30 July 2009

Mercury Wastes to Hanford?!

Mercury Factsheet

29 July 2009

Possible mercury storage at Hanford concerns state


It seems that the Tri-Cities does NOT want to store Mercury, but NO ONE spoke out at the Richland public meeting last night (read article below).

WE NEED to gather support in Portland at the public meeting on August 13th to oppose Hanford receiving Mercury (Public meeting details: http://www.hoanw.org/events/index.cfm?Fuseaction=events).

The state of WA needs to formally voice their opinions too – other states like Idaho and Kansas have said “NO”, come on WA - let's do it too!

28 July 2009

How to comment on Mercury Proposal

Comment on the proposal by submitting electronic or written comments to USDOE:

Electronic: http://www.mercurystorageeis.com/comment.asp

Mr. David Levenstein
EIS Document Manager
U.S. Department of Energy
P.O.Box 2612
Germantown, MD 20874

Fax: 1-877-274-5462

We will be posting a factsheet to assist with your commenting in just a few days - stay posted!

27 July 2009

Mercury Wastes to Hanford?! Attend a public event


Event in Portland on August 13, 2009

5:30 PM - 9:30 PM - Meeting: Mercury P
ublic Comment
5:30 PM - 6:30 PM - Heart of America NW Pre-meeting workshop
6:30 PM - 9:30 PM - USDOE Presentation & Public Comment Period
Location: Red Lion Convention Center 1021 NE Grand Avenue, Portland, OR, 97232 US
MapQuest! | GoogleMaps
Contact: email
Website: http://www.mercurystorageeis.c...

USDOE has announced yet another proposal to ship waste to Hanford - this one for huge quantities of Mercury. This would be on top of two upcoming impact statements proposing to ship radioactive and radioactive-hazardous wastes to Hanford with designation of Hanford as a national radioactive waste dump for: a) weapons production; and, b) for extremely high rad wastes from both weapons and reactors (GTCC waste).

Come speak out to USDOE about their plan to ship mercury to Hanford!

TRIDEC says no to mercury storage plan for Hanford


I am SO proud of you TRIDEC and local Tri-City Development Council!

"Mercury is forever. It does not have a half-life," said Gary Petersen, vice president of Hanford programs for the Tri-City Development Council. "I do not see any reason why they should bring more material out here and have it become a waste dump."

22 July 2009

US Nuclear SIte Open for Tourists


Atomic Ale? NO way!...what about Half-life Hefe or Plutonium Porter?

This article contains a lot of really great video clips about the Hanford site from all different views: inside the B-reactor, boat tour with our good friends at Columbia Riverkeeper, and aerial shots as well.

BBC did a great job of covering the history and current struggles from viewpoints of the locals and other stakeholders - even a Hanford local atomic themed bar!

20 July 2009

Despite Obama's opposition, Congress tangles over Yucca


..."President Barack Obama’s plan to terminate the Yucca Mountain project has not stopped pro-dump lawmakers from trying to resurrect the nuclear waste repository north of Las Vegas."...

The President is firm and it seems as though alternatives for Yucca are what is being considered currently. Yucca is just not a viable option.

Atomic veterans gather to remember their shared past as 'guinea pigs'


"...But gather Wickizer and other atomic vets, and they have more to share than tales involving pride of service. A dose of bitterness colors their once top secret memories of atomic and hydrogen bomb detonations. For them, there has been a harsh aftermath to the retina-searing light, the hanging mushroom clouds of debris, and the ear-drum splitting noise.

Sworn to secrecy for decades, many atomic veterans spent years privately nursing injuries and medical ailments they blame on exposure to ionizing radiation"...

Otter will fight mercury storage in eastern Idaho


Idaho Governor Butch Otter has announced his solid opposition to USDOE's pending proposal to ship and store mercury at Idaho National Lab or another USDOE site. However, Washington's Department of Ecology informed us that Washington did not have any position on USDOE's alternative of using Hanford - despite the Governor's strongly stated prior support for the principle of "Clean-Up First," under which USDOE would be required to cleanup and bring existing wastes into compliance before being allowed to add more wastes to Hanford.

