclear-production waste"

An article posted Friday on tennessean.com opposes the dumping of federal nuclear wastes in Tennessee's municipal landfills.  In October, the US Department of Energy announced its plans to ship over 200 truckloads of soil conataminated with uranium, plutonium & strontium to a municpal landfill in TN from New York.  Thankfully, DOE changed its mind and shipped the waste to a licensed facility in Utah, as Tennessean officials objected.  The article states, "Tennessee has unwisely allowed itself to become a chief dumping ground for material from defunct nuclear weapons-related facilities."

Municipal landfills are inappropriate destinations for federal nuclear wastes.  Heart of America Northwest opposes this practice, wherever it occurs in the nation.  We support fully regulated disposal in licensed, monitored landfills designed for radioactive wastes.  The EnergySolutions Low Level Waste landfill in Utah, where the contaminated soils mentioned above were eventually shipped, is designed and licensed for Low Level radioactive wastes.

04 November 2009

Article on Portland Hanford Settlement Hearing - 10/27/09

Hanford: Proposed Settlement Could Allow for Decades of Cleanup Delays and "Hottest" Nuclear Waste to be Shipped to Hanford Nuclear Reservation
by Dvija Michael Bertish, originally posted on Rosemere Neighborhood Association

Note from Heart of America NW: USDOE voluntarily added Greater Than Class C wastes to the moratorium on off-site waste at the beginning of the hearing -- these are the "hottest" nuclear wastes in question. This happened after our organizing efforts saw an article in the Oregonian & very strong opposition to GTCC wastes at the Hood River hearing on 10/26/09.

The states of Oregon and Washington, having filed suit against the US Department of Energy in 2008, have negotiated a court-enforceable settlement agreement regarding continuing cleanup activities at Hanford nuclear reservation. Hanford is the most heavily contaminated facility in the western hemisphere with 53 million gallons of radioactive waste at 194 million Curies, the measure of radioactive potency.

The core of the settlement agreement focuses on languishing federal efforts to empty 140 remaining single shell storage tanks of radioactive sludge, and the severely delayed construction of the largest radioactive waste treatment facility in the US. Almost half of the single shell storage tanks are known to be leaking into the soil and to have infiltrated the groundwater in the Hanford plateau. This radioactive spill is moving toward the Columbia River and will reach the shoreline within 20-50 years according to current estimates. A seismic event could increase the speed of travel.

Radioactive waste from the deconstructed nuclear power plants along the shoreline is already leaching strontium into the river at levels 1500 times the drinking water standard. The city of Richland, WA, just downstream from Hanford, relies on surface water from the Columbia River for its potable water supply.

The 3000 man construction crew for the new Hanford waste processing plant is only 50% of the way through the project. When complete, the vitrification facility (120’ tall and 1 ½ football fields in length) is supposed to convert the liquid sludge within the leaking tanks into glass logs for permanent storage. According to the settlement agreement, the facility is slated to begin operation by 2019, and be at maximum efficiency by 2022. It was supposed to be completed by 2011. The settlement agreement hinges on the assumption that the facility will begin operation on time, despite being 8 years behind schedule, design and construction failures, and $8 billion in budget overruns. According to the settlement agreement, once the vitrification plant is operational, Hanford is targeted to receive the “hottest” (Greater than Class C) radioactive waste from all around the US — the waste would be buried in landfills or boreholes, not processed into glass. The conciliation prize in the settlement agreement is a limited moratorium on shipments of nuclear waste to Hanford until the vitrification plant begins operation.

Read the full post

30 October 2009

HOANW mention in Tri-City Herald article on TPA Settlement hearing

Hanford waste import moratorium questioned
By Annette Cary, Herald staff writer

RICHLAND -- Concerns were raised about whether the state can make the federal government stick to its moratorium on importing certain radioactive wastes to the Hanford nuclear reservation at a public hearing Thursday night in Richland.

About 40 people attended the hearing on a proposed settlement agreement reached by the state of Washington and the Department of Energy to resolve a lawsuit brought by the state against DOE almost a year ago. The state sued after it became clear DOE could not meet legal deadlines in the Tri-Party Agreement to empty leak-prone underground tanks of radioactive waste and treat the waste.

