29 January 2010


Check it out! Heart of America Northwest's Executive Director, Gerry Pollet, was interviewed by CNN's Patrick Oppmann about stimulus funding and Hanford cleanup:

28 January 2010

IMPORTANT DATES: Stop Hanford from becoming a National Radioactive Waste Dump

Pre-hearing workshops & open houses at 6pm, Hearings begin at 7pm

PDX WORKSHOP! Monday, Feb. 1st 
7:30pm, Fremont Whole Foods, Studio 1
15th & Fremont
Sponsored by Heart of America Northwest - join us to walk through the impacts of the EIS on health and the environment & to prepare your comments 

 Boise, ID
Tuesday, Feb. 2nd
Owyhee Plaza Hotel

Hood River, OR
Tuesday, Feb. 9th
Columbia Gorge Hotel
Portland, OR 
Wednesday, Feb. 10th
Lloyd Center Doubletree

SPOKANE WORKSHOP! Wednesday, Feb. 17th
7:00pm, Spokane Community College  
Lair Auditorium
Sponsored by Hearrt of America NW, with SANE  

LaGrande, OR
Monday, Feb. 22nd
Eastern Oregon University
Hoke Union Building

Spokane, WA 
Tuesday, Feb. 23rd
Red Lion Hotel at the Park

Eugene, OR
Monday, March 1st
Eugene Hilton & Conference Center

SEATTLE WORKSHOP! Saturday, March 6th
In the morning - time & location TBA 
Sponsored by Heart of America NW & Hanford Challenge 

Seattle, WA 
Monday, March 8th
Seattle Center Northwest Rooms
Lopez Room (1st & Republican St)

25 January 2010

Climate Change & Economy Portend Revival of U.S. Nuke Power?

This special report run by McClatchey News on the politics and costs of nuclear power in the federal climate change legislation is well worth reading.

As the report points out, Congressional momentum is for expanding loan guarantees to provide 50% of the cost of construction for 8-12 new nuclear plants on top of the guarantees already passed under Bush; and, to allow nuclear to get the bulk of all funding from a new "clean energy" bank. While we were celebrating the end of USDOE's Bush Administration GNEP impact statement and program (Global Nuclear Energy Partnership program to double the number of nuclear reactors in the US accompanied by reprocessing as a claim to solve waste problems), the nuclear industry simply moved ahead to position the same proposal within the federal climate change bills.  Progressive Democrats can not pass climate change legislation without support of pro-nuclear Democrats and some Republicans (whose price is massive support flowing to nuclear).

Wind power in the West is already significantly less expensive per kwh (kilowatt hour) than new nuclear power; and, of course, wind doesn't have to be bought in $8 - $10 billion packages. Conservation and investment in efficiency are far more cost effective. Essentially, without massive subsidies that starve all other energy investment, new nuclear power projects can't get off the ground.

The cost of reprocessing nuclear fuel rods doesn't even begin to get factored into these cost estimates.... nor does any of the cost estimates include how the liquid High-Level Nuclear Wastes from reprocessing will get treated and disposed. That's where our "lessons from Hanford" should be heeded - for the High-Level Nuclear Wastes that are threatening the Columbia River were produced via reprocessing.

Heart of America NW has been one of the few NW voices objecting to massive loan guarantees and what amounts to a nuclear industry bank account in the pending federal climate change legislation. Unlimited access to a "clean energy bank" without limits per project or for nuclear energy overall, plus more loan guarantees as being lobbied for, will starve conservation, solar, wind and true renewables. This is also a key reason to be critical of the abandonment of efforts to pass WA State Climate Change legislation and the lack of effort for state funding mechanisms for investment in true renewables and conservation. WA, OR and CA still have the opportunity to both set the marker for congressional action and to have a program with investments from cap and trade and emission auction fees invested in conservation and truly renewable clean energy that would be in place long before a federal program (and, once enacted will almost certainly not be preempted). Instead, state elected officials with tacit agreement from some quarters of the environmental community have washed their hands and said we'll just let Congress act. That's neither leadership on Climate Change nor a prescription for action and investment to meet our State's goals for reducing emissions.

What can you do? Email or tell your Senators and US Rep that you want climate change legislation that does not pour your money into the least cost effective option - nuclear - while starving true clean, renewable energy programs. Remind them that claims of nuclear being "clean" if the waste is reprocessed don't survive a visit to Hanford where we have no solution in sight for the liquid High-Level Nuclear Wastes produced from reprocessing. Write Governor Gregoire and Governor Kulongoski and your legislators saying you want Northwest states' climate change legislation put back as a priority - which is a good investment for our economy as well as for the health of our planet and children.