Join us in Portland, on August 13th to respond to USDOE's proposal! Check out details at the events page on our website: http://www.hoanw.org/events/index.cfm?Fuseaction=events

DOE to consider Hanford for mercury storage


Watch out Washington! USDOE is hoping to ship EVEN more waste to Hanford - but this time mercury! There will be public meetings in the Tri-Cities and Portland in August - stay tuned!

We have a few concerns about this, one being they didn't inform the public or stakeholders about it before they released the plan right before the July 4th holiday! Two, being the risks of trucks with toxic waste coming through our communities. And three the compounded risks to an already leaking nuclear waste site.

15 July 2009

Radioactive insects have been found near Hanford reservation

It is crazy to think that pollinating insects could be spread radioactive contaminants! click to read the full article: http://www.appletreeblog.com/?p=438

Hanford Vitrification Plant Hits Halfway Mark


I am GLAD to hear that USDOE is making some progress on this plant! It is about time, they have spent SO much time and money making this thing - i sure hope making the nuclear waste into glass logs in this plant works as well and in as stable a condition as they are hoping for.

This is new science, so we will see...

14 July 2009

Nuclear + cap-and-trade = bipartisan climate bill


We are worried that Energy Secretary, Stephen Chu is interested in restarting nuclear power. Since we have been fighting to clean-up nuclear waste at Hanford for over 20 years, we hope the new administration will focus on cleaning up the exisiting waste before creating more of it!

Hanford Workers to learn more about radioactive sludge

Hanford Workers learn more about radioactive sludge

Uggh that pesky sludge is still here!!

The USDOE is finally deciding to figure how what it all is so they can hope to make a plan to clean it up from the tanks. They will "have more confidence once it is characterized." - well i would hope! But to their defense it is a whole bunch of wastes mixed together, no one really knows what it is, so it's about time we figured it out!

10 July 2009

Work to start on K reactors burial ground at Hanford

Work should begin this month to dig up another Cold War burial ground at Hanford used to dispose of boron balls once employed to soak up radioactive neutrons.

The boron balls were part of a backup emergency system at Hanford reactors starting in the 1950s to slow down or stop nuclear reactions.

The burial ground, which holds assorted wastes from Hanford's K reactors, includes 16 unlined trenches and 11 silos. The silos contain the boron balls, radiation-contaminated reactor equipment and pieces, and ash from burning radiation-contaminated waste.

Washington Closure announced Thursday that it has awarded a $9 million subcontract to Dance Designs of Pocatello, Idaho, for the work. Watts Construction Inc. of Kennewick and Babcock Services Inc. of Richland are major subcontractors to Dance Designs, which also has offices in Richland.

During the Cold War, K East and K West were among nine reactors along the Columbia River at Hanford that produced plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons program. The K Reactors operated from 1954-71 and waste from them was buried nearby in the 118-K-1 Burial Ground until 1973.

The debris was to remain buried permanently, but it's being dug up to protect ground water and the nearby Columbia River. Most of the debris and contaminated soil will be trucked to a modern, lined burial ground for low-level radioactive waste in central Hanford.

Work already has been done at similar burial grounds near the B and C reactors and F Reactor. But the silos at the K reactors are more numerous, larger and deeper, said Dale Obenauer, Washington Closure project manager for the job.

The K reactor silos are from four to 10 feet in diameter and up to 32 feet deep.

Six were used for highly radioactive reactor hardware that was dumped into them and left to radioactively cool, Obenauer said.

Then the material would be retrieved and buried in the trenches.

Workers are prepared to find radioactive hardware still inside the silos because some of the radioisotopes have long half-lives.

Excavators used to dig up the corrugated steel pipe silos will be equipped with radiation detectors mounted on their arms to alert workers to unusual radioactive materials.

If radiation levels prove too high, Washington Closure is looking at bringing in equipment that can be remotely operated.

Three silos were used for ash from contaminated material, such as tar paper and protective clothing, that was burned, Obenauer said. At first a steel box with holes was set atop the silos and material was burned inside as the ash dropped into the silo. But later it appears both the silo and box were packed with combustible material that was then burned, Obenauer said.

The remaining two silos were used for the marble-sized boron balls.