The proposed settlement agreement would extend deadlines to dates DOE and the state say are realistic. And in one concession for doing that, the state won a commitment from DOE not to import several types of waste to Hanford until the vitrification plant is fully operational to treat the waste. That's scheduled for 2022.

While new environmental cleanup deadlines could be enforced either by a federal court order under a consent decree or through the Tri-Party Agreement, neither would cover the moratorium on importing waste to Hanford.

The Department of Justice has given its word in a letter to the state that wastes DOE already had decided to send to Hanford would not be sent at least while the moratorium is in effect. That includes low-level radioactive waste, some of it mixed with hazardous chemicals, that was to be buried in Hanford landfills. It also includes transuranic waste, typically waste contaminated with plutonium, and transuranic waste mixed with hazardous chemicals that were to be stored at Hanford.

In addition, DOE also agreed last week to expand the moratorium to include greater-than-class-C low level waste, which is the most radioactive of the four classes of low level waste. DOE had been considering Hanford among other sites for disposal of the waste.

"I'm confident the current administration will live by the moratorium," said Mary Sue Wilson, Washington state senior assistant attorney general. High-level officials in the Obama administration have backed it, she said.

If a future administration wanted to break the moratorium, a new environmental impact statement, which is a legally required environmental study, would have to be done, she said. The study would have to find technical justification for sending the waste to Hanford for the moratorium to be broken, she said.

The Draft Tank Closure and Waste Management Environmental Impact Statement just released included what could be considered technical justification for not sending the waste to Hanford.

"If they do go in another direction, the environmental analysis had better support it," Wilson said. If it didn't the state again could challenge DOE on it, she said.

Gerald Pollet, Heart of America Northwest executive director, disagreed, saying he believed that the moratorium was not enforceable.

Importing waste would have unacceptable impacts to the Hanford environment, said Tom Carpenter, Hanford Challenge executive director. Hanford has enough problems and complexities to deal with from waste generated there, he said. Hanford produced plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons program.

"We think Hanford has done its share," he said.

Other issues raised at the meeting included the pace of retrieving waste from Hanford's 149 leak-prone single shell tanks.

The proposed settlement agreement would require all single-shell tanks to be emptied by 2040, an extension of 22 years from the current deadline. DOE has struggled to find ways to empty the tanks efficiently. The proposed settlement agreement also includes several interim deadlines, such as requiring the 16 tanks in the C Tank Farm to be emptied by 2014.

More needs to be done to accelerate the proposed new schedule, including testing more types of technology, said Al Boldt of Kennewick.

DOE would be required under the proposal to empty tanks at a pace of 1.5 tanks per year until 2022, which is about the speed that the state said earlier was far too slow, Pollet said.

The pace of emptying tanks was an issue when the state released an earlier proposed agreement before the lawsuit was filed. To address concerns a requirement has been added to the settlement agreement that would allow deadlines for waste retrieval and treatment to be renegotiated periodically if technology should improve and DOE could do the work faster.

The proposed agreement would extend the start of operations of the vitrification plant from 2011 to a "hot start" with radioactive waste in 2019.

The dates for retrieval and treatment of the tank waste are later than the Hanford Communities had hoped, said Ed Revell, chairman of the Hanford Communities board. But the board is encouraged by DOE commitments to examine new technologies, he said.

It also likes new legal deadlines for speeding up cleanup of ground water, which DOE agreed to amidst discussions on new tank waste deadlines.

Public comments on the proposed settlement agreement are being accepted until Dec. 11. Comments can be e-mailed to TPACH@rl.gov or mailed to Lori Gamache, DOE Office of River Protection, P.O. Box 450, MSIN H6-60, Richland, WA 99352.

