The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

First load of nuclear waste from Andreeva Bay arrives in Mayak, Now starts the reprocessing of Russia’s Arctic Cold War-era legacy next door the the plant where Stalin’s first nuclear bomb was made. Thomas Nilsen, August 17, 2017 

The train carrying the first containers with spent nuclear fuel from the Northern Fleet’s rundown storage facility on the Kola Peninsula arrived on August 14, the information portal of Mayak informs.

Mayak is the enterprise in the closed town of Ozyorsk in the South-Urals where Russia’s only reprocessing plant for spent nuclear fuel is located.

Formerly known under the code-name Chelyabinsk-65, the secret town was the birthplace of Josef Stalin’s nuclear weapon program with several plutonium production reactors and processing plant for nuclear warheads material. Nowadays, the plutonium extracted from the reprocessing plant, is stored and could possible be used for so-called MOX-fuel, a mixture of uranium and plutonium for civilian nuclear power reactors.

The reprocessing plant to handle the fuel elements from Andreeva Bay storage, named RT-1, was first opened in 1977. From the early 1980ties, after Andreeva Bay stoped to receive more spent nuclear fuel from submarines, all uranium elements from the Northern Fleet and the Murmansk based fleet of civilian nuclear icebreakers were sent to the Mayak plant by train, from Murmansk and from Severodvinsk.

On June 27, the first batch with 470 spent fuel elements left Andreeva Bay. On the quay were both Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende and Rosatom’s Director General Alexei Likhachev.

August 18, 2017 Posted by | Russia, wastes | Leave a comment

Japan’s massive accumulation of nuclear weapons-usable plutonium

Japan’s intentional plutonium surplus ByAlan J. Kuperman, KYODO NEWS , 17 Aug 17,

 Japan owns nearly 50 tons of separated plutonium. That is enough for over 5,000 nuclear weapons. Yet Japan has no feasible peaceful use for most of this material.

This raises an obvious question: How did a country that forswears nuclear arms come to possess more weapons-usable plutonium than most countries that do have nuclear arsenals?

Some argue it is the unforeseen consequence of unexpected events, such as the failure of Japan’s experimental Monju breeder reactor, or the Fukushima accident that compelled Japan to shut down traditional nuclear power plants.

Indeed, Kyodo News quoted a former U.S. government official last year making such a claim. He asserted that “The accumulation of plutonium by Japan was not anticipated by Congress or any agency of the U.S. government,” when Washington in 1988 gave Japan 30-year approval to separate plutonium from spent fuel originally supplied by the United States or irradiated in U.S.-technology reactors.

But that is false.

Japan’s massive accumulation of nuclear weapons-usable plutonium was foreseen three decades ago.

In testimony submitted to the U.S. Congress in March 1988, and published that year, Dr. Milton Hoenig of the Nuclear Control Institute — where I worked at the time — documented how Japan’s planned separation of plutonium from spent fuel greatly exceeded its planned recycling of such plutonium in fresh fuel. The inevitable result, he predicted, was that Japan would accumulate enormous amounts of separated plutonium.

As his testimony detailed: “By the end of the year 2017…according to present plans, about 255 metric tons of Japanese-produced plutonium will have been separated in reprocessing plants in Japan and Europe. The announced plans of Japan demand the use of some 130 metric tons of separated plutonium as reactor fuel through the year 2017, mainly in light-water reactors in a commercial program to begin in 1997.”

Thus, he concluded, Japan’s declared plans would yield 125 tons of surplus plutonium by 2017.

Subsequent unforeseen events did not cause Japan’s huge plutonium stockpile, as the U.S. official claimed, but actually reduced it somewhat. Notably, Japan has postponed the commercial operation of its huge Rokkasho reprocessing plant, which could separate another eight tons of plutonium each year.

The hard truth is that creation of a plutonium surplus was not an accident but the inevitable consequence of Japanese nuclear policy that the U.S. government acquiesced to in 1988.

