19 October 2009

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.


  1. I love hearing about the ideas people come up with as possible solutions to problems. While this seems like a costly and only partially effective method, keeping a healthy distance between the worker and the waste is a great idea. With more research the idea could probably prove more efficient however radioactive waste needs to be contained now, not after decades of continued research.

  2. Laylers7@u.washington.eduOctober 30, 2009 at 4:30 PM

    I like this idea. Researchers can never guarantee that their plans will work out with flawless efficiency. But the most important part is that they are trying, and with trying comes associated costs. The most important aspect of cleaning up Hanford is the detrimental and deleterious effects that radiation can have on the organisms in the surrounding area. Although this is taking money from the actual clean up right at this moment, if successful it could expedite the clean up process. Its main benefit obviously is the fact that humans will less contact with the radioactive materials, you cannot over look that!
    The delays are never good, its never what we as the public like to see. But the men 40 years ago who were making the nuclear bombs knew that the end resulting waste was being made with consequences unknown. The researchers now are experimenting to clean up in an efficient and safe way. There does not exist the technology that just spits out the perfect solutions to all problems, so trial and error is what is fueling this process. Yes money is being spent...but you cannot experiment without it. I am not trying to be disrespectful to your organization but the delays cannot solely place fault on Hanford. Its not like the don't want to clean it up, those workers families as well as their lively hood would be greatly effected if the contaminants made it out into the ground water etc. They are working hard every day to test these new ideas...and trial and error cannot give you a perfect due date for clean up..thats not realistic. Im on a bit of a rant at this point, but I also have issues with stating that radiation causes cancer at a certain rate. Being of a science background I feel that when numbers such as those are used, you need to state along side of them some sort of control that is taking into consideration, race, gender, population variants etc. There was of course the man John McClusky who received one of the largest doeses of radiation by a human, ever, yet never got cancer, what is the explanation for that then? I am not taking responsibility and accountability away from the DOE, there are faults they need to be held accountable for, but every bit of criticism I have seen on any website etc....none of it has come with any statistical significance or relevance with justification by a nuclear scientist or scientist of equal ability.

  3. Thanks for your comment! Just a few things in return: First, the robotic arm probably IS a good idea, I don't dispute that.

    Second, you say, "those workers families as well as their lively hood would be greatly effected if the contaminants amde it out into the ground water etc." Well, even DOE will tell you that there is a 100 square mile plume of contaminated groundwater at Hanford.

    Third, any posts about radiation and cancer on this blog are based on studies done by other people (not Heart of America NW) and published, etc. If you have issues with stating that radiation causes cancer, feel free to take it up with those researchers.

    Finally, we are aware that everyone's goal here is to CLEAN UP Hanford. It's just hard to tell sometimes!