29 October 2009

"Working at Hanford put workers' health at risk"

An article in the Tri-City Herald today describes opportunities for more Hanford workers to receive federal compensation for illnesses developed as a result of working at the Hanford site. Here are the major shocking facts, directly from the article:
  • "As many as 25,000 former Hanford building trades workers may have developed illnesses covered by the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program"
  • "Ample evidence that working at Hanford put workers' health at risk"

  • Diseases & health problems listed in the article include: asbestosis, blood cancer, lung disease & lung cancer, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, work-related hearing loss

28 October 2009

USDOE finally releases Draft Tank Closure & Waste Management EIS

Following a faux pas where USDOE accidentally mailed out copies of the Tank Closure & Waste Management Environmental Impact Statement on Friday, USDOE announced its official release on Monday, October 26th. The draft EIS will provide the basis of recommendations ("preferred alternatives" for the Department of Energy's decisions regarding the following topics:
  • entombing Hanford's Fast Flux Test Facility (a shutdown 400-megawatt research reactor)
  • Deferring the importation of off-site waste to Hanford at least until the Waste Treatment Plant is operational - consistent with the Settlement Agreement with WA State that is currently undergoing public comment
  • Retreiving waste from single shell tanks (SST) consistent with the TPA
  • Disposing of Hanford's Low Level Waste & Mixed Low Level Waste onsite

The Vitrification plants are not planned to be large enough to treat all the low-activity waste in a reasonable time, yet no recommendation for treating the rest of the low-activity waste has been brought up. The study also recommends removing 99 percent of the waste from tanks, finding that it would best protect ground water, and have the empty tanks filled with grout to immobilize remaining radiological and other hazards.

Further discussion and alterations to the draft concerning treatment of the remaining tank waste will continue until March 19th, when the public comment period closes. We expect USDOE to hold public hearings on the Draft EIS in early 2010.

The entire draft Tank Closure & Waste Management EIS can be read here.

Major Victory: Moratorium on off-site waste at Hanford now includes "GTCC"!

Major victory by Heart of America Northwest as USDOE announced at last night's hearing that the "moratorium" on sending off-site waste to Hanford will now include "Greater Than Class C" (GTCC) wastes - the most radioactive "low level waste" that exists!!!  (GTCC waste is as radioactive as High-Level spent fuel) At Monday's hearing in Hood River, USDOE and WA were still defending their private agreement to allow GTCC waste to be buried at Hanford, and the public comments reflected outrage over this. 

USDOE announced it would include GTCC waste in its promised moratorium on shipping waste to Hanford during the Portland meeting last night.  USDOE clearly did not want to hear all of the comments objecting all over again, and USDOE wanted to head off additional news coverage which we were encouraging!

USDOE has a formal proposal underway under which Hanford would be used to bury extremely radioactive wastes, GTCC, with as much as 75% of all the radioactivity as is in Hanford's High-Level Nuclear Waste Tanks. So, while we fight to get USDOE to empty those tanks, if GTCC wastes are buried at Hanford, USDOE would add to Hanford landfills (which will leak) nearly as much radioactivity as we are fighting to have USDOE empty from the tanks.  

The private agreement between WA State and USDOE to allow disposal of extremely radioactive wastes in landfills at Hanford (GTCC) was exposed by our research, which was relied on Sunday's article in the Oregonian.  In early October, Gerry Pollet found a presentation by a top ranking Energy Department official clearly indicating that use of Hanford to dispose of GTCC wastes was not part of the publicly announced moratorium on waste import agreed to between WA and USDOE as part of WA State's settlement of litigation. Statements issued by the States of OR and WA and USDOE in August appeared to be for an unenforceable moratorium on waste import to Hanford until the vitrification plant is operating, to be adopted voluntarily by USDOE covering all wastes.

On October 6th, at a USDOE-State workshop held to review the proposed settlement and delays to cleanup, Gerry asked the USDOE and WA State attorneys if the moratorium included GTCC wastes. The State and USDOE responded that they had privately agreed to exclude those wastes from the moratorium. This was a major breach of trust, as the public documents failed to include any mention that GTCC wastes were not part of the publicly touted promise (totally unenforceable) by USDOE not to import more waste to Hanford until the vitrification plant is "operational" (slated for 2022).

We worked with Scott Learn of The Oregonian to break this story in the media, which was done with a front page Metro article on Sunday heading into the public hearings on the proposed settlement and TPA changes in Hood River on Monday and Portland on Tuesday. At the Hood River hearing, every single public comment included an urge that the state insist that there be an ENFORCEABLE ban on USDOE dumping more waste at Hanford while existing wastes are out of compliance and not cleaned up, and chastising USDOE and WA State for privately agreeing to have an exception to the announced unenforceable moratorium on import for GTCC highly radioactive waste.