The reactors had horizontal control rods that were inserted or pulled out of a graphite block core to control reactivity. In addition, the reactors had vertical safety rods that could be rapidly lowered into the graphite block to quickly stop the chain reaction.

The boron balls also could be dropped down the tubes of the safety rods to poison the reaction. Some may have been dropped into the reactors' graphite core, including during maintenance, and are expected to be radioactive.

To make an educated guess about what's in the trenches and silos, Washington Closure has studied operating logs and production records.

In addition, some excavation was done starting in 2006. Workers had removed about 130,000 tons by 2008 when a decision was made to shift to burial grounds near the H Reactor, where the Department of Energy faced a legal deadline to complete work.

In the meantime, DOE hired North Wind Inc. of Idaho Falls to test a process to determine the contents of the K reactor silos, which revealed some radioactive hot spots.

"The additional data allow us to be better prepared to do the job safely," Obenauer said.

Although the eight-acre burial ground served two reactors, it's smaller than burial grounds at other sites.

Workers have found many whole and partial pieces of irradiated fuel at other burial grounds and could find more at the K reactors. Excavation waste will be sorted and screened for such unusual materials, which can't be sent to the low-level waste landfill.

Dance Designs is expected to complete excavation in the fall of 2010. Washington Closure expects all cleanup work, including backfilling and replanting, to be done by spring 2012.

07 July 2009

Secretaries Chu and Locke to Travel to China Next Week

WASHINGTON -- Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Commerce Secretary Gary Locke will travel to China from July 14 to 17. The two secretaries will highlight the tremendous potential for mutually beneficial relationships in the clean energy sector.

“Clean energy will drive the economy of the future, both in the United States and around the world,” Chu said. “From renewable energy to more efficient buildings to carbon capture and storage, clean energy technologies can create millions of jobs. Working together, we can accomplish more than acting alone. It’s in our interest and China’s to explore ways to cooperate for our mutual benefit -- by promoting renewable energy, encouraging energy efficiency and cutting pollution.”

Most of the events will be in Beijing, but additional travel is scheduled outside the capital city. The Secretaries will each depart the U.S. on Monday, July 13th and arrive on Tuesday, July 14.

"Today, we are more interdependent with China than at any point in the last 30 years," Locke said. "The relationship between our two countries is of critical importance, and while great progress has been made in our cooperation on economic, trade and global terrorism fronts, there's much more to do.

“That's especially true in the clean energy sector. As China confronts climate change, there will be opportunities for American green technology companies to fill a critical need, creating jobs here and helping to curb pollution in China – a win-win for both counties."

06 July 2009

Hanford Sees Progress on Nuke Treatment Plant

Thursday June 18th 2009
By Shannon Dininny, Associated Press Writer

RICHLAND, Wash. (AP) - Workers at the nation's most contaminated nuclear site are approaching a key turning point in building a massive waste treatment plant there, more than two years after the federal government shut down the project over seismic concerns.

The vitrification plant at south-central Washington's Hanford nuclear reservation is among the largest industrial construction projects nationally, both in cost and sheer size. In recent years, the project has been mired in technical problems, delays and escalating costs, even as state and federal officials underscored its importance for ridding Hanford of radioactive waste.

But workers expect to have completed 50 percent of the project by early fall, and just two of a long list of technical problems remain to be resolved.

Neither means the end is in sight, but recent progress can't be overlooked, said Suzanne Dahl, tank waste treatment manager for the Washington Department of Ecology, which regulates the federal government's cleanup efforts.

"Wouldn't it be great to be on the other side of 50 percent and heading downhill?" Dahl said. "That's a really big deal. It means we're just getting closer and closer to being able to turn it on."

John Eschenberg, project manager for the U.S. Department of Energy, said the project is in as good a situation as it's ever been.

"It's been a bumpy road," he said. "But the things that made us sweat blood are key to the success."

The federal government created Hanford in the 1940s as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. Plutonium production continued through the Cold War, leaving a mess of radioactive debris and waste to be cleaned up on the 586-square-mile site.

The government spends $2 billion each year on Hanford cleanup - one-third of its entire budget for nuclear cleanup nationally. About $690 million of that goes for design and construction of the vitrification plant, long considered the cornerstone of cleanup.