21 January 2010

More Hanford downwinders claims to go to trial

A recent article in the Tri-City Herald reports that Spokane judge William Fremming Nielsen will hear more claims concerning health problems resulting from radioactive emissions from Hanford. There are nearly 2,000 pending claims in the 19-year-old case.  The judge said he will select a total of about 62 cases of hypothyroidism, a disease in which the thyroid is underactive, and thyroid cancer. Since 1991, when the case was filed, only 10 claims have been resolved through litigation, and Nielsen previously showed little interest in these cases, indicating that they would be too time consuming and costly. But he has recently stated that the plaintiffs and defense are far apart in their settlement talks, and they seem far from any agreements. So the defense has asked the judge to begin randomly selecting cases to move the process along.

The defense represents early Hanford contractors, who belive that they plantiffs' claims are weak. The plaintiffs argue that radioactive iodine from Hanford, which concentrates in the thyroid, was responsible for at least 636 cases or hypothyroidism represented by the plaintiffs, as well as many cases of thyroid cancer.

The defense and plaintiffs disagree on methods of measuring how much exposure was received, and how much is necessary to be considered responsible for hypothyroidism or thyroid cancer. It is generally agreed that exposure of more than 40 rads is dangerous, but parties disagree as to whether levels below 40 rads can be dangerous.

For more information, visit the Hanford Downwinders' Website.

18 January 2010

High profile fail for USDOE

Stimulus job count lowered by almost 50% 
The US Department of Energy (USDOE) announced it was lowering its claims of stimulus jobs created or saved at Hanford by over 50%.  This announcement comes in response to the Hanford Advisory Board's Budget and Contracts Committee meeting agenda and Heart of America Northwest Executive Director, Gerry Pollet, preparing questions asking how USDOE was counting jobs.
A Tri-City Herald article covered the lowering of the job count last week.  Here, Heart of America Northwest provides you with fuller information:
  • USDOE at Hanford was including in its estimate of jobs created or saved an estimate of jobs from purchases and offsite contracts.  The rationale for this does not hold up to sound economic scrutiny. Essentially, this was an invitation for double counting of jobs. So, if a contractor needed to buy a new backhoe for Hanford, the contractor might say that the need was caused by increased stimulus funded work. Then, an estimate was made of the new jobs created at the backhoe factory based on cost. This had no basis in reality.
  • Pollet raised this question after seeing the figure being touted by USDOE (actually increased to over 3,200 at year's end) compared to the Hanford site's total employment figures. The total employment was not up anywhere near 3,200.
  • Why is this significant?  It appears that USDOE is a lousy investment in job creation due to the high cost of work and the contracting structure, high overhead costs, etc. One new teacher position in WA State with a fully funded classroom costs $75,000. Many construction jobs create a new FTE for less than that. Yet, each job created at Hanford costs over $200,000, and this figure will increase.
  • USDOE spent $273 million of stimulus money at Hanford through the end of November 2009.  At the end of  December, based on work hours reported funded with stimulus funds (based on 40 hours of work for each claimed FTE) there were only 1,423 jobs created or saved. By the time one full year of salary has been paid to these employees, USDOE will have spent at least another $90 million and more likely $150 million. Yet, few additional employees will be added with stimulus funds in the coming months. 
  • USDOE's choice of "shovel ready projects" - demolitions - for stimulus funding should have led to far more job creation. Essentially, USDOE stimulus funds are going to neither creation of jobs or to the highest priority environmental and safety work which should be funded. USDOE says the highest safety and environmental priority it has in the nation is the emptying of Single Shell High-Level Nuclear Waste tanks. Yet, no stimulus funding is going toward speeding the emptying of tanks.

12 January 2010

FACT SHEET: Tank Closure & Waste Management EIS

Heart of America Northwest has produced a fact sheet for general background information on what's in the Tank Closure & Waste Management Environmental Impact Statement, and what some of the environmental and health impacts discussed in it are. Let us know what you think!

06 January 2010

How did we get here?

Tracing the paper trail leading to this draft Tank Closure & Waste Management EIS

The draft Tank Closure & Waste Management Environmental Impact Statement (TC & WM EIS), although released to the public in late October 2009, has a history that spans a decade. The years from 1999-2009 tell a story of the Department of Energy (USDOE) continually attempting to dump radioactive and hazardous wastes at the Hanford site, while the public actively and persistently fought back. And it’s not over, folks, for the document currently under consideration proves that USDOE plans have not changed at all, and USDOE still intends to use Hanford as a national radioactive and hazardous waste dump as soon as it will be politically ok to do so.