The pressure and embarrassment on USDOE's part was apparently too great - they started the Portland hearing with an unclear saying that GTCC waste shouldn't be discussed by the public at the hearing. Only part way into the hearing, as many people objected to the lack of an enforceable ban on USDOE adding more waste to Hanford and the private deal excluding GTCC waste from even USDOE's voluntary unenforceable promise, did USDOE finally make clear that it had decided to expand the voluntary moratorium to include the most radioactive wastes which it had hoped to send to Hanford in the coming years.

This is a major victory for our organizing and research efforts. However, our work is not done. Remember, this is still not an enforceable moratorium on adding waste to Hanford. It is only a promise to include in the upcoming EIS a preferred alternative with no import of waste to Hanford until the vitrification plant is operational. Many people last night praised the reversal by USDOE but urged WA State to not sign any agreement that does not make this commitment enforceable in the TPA or Consent Decree. USDOE has not been able to answer the basic question of why USDOE is not willing to make its promise an enforceable part of the TPA or consent decree if USDOE intends to honor a moratorium on waste import to Hanford.

26 October 2009

"Hot" nuclear waste could still be shipped to Hanford under proposed settlement

Heart of America's Executive Director, Gerry Pollet, is quoted in Sunday's Oregonian article on the implications of the TPA Settlement & Consent Decree on off-site waste at Hanford! The bottom line is that the settlement does not address Hanford receiveing a certain type of highly radioactive waste called "Greater Than Class C". Pollet said, "the hottest waste that could be sent to Hanford is excluded" from the moratorium. "It's not a little oversight."

As part of the settlement, the partial moratorium on other types of off-site waste was supposed to be extended through 2019, when the Waste Treatment Plant is to be "hot-started." However, this extension was promised to be included as a preferred alternative in the draft Tank Closure & Waste Management Environmental Impact Statement, a copy of which we received near close of business on Friday afternoon. However, the preferred alternative in new draft environmental impact statement calls for burying radioactive and radioactive hazardous chemical wastes at Hanford from other USDOE nuclear weapons and nuclear reactor sites!

It is of utmost importance that the public make a strong showing at the upcoming hearings on this settlement, as the agencies will be accepting comments on the off-site waste issue. See our factsheet for more information, and plan on attending a hearing listed below. We hope to see you there!

  • Hood River, OR
    TONIGHT! 6pm pre-meeting workshop, hearing at 7pm
    Best Western - 1108 Marina Way
  • Portland, OR
    Tuesday, 10/27, 6pm pre-meeting workshop, hearing at 7pm
    Double Tree Hotel near Lloyd Center
  • Tri-Cities, WA
    Thursday, 10/29, 6pm open house, hearing at 7pm
    Richland Hampton Inn - 486 Bradley Blvd
  • Spokane, WA
    Monday, 11/9, 6pm pre-meeting workshop, hearing at 7pm
    Double Tree Hotel (City Center)
  • Seattle, WA
    Thursday, 11/12, 6pm pre-meeting workshop, hearing at 7pm
    Quality Inn (near Seattle Center)

23 October 2009

TPA Settlement hearings in Oregon next week

Oregonians, please come out to the TPA Settlement hearings in Hood River and Portland on Monday and Tuesday. Heart of America NW will be giving pre-meeting workshops starting at 6pm, and the hearings start at 7pm. Check out our factsheet for all the information you need on commenting!
  • Hood River, OR
    Monday, October 26th
    Best Western -Gorge Ballroom
    1108 E Marina Way
  • Portland, OR
    Tuesday, October 27th
    Double Tree Hotel (near Lloyd Center)
    1000 NE Multnomah St
    free parking pass!
Consider also signing our petition to Governors Gregoire & Kulongoski to object to the lack of enforceability on banning off-site waste in the settlement!

Object to No Enforcability in the Hanford Settlement - Sign this petition!!!

Hello Heart of America Northwest Supporters!
As many of you know, Hanford is the most contaminated site in the western hemisphere, with 53 million gallons of High-Level Nuclear Waste sitting in tanks that have already leaked one million gallons, contaminating the soil and 120 square miles of groundwater. Even without additional wastes imported to the site, as proposed in the upcoming Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) this year, a conservative estimate is that the contaminated groundwater will reach the Columbia River in 25-50 years. The effects of contamination at Hanford are already evident, and the additional impacts to human and environmental health not only from the contaminated groundwater reaching the River, but also from adding waste to the site, would be catastrophic.
We need your signature!