Why did Japan intentionally acquire a stockpile of plutonium sufficient for thousands of nuclear weapons? Neighboring countries suspect it is to provide Japan the option of quickly assembling a large nuclear arsenal. Not surprisingly, both China and South Korea are now pursuing options to separate more plutonium from their own spent nuclear fuel.

Three urgent steps are necessary to avert this latent regional arms race. First, Japan should terminate its Rokkasho plant, which is an economic, environmental, and security disaster. The last thing Japan needs is more surplus plutonium.

Second, the United States and Japan should seize the opportunity of their expiring 1988 deal to renegotiate new terms restricting plutonium separation, which could also serve as a model for ongoing U.S.-South Korea nuclear negotiations.

Finally, innovative thinking is needed to shrink Japan’s plutonium stockpile. In light of the worldwide failure of breeder reactors, and post-Fukushima constraints on traditional reactors, most of Japan’s plutonium will never become fuel. Instead, it should be disposed of as waste. The U.S. government has recently made a similar decision, abandoning plans to use recovered weapons plutonium in fuel and instead intending to bury it.

U.S.-Japan collaboration to dispose of surplus plutonium in a safe, secure and economical manner could help make up for the misguided bilateral decisions that created this problem 30 years ago.

(Alan J. Kuperman is associate professor and coordinator of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project — — at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin.)

August 18, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, Japan | Leave a comment

Another big nuclear problem in Asia – accumulation of plutonium

Tokyo and Washington Have Another Nuclear Problem, Foreign Policy, BY HENRY SOKOLSKIWILLIAM TOBEY, AUGUST 17, This week, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera are meeting in Washington with their U.S. counterparts, Rex Tillerson and James Mattis, to discuss how the United States and Japan should respond to the latest North Korean provocations. This is wise; only through close cooperation with Japan and South Korea, and by working with China, will we be able to address effectively the nuclear threat Pyongyang poses.

       ….Finally, there is South Korea, which has long complained that Washington has prohibited Seoul from reprocessing U.S.-origin spent reactor fuel, although Japan is permitted to do so. South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, is an opponent of nuclear power plants and may not continue to push for such rights under the U.S.-ROK civilian nuclear cooperative agreement. His political opponents (Moon won his election with only a 40 percent plurality), however, are eager to secure such an option. Indeed, some opposition party figures have spoken openly of a South Korean nuclear weapons option.

Not surprisingly, all of this plutonium production planning has raised regional fears and antipathy……..

Fortunately, there is a simple fix. The Trump administration, which has zeroed funding for a U.S. capacity to make plutonium-based reactor fuel, should encourage Japan along with China and South Korea to defer proceeding with their own planned programs……

North Korea is an important problem, but it is not the only nuclear issue in Northeast Asia. If the United States, China, Japan, and South Korea can head-off a plutonium production capacity race, they will not only make joint action on Pyongyang’s nukes easier, they will prevent a potentially deeper crisis in the future. This too should be on the agenda for Secretaries Tillerson and Mattis.

August 18, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, ASIA | Leave a comment

Proposed nuclear waste site – too close to Ottawa River

Bloc Quebecois, environmentalists wary of proposed nuclear waste disposal plan, Mylene Crete, The Canadian Press , August 11, 2017 CHALK RIVER, Ont. — A proposed nuclear waste disposal site on land around Chalk River Laboratories is too close to the Ottawa River, says Bloc Quebecois Leader Martine Ouellet.

A significant percentage of Quebecers use the river for their drinking water and a leak could be catastrophic, Ouellet told reporters while touring the nuclear facilities in Chalk River, Ont., earlier this week.

“Radioactivity, just like heavy crude oil, doesn’t go away,” she said. “You can’t say, ‘we have contamination, we are going to clean it up.’ It can’t be cleaned.”……

Ottawa subcontracts the management of the site to Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), a consortium of four engineering and tech companies including SNC-Lavalin and Rolls-Royce.

CNL says it wants to consolidate all the nuclear waste around the site in one location, so it can be monitored, contained and isolated…….

