18 November 2010

The Latest on What's Underneath Hanford: 10X the Legal Dose of Radiation

Thankfully, Heart of America Northwest led efforts to shut down building 324 and have it cleaned out and removed. As late as 2008, nuclear industry backers and USDOE proposed using the 324 Building for “reprocessing” High-Level Nuclear Waste. In the late 1990s and until 2001, USDOE was promoting use of 324 Building in support of the restart of the FFTF Nuclear Reactor, and again we led opposition pointing to past contamination and risk from Building 324. However, we never expected that leaks to soil were at levels more than ten times the level which will kill every individual in an hour.

In the early 1990s this building and all others in Hanford’s 300 Area dumped their untreated liquid wastes out a sewer line into a long ditch paralleling the Columbia River 800 feet away. The high radiation is apparently due to leaks from the sump for the sewer in Building 324. Heart of America Northwest successfully sued and organized to close the sewer and end dumping of untreated liquid wastes. Sadly, Washington Ecology and EPA sided with USDOE back then, and actually opposed our efforts to shut down the dumping of untreated liquid wastes.

Now, the question is how could USDOE have promoted use of the building for years without knowing about radiation levels so high in the soil under the building that they would kill in minutes??? What is needed Now: an emergency cleanup effort is needed due to proximity to the River and public, and an investigation as to how this was ignored or not found for years. This is going to be very expensive because of the incredible risk from the gamma radiation, and shielding needed. However, this comes at a time when Congressional pressure and the President’s announced response is to cut Hanford Clean-Up budgets in 2012. The waste should not be disposed at Hanford in landfills, it is so hot it should be treated as High-Level Waste, which is what it originated as.
- Gerry Pollet, Heart of America Northwest

Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010
Highly contaminated soil found at Hanford
By Annette Cary, Herald staff writer

HANFORD — Workers have found a nasty surprise beneath a Hanford building just north of Richland -- highly contaminated soil from an undiscovered leak.

"This is extremely high radiation. Nothing else compares in the river corridor," said Mark French, Department of Energy project director for environmental cleanup in the river corridor, the 75 square miles of Hanford along the Columbia River.
Radioactivity has been measured at 8,900 rad per hour, which would be about 10 times the lethal dose on contact, according to Hanford officials. The building where the leak was found is about 1,000 feet from the Columbia River.

Read more from the Tri-City Herald here

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