Please sign this petition (http://www.petitiononline.com/HOANW/petition.html) addressed to the Governors of Washington and Oregon to stop use of Hanford as a national waste dump to make existing documents more enforceable by including language to clean-up the existing waste before adding more!
Let’s protect the health of the Columbia River, the last major spawning grounds for Chinook salmon, and the health of humans and the environment for future generations!
Click to sign on to the petition: http://www.petitiononline.com/HOANW/petition.html

We appreciate your on-going support!

22 October 2009

Rep. Doc Hastings looks for answers on nuclear waste disposal

Washington Representative Doc Hastings (R) put the pressure on Obama to come up with a Yucca Mt. alternative in a letter on Tuesday. Since Obama cut funding for Yucca Mt. earlier this year, there has been no serious public discussion of alternatives for national radioactive waste repository. Hastings asked Obama whether Hanford would be studied as a possibility, how much the studies will cost, and when the committee members will be selected.

Annette Cary, of the Tri-City Herald, reports, "Hanford officials have been planning to send the nuclear reservation's high-level radioactive waste to Yucca Mountain. That includes millions of gallons of wastes stored in underground tanks.

"Up to 53 million gallons of the tank wastes will be separated into high-level and low-activity radioactive waste at the $12.3 billion vitrification plant under construction at Hanford, where it then will be turned into a stable glass form for disposal.

"The glassified high-level waste will have to be stored at Hanford until the nation has a place for its disposal, and Hanford watchdog groups and some Tri-City leaders are concerned about Hanford becoming a de facto long-term repository." Read the full article here.

21 October 2009

Toxic Legacy of the Cold War

Fernald Preserve in Ohio is a former uranium foundry that produced crucial parts for the nation's nuclear weapons program, and is now being funded as an environmental challenge for clean up. It has been deemed "clean" from a legal agreement, but the truth is nobody will ever be able to work or live on the land again due to the extreme toxic levels of radiation.

Two decades and billions of dollars later, there is still no hope or realistic plans to completely remove all of the waste. However, many people seem perfectly fine with that idea. Lisa Crawford, who previously lived in the area her entire life, has said "Are we totally cleaned up? No. Could we have gotten a better cleanup? No. But we are comfortable with what we have."
A chemist in the DOE cleanup program also discussed that in some cases it is technically impossible to remove every last bit of waste from underground tanks. The full article can be read here.

Monitoring the site and treating groundwater will still take place in efforts to gradually decrease the amount of radioactivity on Fernald Preserve. This drastic example puts Hanford into perspective for the future; will administrations just decide that complete clean-up is impossible? Will the costs keep rising so that the program can no longer be funded at all? Will people in the Hanford region accept the idea that their land will never be sustainable again?

19 October 2009

Radioactive Rabbit Poop Video

On the radioactive salts: "Jackrabbits routinely burrowed into those sites. They found the salt, liked it, and licked it. Later, they pooped it, leaving slightly radioactive scat all over the ground." (The Seattle PI).

Watch Rachel Maddow's hilarious MSNBC segment:

Oh, and read this funny Greenpeace blogpost on the topic! The Tale of Peter Radwaste.

DOE tests robotic arm to remove radioactive waste

DOE is testing a new system to remove wastes from Hanford's 149 leak-prone single shell tanks. -- a robotic arm! The 40-foot, 10 million dollar arm is expected to "remove waste at rates that range from 85 gallons per hour up to nearly 1,000 gallons per hour".

"In some tanks, previously developed technology has not been capable of emptying tanks to the goal of 1 percent of waste remaining as a residual at their bottoms. It's also been expensive, with removing the last 15 percent of the waste in some tanks estimated to cost as much or more as removing the first 85 percent.

"Anything we do at Hanford is difficult. It's radioactive," said Nancy Uziemblo, a geologist at the Washington State Department of Ecology, which regulates tank waste retrieval." Read the whole Tri-City Herald article here.

New technology is great, but Heart of America NW would like to see it paired with expedient cleanup. Not so, from the DOE -- there's a public comment period going on NOW about the proposed settlement to DELAY cleanup schedules. Attend a public hearing near you and submit comments to let your voice be heard! Click here for more information.