Ouellet said CNL didn’t look for other disposal sites further away from the river.

“I have not been reassured because their so-called best site, it’s located on their territory of Chalk River and they didn’t look outside the area because of the costs involved,” she said. Kehler said CNL did look for other locations.

“We have considered the possibility of moving radioactive material elsewhere, but people wouldn’t be in favour of that,” Kehler said. “And the waste is already here.”

CNL’s plan is to create a facility that can hold up to 1,000 cubic metres of nuclear waste for up to 50 years.

Benoit Delage, an environmentalist in Quebec’s Outaouais region, said it’s a bad idea.

“The idea of building a nuclear waste depot one kilometre away from a river that feeds a large part of the Quebec population, there is something missing there,” he said. “Anyone can tell you it doesn’t make sense.”

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission needs to conduct an environmental review of CNL’s depot proposal.

Public consultations will also take place. Quebec’s environment minister has asked the federal government to hold the hearings in Quebec in order for them to be close to the people potentially impacted by the plan.

August 12, 2017 Posted by | Canada, wastes, water | Leave a comment

Secret for 2 months – NRC’s decision to revive Yucca Mountain high-level radioactive waste dump licensing

Beyond Nuclear 8th Aug 2017, Even though the three currently serving U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
(NRC) Commissioners voted by June 9th in favor of reviving the
long-suspended Yucca Mountain high-level radioactive waste dump licensing
proceeding, they didn’t bother to tell the public till two months later!

On August 8th, the vote count documents were at long last revealed. By a 2-1
vote, the NRC Commissioners voted to fund the beginning of the resumption
of Yucca Mountain licensing proceeding. NRC Chairman Kristine Svinicki, and
NRC Commissioner Stephen Burns, voted in favor of resuming the proceeding;
NRC Commissioner Jeff Baran voted against resuming the proceeding.

August 12, 2017 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

South Korea: nuclear phaseout much cheaper than nuclear maintenance

By Kim Sung-hwan, staff reporter New report finds that nuclear power phaseout could save nearly $17 billion in maintenance costs

The cost of managing the “spent nuclear fuel” irradiated in nuclear plants has steadily increased and now exceeds 64 trillion won (US$57.2 billion), a new report confirms. If the government implements its policy of a nuclear phaseout, it could reduce this maintenance cost by as much as 19 trillion won (US$16.9 billion), according to the report.

A report on the current maintenance cost for spent nuclear fuel that Minjoo Party lawmaker Lee Hun, a member of the National Assembly’s Industry, Trade, Resources and SME Committee, received from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on July 25 states that as of 2016 the cost needed to maintain the spent nuclear fuel for 36 nuclear reactors (including one that is permanently shuttered, 24 that are operational, five that are under construction and six whose construction is planned) is 64.13 trillion won. “The Radioactive Waste Maintenance Cost Calculation Committee, which determines the cost of spent nuclear fuel, calculated that the project cost as of 2016 was 64.13 trillion won, but the government has been publishing the project cost calculated in 2015 [of 53.28 trillion won],” Lee said.

“Since we were unable to submit a motion for approval of the project cost to the cost management review board at the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, we included the previous year’s project cost in the basic plan for managing high-level radioactive waste, which was released in July of that year,” the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in regard to why it had published an outdated project cost. The project cost for maintaining spent nuclear fuel has been steadily increasing as more nuclear reactors have been built, rising from 22.62 trillion won (with 28 reactors) between 2004 and 2012 to 53.28 trillion won (with 34 reactors) from 2013 to 2015.

The project cost has been increasing because of the need to keep building interim storage facilities inside the nuclear reactors to store spent nuclear fuel and the need to set aside a reserve fund for permanently disposing this waste (and no decision has been reached about where or how this waste will be disposed). “The project cost has increased because the cost of regional support, including storage fees, and the contingency preparation cost, including the cost of insurance, had not been explicitly included. We need to calculate the figures more specifically by launching another public debate about spent nuclear fuel,” the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said.

