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Radioactive threat at Hanford is spreading

radiation-warningRadioactive threat at Hanford shows need for short- and long-term action–and/article_a2a2f098-d3a2-11e6-a1c3-23a1636b600d.html  Radioactive contamination is spreading within one of Hanford’s processing plants. Editorial Board  Jan 5, 2017 

Someday the radioactive material at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation will be cleaned up.

Yet, that “someday” remains elusive as the federal government continues to fall short of its obligation to provide the adequate funding needed to safely remove the radioactive waste stored at Hanford. The Washington state Department of Ecology has concluded cleanup work at Hanford is 25 years behind schedule.

Why? Because federal officials don’t appear to see it as an immediate concern. It’s something that can be put off until, well, “someday.”  But that day might be sooner than some think. This week the Tri-City Herald reported that radioactive contamination is spreading within one of Hanford’s processing plants, and the situation could grow worse as the plant — unused since the 1960s — continues to deteriorate.

A report on the Reduction-Oxidation Complex recommends $181 million be spent on interim cleanup and maintenance of the plant, according to the Herald. The plant, referred to as REDOX, is not scheduled to be demolished until about 2032, or possibly later, because the nearby 222-S Laboratory will be needed for another 30 to 40 years to support the Hanford vitrification plant, which is where radioactive material is turned into inert glass logs.

The concern is that contamination could be spread outside the REDOX building by animals, a break in a utility pipe or a fire.

This is serious matter. So, too, is the 56 million gallons of radioactive nuclear waste stored in tanks. Sixty-seven of the tanks have confirmed leaks, and they are buried relatively close to the Columbia River.

 If — or, perhaps, when — that material leaches into the Columbia it will be a national disaster.  The federal government, which established the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in the 1940s to make plutonium for atomic bombs dropped on Japan, is ultimately responsible for cleaning up the radioactive mess left behind.

The millions needed to stop the spread of contamination of REDOX must be spent immediately. Moving forward, Congress and President-elect Trump must view the cleanup as a real priority, with specific dates established to meet targets. And they must stick to the plan.

If the federal government keeps waiting for “someday” it will be too late.

January 9, 2017 - Posted by | general

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