16 October 2009

Stimulus good for Washington ... part of it, anyway

Most of the money allocated for Hanford.

Heart of America Northwest's research and advocacy on how stimulus dollars are being spent at Hanford - while USDOE wants to delay schedules - is featured in today's article by top investigative reporter Eric Nalder on PI.com and Hearst newspapers.

Executive Director, Gerry Pollet quoted: Pollet also said that although he was pleased that cleanup work along the Columbia River will be accelerated, questions about the use of the stimulus money remain. For one thing, he said the DOE received the extra money at a time when it was obtaining permission from the state to delay the completion date for the Hanford cleanup project.

"While we are spending $2 billion extra on accelerating cleanup, the energy department is insisting on relaxing enforceable schedules," he said.

Read the full article.

15 October 2009

Hanford's vit plant reaches halfway mark

After years of delays, $8 billion dollars over budget and more delays planned the Vitrification or Waste Treatment Plant (WTP)there has been some progress - the Plant is halfway complete.

It must be said this is still not a proven technology - mixing glass with nuclear wastes to create glass rods - but the hope is it will keep the wastes in a solid/non-fluid state to be stored in long-term underground location.

This 60 minutes video "Lethal and Leaking" from a few years ago shows the complications of the Vitrification Plant. It has has some fairly alarming parts, including the architects do not design more than 50% of the plant when the construction begins - it continually changes and morphs.

Nuclear and Global Climate Change

Today is Blog Action Day -- and the focus is on Climate Change. This is a topic that Heart of America NW, while concerned, do not generally blog about because it is not directly related to the clean-up issues at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. However, climate change and nuclear issues are intertwined, especially with all of the buzz about the Climate Bill in the Senate.

Many people think that nuclear power is a great "alternative" energy source because it does not produce greenhouse gases, and thus is labeled "clean." Heart of America NW reminds the public that the multi-year process of mining uranium, building the plant, transporting materials and wastes produces enormous amounts of greenhouse gases. Neither is nuclear "clean" because the United States still does not have an adequate solution for the highly radioactive and toxic wastes inherently produced in the process of generating nuclear power. Our landscape cannot afford another Hanford -- the most contaminated site in the Western Hemisphere.

Clean Water Action points to other hidden environmental costs of nuclear: "Nuclear power plants, depending on their size, must withdraw a billion or more gallons of water from an ecosystem every day. That water is superheated, carries a risk of exposure to radioactive material, and is then dumped back into the watershed. Not only does this badly distort the natural systems, it draws water away from drinking water and agricultural supplies. After the nuclear fuel is spent, it is remains a substantial threat to water. Technology for storing radioactive waste is not sufficiently developed to ensure that water sources will be safe from radioactive leakage for even a relatively short amount of time relative to the half life of the materials used."

So, today, as bloggers worldwide are considering the causes, ramifications and solutions to global climate change, let's remember that nuclear is not the climate change panacea. 

Radioactive hoses removed at Hanford

By Annette Cary, Tri-City Herald staff writer

Hanford workers have finished removing 11 obsolete transfer lines contaminated with high-level radioactive waste in the Hanford tank farms.

The flexible lines were used to transfer waste from leak-prone single-shell tanks into sturdier double-shell tanks, but the lines were past their design life. Some were buried in shallow trenches and others were above ground and covered with shielding to protect workers from radiation.

"Removal of these lines allows workers to focus on retrieving the sludge-like waste remaining in the single-shell tanks without these obstacles and interferences," Stacy Charboneau, DOE assistant manager for the tank farms, said in a statement. It also reduces risk to workers and the environment.

Washington River Protection Solutions committed to the Department of Energy and the Washington State Department of Ecology, a Hanford regulator, to remove the six lines in the U Tank Farm when the new tank farm contractor began work a year ago.
Because the work was done for less money than budgeted and some additional money was appropriated by Congress, five more lines in the C Tank farms also were removed. The total cost was $1.8 million.

The U Tank Farm lines were last used to remove pumpable liquids from underground single-shell tanks before that work was completed for all Hanford tanks in 2004. The C Tank Farm lines were used more recently as work continued to remove solid waste from the tanks.