But implementing the government’s policy of a nuclear phaseout could shave around 19 trillion won off the spent nuclear fuel project cost, the report says. While 64.13 trillion won is required for 36 reactors (including Shin-Kori reactors 5 and 6, on which construction is currently suspended, and the reactors whose construction is planned), the cost for 28 reactors (including Shin-Kori 4 and Shin-Hanul 1 and 2, which have been completely built) would be 44.89 trillion won. The total cost of decommissioning nuclear reactors could be reduced by as much as 5.15 trillion won under the policy of the nuclear phaseout, the report found. The cost of decommissioning a single reactor was 59.5 billion won when it was first calculated in 1983, but by 2015, this had increased to 643.7 billion won.

“The government is deceiving the public when it publishes a lower project cost. Considering that the post-processing costs for nuclear reactors are increasing astronomically and that safety concerns continue to be raised about the unprecedented concentration of nuclear reactors, this is a situation that calls for serious deliberation and a reasonable social consensus about phasing out nuclear power,” Lee said.

August 11, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, South Korea, wastes | Leave a comment

NRC’s vote for Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site – “A Waste of Taxpayer Money”

Heller Calls Latest Nuclear Regulatory Commission Vote, “A Waste of Taxpayer Money”

Senator Dean Heller released a statement on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s vote to use past unobligated funds for work related to its review of the Department of Energy’s application for authorization to construct a high-level radioactive waste repository at Yucca Mountain. Heller says it’s another waste of taxpayer money on a failed project that has already cost the federal government billions of dollars over the past 30 years. It’s irresponsible for the NRC to move forward on Yucca Mountain given that it’s unknown how much funding if any it will ultimately receive. Heller calls it a reckless and fiscally irresponsible decision to throw more taxpayer dollars on a project that Nevada continues to reject.

August 11, 2017 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

South Carolina sues federal government over plutonium left behind

SC Attorney General sues feds for $100 million over plutonium left behind, BY JOHN MONK, AUGUST 08, 2017 

The South Carolina Attorney General’s Office announced Tuesday it has filed a lawsuit against the federal government seeking to recover an eye-catching $100 million it says the U.S. Department of Energy owes the state for failing to make good on a promise to remove one ton of plutonium from the Savannah River Site this year.

“A case of such magnitude has never been filed by South Carolina against the federal government,” a press release from the attorney general’s office said.

The press release said that Congress mandated that the U.S. Department of Energy would pay South Carolina $1 million per day, beginning Jan. 1, 2016, for every day the department failed to remove from the state one metric ton of weapons-grade defense plutonium. The requirement is in place during the first 100 days of each year from 2016 through 2021.

“The Department of Energy has failed to process or remove the plutonium or pay the state the $100 million owed for 2016 or 2017. This lawsuit seeks the recovery of the $100 million owed for 2017,” the press release said……

August 9, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, Legal, USA | Leave a comment

Near public Highway 240 at Hanford, plutonium detected in air

Plutonium detected in air near public Highway 240 at Hanford, BY ANNETTE CARY,, AUGUST 08, 2017 Radioactive plutonium and americium have been found in air samples collected at the Rattlesnake Barricade just off public Highway 240, where workers enter the secure area of the Hanford nuclear reservation, according to the state Department of Health.

Air samples were collected by the Department of Health on June 8, the day that workers at the Plutonium Finishing Plant were ordered to take cover indoors because of an airborne release of radioactive particles during demolition of the highly contaminated facility.

Analysis results for the air samples were received Monday, Department of Health officials said at a Hanford Advisory Board committee meeting Tuesday in Richland.

The levels of contamination in the samples were “very, very low,” said John Martell, manager of the Radioactive Air Emissions Section of the Department of Health Office…….

August 9, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, USA | Leave a comment

USA EPA pledges to clean up thorium contaminated Ridgewood site

EPA pledges $39M to clean Ridgewood site   Five businesses to relocate when radioactive cleanup work begins.  Thursday, August 3, 2017  by Christopher Barca, Associate Editor 

The Environmental Protection Agency is pouring nearly $40 million into the rehabilitation of a former Ridgewood factory that once produced radioactive materials for the Manhattan Project.

