29 September 2009

Fears arise - where will waste go without Yucca?

Nuclear sites around the country fear being the alternative Yucca Mountain, the future geological repository and home to the nation's nuclear wastes.

With the closing of Yucca Mountain the Obama Administration and USDOE are scrambling to find a solution to the nation's nuclear waste. There was no back-up plan in place.It seems as though the existing nuclear sites will be the de facto dumps for their waste until another viable option is decided.

Read more of the article to hear communities' input whom face the existing waste storage problem.

Could space travel be halted because of a plutonium production shortage?

NASA is running out of the special kind of plutonium needed to power deep space probes, worrying planetary scientists who say the U. S. urgently needs to restart production of plutonium-238.

Nuclear weapons use plutonium-239, but NASA depends on something quite different: plutonium-238. A marshmallow-sized pellet of plutonium-238 (pictured to the left), encased in metal, gives off a lot of heat.

It is uncertain whether or not Congress will provide the necessary funds to USDOE for restarting plutonium production.

To get NPR's whole story read the article.

K East Basin excavation begins

Work began this past weekend to excavate contaminated soil in the K East Basin at Hanford.  This basin once held 1.2 million gallons of irradiated fuel from the K East Reactor, which produced weapons-grade plutonium.  When plutonium production ceased, the waste in the basin was left to sit without any processing. 

This was one of the major environmental risks at Hanford, as the basin is located just 400 yards from the Columbia River.  Contamination is documented to have leaked from the basin in the 1970s and the 1990s.  Excavating the soil should be completed by the end of 2009.

News articles:
Read the Tri-City Herald article here.
Read The Oregonian article here.

Related posts:

28 September 2009

Waste mixing being tested for Hanford vit plant

The waste treatment plant at Hanford, coming with a $12.2 billion dollar price tag, is the largest public works project in the United States.  This project has a history of mismanagement and is $8 billion over budget, but is nearing 50% completion.

This plant will vitrify the highly radioactive waste stored at Hanford, transforming it from sludge into glass rods that can be stored more safely.  This article details some of the testing that must be done before the vitrification facility becomes fully functional.  The waste slated to be treated here is so dangerously radioactive that some areas of the facility will be closed to human entry once processing begins.  This means that the machinery must be able to function for 40 years without maintenance, which is why testing now with simulated radioactive material is essential.

The latest changes to the Tri-Party Agreement (TPA; Hanford Clean-up Agreement) propose to delay the "hot-start" of the waste treatment plant from the current 2011 milestone to 2019.  Under the new timeline, the plant would not be fully operational until 2022.  The public comment period on these and other changes to the TPA begins this Thursday, October 1 and extends through December 11.  Check back often for more information and announcements of public hearings near you!

25 September 2009

Chopper seeks radioactive waste spread by animals at Hanford

Today at Hanford, a helicopter will be scanning unused areas of the reservation for radioactive contamination.  Animals are attracted to the radioactive salts sitting in areas where nuclear waste was discharged during the Cold War -- and they've inadvertently spread the contamination.  Contractors at Hanford hope that using the helicopter to survey for contamination will save them time and money, because the specific data gathered from the surveys will be used to determine how much soil needs to be excavated in cleanup efforts.  Read the entire article here.

24 September 2009

Hanford landfill still growing

With increased cleanup efforts resulting from the $2 billion Hanford received in stimulus money, the need arises for greater capacity for waste disposal. Thus, work has begun to expand the low-level radioactive waste landfill at Hanford, called the "Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility." This landfill daily receives 5,000 tons of waste, consisting mostly of contaminated dirt and rubble from demolished buildings. Read the full article here.

22 September 2009

The world's most toxic site

On socialistworker.org Joshua Frank, co-author with Jeffrey St. Clair of Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland, looks at the legacy of the Hanford B nuclear reactor.

A quote from the article: "I CERTAINLY agree we ought not disregard the B Reactor's true legacy. Beyond the lofty rhetoric of scientific achievements and marvelous engineering feats lives a story our government would rather not recall. It's a tale of death and environmental destruction, the remnants of which are with us to this day."

21 September 2009

Hanford Cleanup: The First 20 Years

This summer, Oregon DOE published this fantastic review of the first 20 years of Hanford Cleanup. It is informative, easy to read, and full of pictures! We thought we'd spread it around by sharing the link to the pdf. Let us know what you think!

Another explanation of higher cancer rates for Hanford workers

This short post on Mesothelioma News concisely explains the findings of a recent study of mortality risks of workers at the Hanford site. Here's what we took away:
  • Hanford workers had 11x higher rates of mesothelioma, a cancer that affects the lungs, heart and abdomen, than the general population
  • Hanford workers had 30x higher death rates of asbestosis than the general population
  • Hanford workers had a 3x higher rates of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood, than the general population
Related post: Hanford workers 3x higher risk of certain cancers

17 September 2009

Hanford Budget Update

There's good news and bad news proceeding from the FY 2011 budget request for Hanford. The good news is that, combined with the federal stimulus dollars, the proposed budget will "allow all legally binding deadlines in the Tri-Party Agreement except one to be met in fiscal 2011."

The bad news revolved around that one deadline that will not be met. We're sorry to see that the one deadline that is to be left behind (again) is to retrieve waste from leaky underground tanks! This is one of the most serious environmental risks at Hanford, and we believe it should be addressed sooner, rather than later. Read the short article in the Tri-City Herald here.

The budgets for Hanford are a product of the Hanford Advisory Board. Gerry Pollet, Executive Director of Heart of America NW, is the chair for the HAB Budget committee. "Whoever wrote this failed to read our advice and missed key parts of the presentation: the Board advice says that we believe the claim that all TPA and regualtory requirements will be met is based on USDOE hoping schedules will be relaxed, e.g., for retrieval of TRU and mixed waste treatment," says Gerry.

15 September 2009

Oregonian article on K Basin Removal!

Abby Haight at the Oregonian reports last week on the achieved cleanup milestone of the K East Basin! Read the short article here.

See photos of the removal process here.

Related posts: K East Basin finally gone for good!

14 September 2009

Agencies concerned about mercury storage at Hanford

Many of you participated in the Mercury EIS public meetings and submitted comments one short month ago. This EIS was about shipping more waste to Hanford, this time mercury wastes.

Read this article about the agencies concerns with receiving mercury and more waste at Hanford - we and the agencies agree on something - "Making Hanford the nation's storage site for tons of excess mercury could interfere with environmental cleanup of the site, according to government agencies."

11 September 2009

K East Basin finally gone for good!

We're glad to see that this huge step is finally completed! The K East Basin was one of the greatest environmental risks at Hanford, located just 400 yards from the Columbia River and leaking irradiated fuel. Annette Cary, of the Tri-City Herald, reports on the finalization of the project here.

We're also happy to note that it was completed by the TPA deadline of the end of this month. The next step now, is to work on all the contamination underneath. "DOE thinks the soil may be contaminated with plutonium, uranium, cesium, strontium and cobalt, and perhaps PCBs and chromium."

10 September 2009

Bombs Away, Millions a Day

The Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility produced this short video about the environmental and health risks at Hanford. Heart of America NW's executive director, Gerry Pollet, is featured, along with HOANW's 2004 I-297 campaign to protect Washington from becoming a national radioactive waste dump. Check it out below and let us know what you think!

Hanford workers 3x higher risk of certain cancers

A recently published study found that Hanford workers are at a 3 times higher risk for multiple myelomas than the general public. In addition, Hanford workers had an 11 times higher risk for mesothelioma than the general public (probably due to asbestos exposure).

We're intrigued that the headline is in the past tense: Hanford construction workers were at risk of certain cancers. This implies that the workers are no longer at risk! This article did not run on the front page of the Tri-City Herald, despite the fact that work at Hanford dominates the Tri-City economy!

08 September 2009

DOE studying how contaminants enter Columbia River

"Work is under way to collect samples of upwelling ground water to look for potential contaminants known to be in Hanford ground water, such as strontium, uranium, tritium and chromium. The upwellings could be from ground water from the production portion of Hanford or from the other side of the river.

Samples will be collected in about 240 locations, and then Environmental Assessment Services plans to select 40 locations to do more comprehensive sampling.

The results of the study will be compiled with extensive data on the Columbia River from past studies and from new samples of river water, soil on Hanford islands, sediment from the river and fish to test for evidence of contaminants that might be linked to Hanford." Read on...

Hanford gets deadlines to fix underground contamination

This article from today's Seattle Post Intelligencer explains some of what went on at the Hanford Advisory Board meeting in Seattle last week. Heart of America NW's executive director, Gerry Pollet, was one of the parties pushing for an extension of the public comment period on the proposed TPA changes. Governor Gregiore (WA) originally announced on August 11th that the public comment period would run from September 24th - November 4th. We'd like to see the comment period extended at least a month to give everyone ample time to comment.

"But the nastiest of Hanford's underground wastes has not yet oozed from the site's center to the river."

04 September 2009

College Outreach

Heart of America and other parties interested in cleaning up Hanford are figuring out different ways of involving college students. Hanford clean up truly is a multi-generational issue because the radioactive waste is going to be around for a long, long time. Our generation is going to have to deal with it. However, the multi-generational facet of the issue is not represented on the Hanford Advisory Board or at the public meetings and hearings.

We're looking for your input! What do you think works to engage college students? How do you personally become invested in an environmental issue? Are you willing to work with us?

Start the dialogue here or check out our facebook!

Hanford: America's Tourist Destination?

Jeff Schlegel's article, "Unspoiled Nature in Shadow of a Nuclear Site," for the American Journeys section of the New York Times promotes Hanford, Washington, as a tourist destination. To be fair, the Hanford Reach National Monument was proclaimed into existence by President Clinton in 2000, and the public is free to hunt, hike, boat and fish within regulations. Be careful of radioactive contamination and sure to make a stop to check out the nuclear reactors that created the plutonium for the bomb dropped on Nagasaki!

01 September 2009

DOE to begin work on historic landfills

There's always something going on at Hanford -- now the Department of Energy is funding an archeological dig of historic landfills that hold the trash of the 50,000 people that lived and worked at Hanford during WWII.

Sure, we're interested to see what they will unearth, but we're also curious as to the contents of the US Ecology landfill, which has been shrouded in secrecy.