The C Tank Farm lines had to be disconnected from the tanks and then flushed with water to remove contaminants. The lines include a hose inside a hose so that if the inner hose leaked, contamination would be trapped in the outer hose.

Nine of the lines have been packed in waste containers and shipped to the Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility in central Hanford. However, two lines still were too contaminated to be sent to that landfill. They were sent to Perma-Fix Northwest Richland to be cut into smaller pieces and then returned for disposal at Hanford's solid waste burial ground.

13 October 2009

Obama wins 2009 Nobel Peace Prize!

Congratulations to President Obama for winning the Nobel Peace Prize. His efforts to unite the world and push for global peace are inherent in his vision for a nuclear-free world. We also sense that the Obama administration is slightly more aware of nuclear waste issues than past administrations, and hope that this aspect of weapons production is not forgotten.

Friday's article in Wired magazine scrutinizes Obama's push for a nuclear-free world. Unfortunately, to date, the "talk" and "proposals" have been promising, but we have yet to see hard, enforceable results. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that the public remind the administration that we need to see results. Winning the Nobel Peace Prize brings these non-proliferation issues into the spotlight, and need to make sure that the lights do not go down until more progress has been made towards a truly nuclear-free world.

Jonathan Hiskes, across town at Grist.org, presents a few thoughts on what Obama's Peace Prize might mean for environmentalists. "There's a connection between peace and living within ecological means," he writes. We think so too, especially when it comes to disarmament, because nuclear weapons are far from natural. The history of weapons production at Hanford, for example, created the largest environmental clean-up project in history!

12 October 2009

Officials explain proposed Hanford settlement

This article in the Tri-City Herald provides an overview of the proposed settlement agreement on Hanford Clean-up. For more information, see Heart of America's factsheet and tips for commenting.

The article quotes Ken Niles, of the Oregon Department of Energy, saying that Oregon is not thrilled with Hanford Clean-Up Agreement schedule and consent decree but is not seeing how to do better.

We at Heart of America Northwest are not thrilled with the settlement either. We are consistently advocating for USDOE to empty the waste from the single shell tanks (SSTs) more quickly -- and there is solid research proving that it is possible to do so faster than the schedules propose. In addition, the settlement must be changed to have an enforceable ban on USDOE from using Hanford as a national radioactive waste dump -- a ban that includes all waste types. Finally, we are concerned that there is no commitment to build new tanks even if USDOE fails to open the vitrification plant or empty SSTs on time.

The public comment period on the proposed settlement is running NOW through December 11th! Attend a public meeting near you or take the time today to email your comments to TPACH@rl.gov. We need to work together to protect the Columbia River and public health for future generations.

09 October 2009

Tri-Party Agreement Settlement Factsheet

Everything wanted to know about the TPA Settlement is RIGHT here - ENJOY!

08 October 2009

Take Action to keep nuclear out of the Climate Bill

The Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) has prepared an online letter form so that YOU can easily contact your Senator and encourage him or her to limit nuclear subsidies in the Climate Bill.  Click here to take action today!

See related posts:

More Worker Safety Issues at Hanford

Last week, while filming to document work at Hanford under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a worker fell from scaffolding (without sustaining serious injuries).  Worker falls are a perennial problem at Hanford, and we're not quite sure why.  Read the full Tri-City Herald article.

07 October 2009

Senate Dems Opening to Nuclear as Path to GOP Support for Climate Bill

"Key Senate Democrats signaled yesterday they are willing to negotiate with Republicans on nuclear power and expanded domestic oil and gas development if it helps in nailing down the 60 votes necessary for floor passage on a comprehensive global warming and energy bill.

'Every idea is on the table," said Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.), the lead sponsor of Senate climate legislation. "We're going to work in a bona fide way with everybody to see how to bridge a gap here. We've got to get a 60-vote margin. That means you've got to legislate, which means you have to compromise.'

Several moderate Senate Republicans, including John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said they are in talks with Kerry and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) on the nuclear language, as well as other key issues.

'A guy like Senator Kerry is looking for coalitions," Graham said. "If you had a bill that would allow for responsible offshore drilling, a robust nuclear power title, I think you could get some Republican votes for a cap-and-trade system.'" Read the full NY Times article.

Related Posts: The Kerry-Boxer Bill and Nuclear Power
Contact your Senator.