In 1999, USDOE released the Waste Management Programmatic EIS, in which USDOE identified Hanford and the Nevada Test Site as the two regional disposal sites for low-level radioactive & mixed low-level radioactive wastes. Despite the fact that these decisions were not based on meaningful analysis of the impacts of adding wastes to these two sites, USDOE forged ahead with site-specific Environmental Impact Statements – the draft Hanford Solid Waste EIS was released in 2003.

Over 500 members of the public showed up at the hearings on the Hanford Solid Waste EIS in 2003 to oppose the selection of Hanford as a national radioactive waste dump. Disregarding the public’s comments, USDOE started to ship highly radioactive plutonium wastes (RH-TRU) to Hanford. Heart of America Northwest and Columbia Riverkeeper sued and successfully won a federal court injunction against USDOE; the two citizens’ groups were later joined by Washington State.

Without revisiting the 1999 decision, USDOE implemented it with the release of the final Hanford Solid Waste EIS in 2004, including the preferred alternative to dump tens of thousands of truckloads of radioactive and mixed radioactive hazardous waste from the nation's nuclear weapons production facilities at Hanford. The State of Washington expanded the existing lawsuit to include the inadequacy of the EIS because it lacked groundwater modeling and flow analysis.

The same year, in 2004, Heart of America Northwest filed Initiative 297 to stop Hanford or other contaminated sites from having more mixed radioactive hazardous wastes dumped while existing wastes violate state hazardous waste laws and are contaminating the environment. I-297 passed with 69.09% of the vote - the highest vote total for any ballot initiative or candidate in Washington State history to that date – sending an overwhelming message that the citizens of Washington do not want Hanford to become a national radioactive waste dump.

Washington State and USDOE finally settled the lawsuit in July 2005. This settlement has proven essential in Hanford history, as WA secured a moratorium on shipping offsite waste to Hanford (with seven “minor” exceptions) until a new, final EIS is issued. The recently released TC & WM EIS is the draft of the final EIS to end the moratorium, and is supposed to be USDOE’s “re-do” of the failed Hanford Solid Waste EIS. Unfortunately, tens of thousands of pages of environmental impact statements later, public outcry is again needed to reinforce the decades-old message that Hanford should not be a national radioactive and hazardous waste dump.

05 January 2010

Hanford gets an "A" on year-end report card?

NW Public Radio and KUOW ran the following story on the year-end grade that Hanford officials gave themselves - an "A", believe it or not!  However, the reporter simply took the contractors' year end email and used it for what was supposed to be a news story with the addition of Skinnarland's quote for Ecology.

Imagine giving an A:
  • to a polluter that the state had to sue due to violations of a consent decree timeline; 
  • for 22 years of delay in emptying Single Shell Tanks; 
  • proposing to never investigate or cleanup tank leaks and 40 miles of unlined trenches; 
  • and, formally proposing to use Hanford as a national waste dump.
Heart of America Northwest encourages you to email the KUOW news director, Anna King (the reporter) and WA Department of Ecology's director Ted Sturdevant using the points outlined above and asking for more insightful reporting to the public.

Following is the text of the short blurb Anna King ran on KUOW on December 30th:

It's been a big year at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Cleanup there was one of the biggest items in the federal stimulus package. And the largest federally funded construction project right now — Hanford's Vitrification plant — reached the halfway point. But are we closer to cleaning one of America's dirtiest places?

If Hanford were a student, Washington State Ecology's Ron Skinnarland says he'd give the site an "A" on its end of the year progress report. Here's Hanford's list of got–it–done in 2009: A newly negotiated Tri–Party Agreement that sets deadlines for cleanup. A massive factory to treat nuclear waste is 50 percent complete. And 51 buildings were taken down. Ecology's Skinnarland says without the stimulus funding many projects would have been put off.

Ron Skinnarland: "We have a lot of decisions that Ecology and the EPA, the regulatory agencies, have to make to make sure that we can spend all this money efficiently and do the right thing. So we still have a lot of work ahead of us. But we are glad we have the opportunity."

DOE officials say in 2010 they will continue to shrink the contaminated footprint of the nuclear site. Also, they want to focus on improving worker safety in one of the most complicated and dangerous worksites in the world.

I'm Anna King in Richland.