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).


  1. What a nice publication of the hearing! I found the hearing extremely interesting and while I did not speak, many of the speakers brought up subjects that needed to get addressed. The tone of the article reflects that of the hearing, one of discontent but not straight out anger. I appreciate the coverage by newspapers on something that is current and pressing, though often forgotten or pushed to the back burner. It is too bad that other Seattle papers did not also cover this hearing. Hearing are such a good way to get the pubic involved in the decisions that are being made. While hearing do not force the agencies to change their minds, at least they are considering the publics opinions. This is an important part of a democracy. While I was at the hearing, I did not get the feeling from the officials that they were likely to change much on the proposal but they said they were listening and since it was only a draft, changes could be made. We will see what actually happens, but at least we had our chance to say something about it!

  2. I agree, it is extremely important that the public is involved in making such important decisions that will affect the environment for generations to come. It is unfortunate that it wasn't covered more by the press, and even that there weren't more people there. The agencies shouldn't leave it up to groups like Heart of America NW to generate turnout, but that's increasingly been the case.

  3. It's great that the public hearing got some press coverage and included important facts about Hanford regarding radioactive waste deposits. I thought there was a good turn out at the hearing and a lot of people had great comments to make. I did get the feeling like the DOE representatives were there just to show face and that our suggestions my not be taking into real consideration. I hope that is not the case because public meetings can make a difference when the community comes together to address an important issue such as this. Hopefully the press will still keep an update on the Hanford project in the future!

  4. We hope that the public comment period turns out to be fruitful for the State of Washington and that they take the public's comments seriously and reconsider the settlement. As our legal intern presented before the Seattle hearing, this may be the public's last chance to comment on getting an enforceable ban to prevent off-site wastes from coming to Hanford.

  5. In the November 23, 2009 issue of the Washington Post, there is an article titled Nuclear Power Regains Support that describes how some established Environmental groups and individuals have decided that nuclear power can be part of a set of tools that will enable a transition away from fossil fuels. A major reason given for what many believe is a surprising shift in politics is a sense of urgency about slowing down the emission of greenhouse gases from burning massive quantities of hydrocarbons. The waste products that are being dumped into the atmosphere are causing measurable changes in the global atmospheric chemistry.

    Steven Tindale, a man who once led a group of Greenpeace activists at a protest of a UK nuclear power plant on the shores of the North Sea, has left the organization and now supports the expansion of nuclear energy as part of Great Britain's plan to combat climate change.
    "It really is a question about the greater evil -- nuclear waste or climate change," Tindale said. "But there is no contest anymore. Climate change is the bigger threat, and nuclear is part of the answer."
    There are other groups who have determined that their best path currently is to focus their efforts on fighting fossil fuels and supporting alternatives like wind and solar without expending their efforts in fighting against nuclear energy. They recognize that certain provisions in climate change legislation will probably result in the construction of a number of new nuclear power plants and they have decided to accept that result without weighing in on one side or the other.
    But Steve Cochran, director of the National Climate Campaign at the Environmental Defense Fund -- a group that opposed new nuclear plants in the United States as recently as 2005 -- also described a new and evolving "pragmatic" approach coming from environmental camps. "I guess you could call it 'grudging acceptance,' " he said.

    "If we are really serious about dealing with climate change, we are going to have to be willing to look at a range of options and not just rule things off the table," he said. "We may not like it, but that's the way it is."
    "Because of global warming, most of the big groups have become less active on their nuclear campaign, and almost all of us are taking another look at our internal policies," said Mike Childs, head of climate change issues for Friends of the Earth in Britain. "We've decided not to officially endorse it, in part because we feel the nuclear lobby is already strong enough. But we are also no longer focusing our energies on opposing it."
    My analysis of the strength of the technical advantages of nuclear energy is that anyone who is not actively opposed to nuclear energy development is effectively FOR nuclear energy. (If you are not against us, you are for us.) That is especially true when the group that has made the shift has been working so hard against the technology for so many years.
    There is an example happening right now with the response to the very minor airborne radiation incident at Three Mile Island Unit One. Despite the fact that the effects were routine levels of exposure, the contamination has all been cleaned up and the root cause is pretty obvious to anyone who understands how cutting and grinding works, the NRC is dispatching dozens of investigators to the plant. The company will have to devote hundreds of man-hours to the process of a formal investigation, they will lose production for several more days, and they will produce reams of paper to be stored on shelves. Such is the logic forced on our regulators by the activist agenda. Let's hope that Heart of America NW is honest and forward looking enough to re-tool its agenda and support nuclear energy, encourage its Washington members to get behind nuclear power, and help solve the nuclear waste problem. The time for nay-saying is past.

  6. Rod,

    Thanks for your comment. As you can see at the top right panel of this blog, Heart of America Northwest is a group dedicated to the cleanup of the nuclear waste stored (and leaking) at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Southeastern Washington. We provide research, organizing, lobbying and legal efforts in the Pacific Northwest and nationally.