The plant is designed to convert millions of gallons of highly radioactive waste into glass logs for safe disposal underground. At least 1 million gallons of waste have leaked from storage in aging underground tanks at Hanford, contaminating the groundwater and threatening the nearby Columbia River.

But calling it a plant is misleading. The 65-acre complex includes three major nuclear facilities and a laboratory for analyzing, sorting and treating waste, plus 21 smaller support buildings and onsite power and water treatment plants. Once completed, the largest building will stand 12 stories tall with the length and width of two football fields.

About 1,500 workers in hard hats bustle through the job site, which will require more than 260,000 cubic yards of concrete and more than 4 million feet of electrical cable. Another 1,600 people work on the project in offices in nearby Richland.

Workers reported an increasing number of accidents in April and May, Eschenberg said, raising concerns about worker safety. But he said the number of incidents has declined so far in June and that corrective actions seem to be working.

In 2006, the Energy Department suspended construction for 22 months after an independent review concluded the agency had underestimated the force of ground movements at the site during a severe earthquake. Additional engineering measures were taken to fix the problems.

Engineers also used the down time to address 28 potential problems raised in a 2005 study by an independent panel of experts. The Energy Department built a $90 million platform to test waste treatment methods to address some of those concerns - the first time researchers were able to test those processes outside of a laboratory.

All but two of those problems have been resolved. They center on questions about the efficiency of waste mixing and an automatic sampling system, and Eschenberg said the agency and its contractor expect to resolve them by October.
The delays pushed the operating date to 2019, a step state officials were unhappy with but accepted. The cost of the project also ballooned from $4.3 billion in 2000 to $12.2 billion.

Ted Feigenbaum, who took over May 1 as the new project manager for contractor Bechtel National Inc., said nobody doubts the importance and magnitude of the project but that challenges were inevitable.

"This is a first of its kind," he said. "Am I surprised that there were problems in the past? No, not in a project of this size or magnitude."

But time and money were well spent in recent years to test the plant's processes, he said, and those same testing platforms will allow for operator training before the plant opens.

Bechtel and the Energy Department agreed to a new, incentive-laden contract in January. Bechtel already has earned $7.5 million in incentive money for meeting its first two deadlines, Eschenberg said.

In recent years, the Energy Department and its contractor often struggled to meet engineering and construction goals, Dahl said. But recent status reports show they've been resolving issues that once hindered them and schedules are being kept.

"It starts to give us a really good feeling that we're eventually going to be making glass and cleaning up waste," she said. "It's a long process, but without the vit plant, you really can't get started on the biggest of all mitigation measures that have to happen at Hanford."

DOE to Consider Hanford for Nuclear Storage

Monday July 6th 2009
By Annette Cary, Herald staff writer

The Department of Energy will consider the Hanford nuclear reservation as one of seven possible sites for long-term storage of the nation's elemental mercury, said a notice Thursday in the Federal Register.

The nation could have 8,300 to 11,000 tons of mercury from private sources that would be eligible for storage over 40 years, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

DOE is looking for storage sites after the Mercury Export Ban Act of 2008 prohibited the export of mercury beginning in 2013 and required the agency to have facilities ready to manage and store mercury generated in the United States. It is a new responsibility for the DOE Office of Environmental Management, which is responsible for work at Hanford.

Congress found that the free trade of elemental mercury on the world market, at relatively low prices and in ready supply, encourages the continued use of mercury outside of the United States. Banning its export could decrease the availability of it and encourage developing countries to switch to affordable mercury alternatives.

Mercury is highly toxic to humans, ecosystems and wildlife, the 2008 act said. The use of mercury in the United States is declining but as many as 10 percent of women here of childbearing age have mercury in the blood at a level that could put a baby at risk.

Several industries use significant quantities of mercury that could be required to be stored. It's used in the chlorine and caustic soda manufacturing process, reclaimed from recycling and waste recovery activities, and generated as a byproduct of the gold mining process.

DOE plans to prepare a study, called an environmental impact statement, to decide which site or combination of sites should be used to store mercury. A draft study is expected to be issued this fall.

