nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

Environmentalists fear that reclassifying some nuclear wastes means abandoning clean-ups

Energy Department Plan to Reclassify Nuclear Waste Worries Environmentalists https://weather.com/science/environment/news/2018-12-10-energy-department-reclassify-nuclear-waster
At a Glance

    • The U.S. Department of Energy wants to reclassify some of the waste that meets highly technical conditions.
    • The agency says the change could save the federal government $40 billion in cleanup costs at nuclear sites across the nation.
    • About 56 million gallons of radioactive and hazardous chemical wastes are stored in tanks in Washington state.
    • Environmentalists fear a U.S. Department of Energy proposal to reclassify some radioactive waste left from the production of nuclear weapons is simply a way to abandon the cleanup of places like the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state.The Trump administration proposal to lower the status of some high-level radioactive waste would make disposal cheaper and easier. Reclassifying the material to low-level could save the agency billions of dollars and decades of work by essentially leaving the material in the ground, critics say.
    • The proposal joins a long list of Trump administration efforts to loosen environmental protections. Just last week, the Environmental Protection Agency acted to ease rules on the sagging U.S. coal industry.Tom Carpenter of Hanford Challenge, a nuclear watchdog group, said it wants a thorough cleanup of the Washington state nuclear site, which is half the size of Rhode Island. That includes building a national repository somewhere else to bury the waste once it has been stabilized.
  • “The cleanup of the site is really at stake,” Carpenter said about the proposed change.

    He noted that Hanford is located in an environmentally sensitive site adjacent to the Columbia River and susceptible to earthquakes, volcanoes and flooding.

  • Hanford was established by the Manhattan Project in World War II to make plutonium, a key ingredient in the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. The plant went on to produce most of the plutonium for the nation’s nuclear arsenal.As a result, the site also contains the nation’s largest collection of nuclear waste. The most dangerous is stored in 177 aging underground tanks, some of which have leaked. The tanks hold some 56 million gallons of radioactive and hazardous chemical wastes waiting to be treated for permanent disposal.Cleanup efforts at Hanford have been underway since the late 1980s and cost about $2 billion a year.

    Current law defines high-level radioactive waste as resulting from processing irradiated nuclear fuel that is highly radioactive. The Energy Department wants to reclassify some of the waste that meets highly technical conditions.

    The agency says the change could save the federal government $40 billion in cleanup costs across the nation’s entire nuclear weapons complex, which includes the Savannah River Plant in South Carolina and Idaho National Laboratory.

  • Environmental groups and the state of Washington, which has a legal commitment with the Energy Department to oversee the Hanford cleanup, said the proposal is a concern.”They see it as a way to get cleanup done faster and less expensively,'” said Alex Smith of the Washington state Department of Ecology.Carpenter said there “is not much point in doing much else if they don’t clean up the high-level waste.”

    At the request of U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, the agency extended the public comment period on the proposal to Jan. 9. The agency can make the change without the approval of Congress.

    “No one disputes the difficulty of retrieving and treating high-level waste from Hanford’s aging storage tanks,” Wyden wrote to the DOE. “However, lowering the bar for level of protection of future generations and the environment by changing the definition of what has always been considered high-level waste requiring permanent disposal is a significant change.”

Advertisements

December 13, 2018 - Posted by | USA, wastes

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: