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It’s getting serious when nuclear pollution threatens the wine industry

A 2012 report prepared for the Washington State Wine Commission indicates that the state is the “second largest wine producer in the U.S., after California.” Internationally, Washington State is the third-largest exporter of food and agricultural products, according to state officials, with leading products including fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy products, and seafood.

What is not on the Tri-Cities website, however, is a copy of the DOE report released last year that indicated trace amounts of the radioisotope tritium were found in wine samples collected near Hanford in 2013 “that could have potentially originated from the Hanford Site.” Tritium is considered one of the least-threatening radioisotopes because it generally passes from the body quickly, but it still can increase cancer risk because it releases radiation

wine threat

antnuke-relevantATOMIC WINE Wine Country’s Nuclear Threat, The Daily Beast , Bill Conroy. 03.28.15 A nuclear facility in Washington state’s prime wine country is leaching radioactive groundwater and is one natural disaster away from Fukushima 2.0. The Hanford Site, a former nuclear-weapons production facility located in southeastern Washington State near the Oregon border, is one natural disaster away from a Fukushima-like catastrophe, according to environmental groups who also claim the site—which sits near some of the state’s best vineyards—is leaking radioactive groundwater into the nearby Columbia River.

Activists blame the dangers on the slow pace of the U.S. government’s efforts to clean up the radioactive waste spread across the site’s 586 square-mile expanse and in the groundwater beneath it. Washington State officials agree that cleanup efforts are behind schedule, and have once again taken the federal government to court seeking a judge’s order to get the Hanford Site’s radiation-remediation program back on track.

The Hanford Site, bounded on the north and east by the Columbia River, is in an area that is subject to potential earthquakes—the last one of note, a 6.1 on the Richter scale, sent tremors through the area in 1936. The site is also downstream from two dams, one of which—about 30 miles from Hanford—is under repair after a 2-inch-wide, 65-foot-long crack was discovered in its façade early last year, though local officials contend it poses no flood risk.

In addition, Hanford is in an area prone to wildfires, which have crossed the borders of the site in the recent past.

“The concern for Hanford is twofold,” said Washington State Rep. Gerry Pallet, D-Seattle, who also serves as executive director of the environmental group Heart of America Northwest. “The level of contamination from the site entering the Columbia River will only continue to grow if it isn’t cleaned up. Second, if there is a major incident like an earthquake, we could have a massive release of radiation from multiple facilities at Hanford.”

Beyond the threat of natural disasters and the slow creep of highly contaminated groundwater toward the Columbia River, the Hanford Site also faces a serious international and domestic public-perception problem that poses a risk to the vitality of Washington’s $51 billion agricultural industry.

A 2012 report prepared for the Washington State Wine Commission indicates that the state is the “second largest wine producer in the U.S., after California.” Internationally, Washington State is the third-largest exporter of food and agricultural products, according to state officials, with leading products including fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy products, and seafood.

Any accident at the Hanford Site that raises the specter of crop or livestock contamination has the potential to stoke fear in international and domestic markets, particularly in light of the 2011 Fukushima earthquake in Japan that wreaked havoc on a nuclear power plant there….

In the wake of that catastrophe, which led to the meltdown of three reactor cores at the Daiichi nuclear power plant and a massive radiation release, more than 40 nations, including the U.S., imposed bans or restrictions on a range of Japanese agricultural and food products, some of which are still in effect.

By comparison to the Fukushima nuclear plant, the Hanford Site is a super-sized version of radiation risk………

environmental groups also contend that Hanford is in a race against time, since the extensive contaminated groundwater plumes under the site are growing with each decade that goes by, fed by wastes leaching into the groundwater from the soil above. And Mother Nature—in the form of earthquakes, floods or fires—could change the dynamic overnight, they argue.

Even talking about the risks “creates concern in the agricultural community,” said Hector Castro, spokesman for the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

“But it is a concern,” he conceded. “Anything that could affect their ability to get products to market is always a problem. About 30 percent of agricultural products in Washington are exported.”…….

Environmental groups stress that the slow pace of the federal government’s cleanup efforts at Hanford, though, is only raising the stakes for both agriculture and for people living near the nuclear reservation—which borders the Tri-Cities metro area, home to some 253,000 residents. In addition to the groundwater threat, the Columbia River is tapped for both drinking water and irrigation uses in the area…………

What is not on the Tri-Cities website, however, is a copy of the DOE report released last year that indicated trace amounts of the radioisotope tritium were found in wine samples collected near Hanford in 2013 “that could have potentially originated from the Hanford Site.” Tritium is considered one of the least-threatening radioisotopes because it generally passes from the body quickly, but it still can increase cancer risk because it releases radiation……..

Pallet of Heart of America Northwest argues that talking about the threats posed by Hanford to Washington State agriculture, as well as to the health of its residents, is critical, adding that “if we don’t, it comes true because we do not create the political momentum to get the site cleaned up.”…….http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/03/28/hanford-nuclear-site-could-be-threatening-washington-state-s-best-vineyards.html

March 30, 2015 - Posted by | environment, USA

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