25 February 2010

Update on Hanford Hearings around the Northwest

Six of the eight hearings on Hanford as a national radioactive waste dump are now over - as Heart of America Northwest turns to focus on the final two (Eugene on 3/1 & Seattle on 3/8), we also have a few thoughts & triumphs to share about the past hearings.

This week saw the La Grande, OR hearing on Monday and the Spokane, WA hearing on Tuesday nights.  They both went very well with larger than expected turnouts in both cities, thanks to intense organizing efforts by stakeholders, including HOANW.  There were around 80 in attendance in La Grande & 60 in Spokane!  In Spokane, we had three City Council Members testify (Bob Apple and Amber Waldref are on our board of directors so it wasn't a surprise to us that they gave great testimpny, but it was a surprise to the USDOE)! See the article in the Spokesman-Review, which ran prominently at the top of the local section yesterday morning.

The misrepresentations from USDOE continue: We had another testy exchange with USDOE when the manager in charge of the hearings, Mary Beth Burandt, told the audience that Spokane was not on the truck routes to Hanford. Sound familiar? Just like in Portland! However, Spokane City Council Member Bob Apple exposed this as false during the Q and A period, forcing Burandt to admit that radioactive waste trucks very well might come through Spokane on I-90.

Burandt and WA State's spokespeople continue to use language implying that the current legally enforceable moratorium on importing waste will not end with the issuance of this Environmental Impact Statement.  However, they've repeatedly failed to note that the proposed extension of the moratorium (until the vitrification plant operates) is simply an unenforceable USDOE promise.

What's next?

  • Eugene: HOANW's Executive Director, Gerry Pollet, is heading to Eugene today to give a pre-hearing workshop at a conference at the University of Oregon.  Brent Foster, now with the OR Attorney General's Office and formerly with Columbia Riverkeeper, and Tom Carpenter of Hanford Challenge will be joining me at our workshop at 10:30am on Saturday.
  • The Eugene hearing is Monday, March 1st at 7pm at the Hilton.  As always, HOANW will be hosting a pre-hearing workshop to help you prepare comments at 6pm.
  • The final hearing is in Seattle on March 8th (7pm at Seattle Center - Northwest Rooms, Lopez Room).  
  • HOANW & Hanford Challenge are hosting a FREE, fun & interactive workshop featuring local improv actor Matt Smith on Saturday, March 6th, 10:30am at Hugo House.
Submit Your Comments!
The comment period runs through March 19th - Email your opposition to making Hanford a national radioactive waste dump right now!  For more background information, see HOANW's Citizens' Guide.

19 February 2010

Matt Smith + Nuclear Waste = Funny

Hello, Seattle!  Join Heart of America Northwest & Hanford Challenge at the nuclear event of the year:

17 February 2010

The Tri-City Herald finally reports what HOANW's been saying for months, years


Annette Cary of the Tri-City Herald reported Tuesday on the devastating environmental impacts of making Hanford a national Radioactive Waste Dump - a drum Heart of America Northwest has been beating ever since the draft Tank Closure and Waste Management Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was released in October 2009.  And it's absolutely correct - the U.S. Department of Energy's own analysis shows that importing more waste to Hanford will cause perpetual groundwater contamination for thousands of years.

Here's a graphic from the EIS itself, reproduced in a recent Oregonian article, showing the spread of Iodine-129 in the groundwater at Hanford over the next 1,500 years:

 For more resources on the EIS & the dates of the 4 remaining public hearings (La Grande, Spokane, Eugene & Seattle), visit www.hoanw.org.

Update on Hanford Beryllium Program

On Tuesday, February 16th, members of the Hanford Advisory Board, workers with Chronic Beryllium Disease and Hanford officials met with top U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) officials to discuss the status of Hanford's beryllium protection program.   Beryllium is an metal that was historically used at Hanford, and when current workers inhale beryllium dust, they are put at risk for developing an incurable & fatal lung disease.  At least 32 Hanford workers have been diagnosed with Chronic Beryllium Disease to date.

The top DOE officials yesterday said that they will follow all of the Hanford Advisory Board's advice (pdf) to the letter - to formulate a well-credentialed independent review panel of the program.  Heart of America Northwest hopes that the panel is balanced and that changes to the program are quickly implemented to protect Hanford's workforce.  It is absolutely unacceptable that the rates of Chronic Beryllium Disease among Hanford's workers are increasing by 10% annually.

15 February 2010

Senator Ron Wyden's (D-Ore) Statement on Hanford Cleanup

Portland, OR - Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore) issued the following statement (through staff) at the 2/10/2010 public hearing in Portland on the U.S. Department of Energy's draft environmental impact statement for cleaning up storage tanks and managing waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation:

"The Department of Energy has been working on Hanford clean-up for more than 20 years, and at best they have another 20 years to go, and probably a lot more.  Now, the DOE is proposing to bring even more radioactive waste from other DOE clean-up sites to Hanford for disposal, making this toxic cesspool even worse.  That puts Oregon at risk twice: First when the waste is trucked through Oregon and again when it seeps back via the Columbia River.  If I have said it once, I have said it dozens of times: Hanford should not be turned into a 'national sacrifice zone.'  I am not satisfied with the progress at Hanford and I am absolutely opposed to DOE bringing more waste to Hanford since they have been unable and unwilling to clean-up the radioactive mess that is already there."

08 February 2010

A Tour Inside Hanford's Tank Farms

King5 News' environmental reporter, Gary Chittim, had two spots on Hanford that aired on Friday, February 5th.  The first, a discussion of stimulus dollars at Hanford (the single largest recipient of stimulus funds in the nation), and the second, an interesting look inside Hanford's tank farms.  Go to -3:38 to watch the clip on Hanford:

Chittim calls the tank farms "a radioactive slow seep into the Columbia River," and reminds the public of the fact that the Department of Energy doesn't have plans to finish emptying the leaky, Single Shell High-Level Nuclear Waste tanks until 30 years from now. 

05 February 2010

Chronic Beryllium Disease Rates Increasing Among Hanford Workers

This article will be on the desks of top U.S. Department of Energy officials in Washington, D.C., Friday morning.  Heart of America Northwest hopes that this increased pressure will result in an independent investigation of Hanford's beryllium protection program.

A total of 32 Hanford workers have been diagnosed with chronic beryllium disease, an incurable lung disease caused by the inhalation of fine beryllium dusts that settle in the lungs and cause damage.  Workers at Hanford are exposed to beryllium dust in some buildings because the beryllium metal was used in the production of fuel for some of the reactors.  The Tri-City Herald reports, "Workers with an allergy-like sensitivity to beryllium are at risk of developing potentially debilitating and fatal lung disease if exposed to fine particles of the metal."

The Hanford Advisory Board has been concerned about the beryllium protection program at Hanford, and is expected to issue advice instructing the Department of Energy to order an independent review of the program, rather than reviewing it internally.

Increasing rates of chronic beryllium disease at Hanford mean that the "status quo is not adequate," according to the Board.  Worker safety at Hanford is of utmost importance, and is something for which the Hanford Advisory Board and Heart of America Northwest have fought for decades.