Sites being considered besides Hanford include the Grand Junction Disposal Site in Colorado; the Idaho National Laboratory; Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada; Kansas City Plant in Missouri; the Savannah River Site in South Carolina and Waste Control Specialists in Andrews, Texas.

DOE already stores about 1,300 tons of mercury at the Y-12 National Security complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., but it is not being considered for additional storage. The Department of Defense also stores about 4,800 tons of mercury at various locations.

DOE will look at available buildings at the sites under consideration that could be modified, plus the possibility of constructing new buildings.

It will consider whether mercury can be stored at sites without disrupting work or plans there and whether flooring could be installed that would support the weight of mercury. It also will consider access to transportation routes and local and regional land use plans.

The environmental study will look at factors such as the potential effects on the public health from routine operations of storing the mercury and from accident scenarios, such as natural disasters, and potential effects on the environment.

DOE has set up a website at www.mercurystorageeis.com.

Group Offers Plan to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons by 2030

Tuesday June 30th 2009
By Robert Burns, AP National Security Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - A group committed to eliminating nuclear weapons presented on Monday a four-step plan to achieve that goal by 2030, while acknowledging that Iran could be a "show stopper."

The plan by the nonpartisan Global Zero Commission calls for the United States and Russia - the world's largest nuclear powers - to agree to reduce first to 1,000 warheads each, then to 500 each by 2021.

The U.S. is believed to have about 2,200 active strategic nuclear warheads and Russia about 2,800. Each has thousands more in reserve as well as large numbers of non-strategic, or tactical, nuclear arms.

During the second phase of cuts to 500, all other nuclear weapons countries would have to agree to freeze and then reduce their warhead totals. Those other countries are China, Britain, France, India, Pakistan and Israel but not North Korea, which has conducted nuclear tests but may not have a useable weapon.

In a third phase, from 2019 to 2023, a "global zero accord" would be negotiated to include a schedule for the phased, verified reduction of all nuclear arsenals to zero total warheads. In the last period, from 2024 to 2030, the reductions would be completed and a verification system would remain in place.

The Global Zero Commission includes former and current senior officials from all existing nuclear powers.

The plan's public unveiling was timed for the July 6-8 summit meeting between President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. In April the two leaders endorsed the idea of a nuclear free world, but neither country has proposed a way of achieving that goal, which many consider to be unrealistic.

The U.S. and Russia possess at least 90 percent of the world's nuclear weapons.

Global Zero Commission member Richard Burt, a former chief U.S. negotiator for strategic nuclear arms reduction talks with the former Soviet Union, said the key to getting Washington and Moscow to reduce their warhead totals to 500 as an intermediate step is having other nuclear powers agree to freeze their arsenals and then join the United States and Russia in going the final step to zero by 2030.

He said the commission also sees North Korea as a problem, but not necessarily an obstacle, to getting a global zero agreement. By the second phase of the Global Zero Commission's plan, at the midpoint of the next decade, North Korea's nuclear status is likely to be clarified, the former diplomat said.

An even stickier problem is Iran. Under the Global Zero Commission's plan, the Iranians would become an issue in the third phase, in the 2019 to 2023 period, when a global zero accord would be negotiated. That is because the plan requires that all "nuclear capable" countries - defined as those with any nuclear power program, civilian or otherwise - sign and ratify the accord in order for it to take effect.

The U.S. and other countries assert that Iran's declared civilian nuclear program is aimed at building a bomb. Iran denies it.

"If they were to decide over the next couple of years that they want to acquire nuclear weapons and were to go forward and deploy them, then it's hard to see how global zero goes anywhere," Burt said.

"It's a potential show stopper," he said.

President Obama wants to Host Global Nuclear Security Summit

Monday July 6th 2009
By The Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) — President Barack Obama says he wants to host a summit on global nuclear security next year.

Obama suggested the event at a news conference Monday after several hours of talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. The two reached a preliminary agreement to trim their nuclear stockpiles to as few as 1,500 warheads each.

Obama said the spread of nuclear weapons is an urgent issue the United States and Russia must take the lead on.
The U.S. president said it will be very difficult for either country to show leadership unless they are willing to manage and reduce their own nuclear stockpiles in a rational way.


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