More than three years after the EPA first declared the plot of land on the Ridgewood-Bushwick border between 1125 and 1139 Irving Ave. a federal Superfund site, the agency announced last Friday it plans to spend $39.4 million on extensive, long-term remediation efforts there.

“Today’s comprehensive cleanup proposal addresses potential long-term risks through a combination of response actions,” the EPA’s announcement reads, “including permanent relocation of commercial businesses, demolishing contaminated buildings, excavating contaminated soil and cleaning or replacing contaminated sewers.”

To further discuss the plan, the EPA will hold a public meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 16 at the Audrey Johnson Day Care Center, located at 272 Moffat St., just one block south of the site in question.

The Wolff-Alport Chemical Co. occupied the plot of land in question from 1920 until 1954 and processed imported monazite sand among other chemicals.

Monazite contains up to 8 percent thorium, a radioactive element that the company sold to the federal government for use in the Manhattan Project, the top-secret program aimed at developing the atomic bombs that were eventually dropped on Japan during World War II.

During and after Wolff-Alport’s aiding of the Manhattan Project, the company regularly dumped thorium waste into the sewer system and on its property until 1947, when the Atomic Energy Commission ordered it to stop.

Wolff-Alport continued to sell thorium products to the government until 1954.

The EPA began investigating the level of contamination at the site in 2012, with the agency discovering radon gas leaks at two locations in and around it — in addition to higher than normal contamination levels below public sidewalks and in the sewer system.

About $2 million in short-term remediation efforts to curb the leaking of the harmful gas was spent at the time.

To further rectify the situation, the EPA plans to permanently relocate five businesses -— including a deli, a pair of auto body shops, a construction company and a warehouse — before tearing down the former factory buildings they reside in.

The EPA said it will “support and assist” the relocation of those entities.

Once that is complete, the agency will then excavate about 24,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil and dispose of it off-site, eliminating the potential threat of long-term health impacts posed by the radiation.

That solution is something Community Board 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri Jr. advocated for years ago. Citing Wolff-Alport’s role in the secretive Manhattan Project, he told the Chronicle in 2014 there may have been operations at the former factory that weren’t ever made public — resulting in more contamination than believed.

“The real approach is to demolish and excavate the entire site,” Arcuri said, “in order to see what the extent of the contamination is.”

Also in 2014, the EPA released a 39-page report about the hazards at the Ridgewood site. While it was strongly worded at times, the report said radiation levels of 1,133 picocuries per gram were observed during one on-site visit.

That amount equates to about one-millionth of a millicure. In comparison, a heart scan produces about 30 millicuries of radiation.

Despite the seemingly low levels of hazardous materials, the EPA plugged a hole in an unoccupied storage area of nearby IS 384, from which radon gas was seeping, in addition to placing lead and steel shields underneath area sidewalks and building floors.

The agency said last Friday that those actions have sufficiently brought down the levels of radiation, while EPA spokesman Elias Rodriguez said the school will not be subjected to any further remediation efforts.

“Our sampling and assessment shows that IS 384 is not being impacted by the contamination at Wolff-Alport,” Rodriguez said in a Monday email.

In addition to the Aug. 16 meeting, the EPA is accepting public comments on the proposal through Aug. 28.

They can be emailed to EPA Remedial Project Manager Thomas Mongelli at

August 5, 2017 Posted by | thorium, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

UK’s Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) fails to produce a plan for dealing with high activity radioactive waste.

Get Reading 1st Aug 2017, Something has gone seriously wrong’ at AWE Aldermaston, says nuclear expert. Government inspectors raised serious concerns when the warhead factory failed to produce a plan for dealing with high activity radioactive waste.

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) says the factory will continue to be “subject to an enhanced level of regulatory attention”. AWE Aldermaston, which has been run by AWE Management Limited since 2000, was first placed under special measures by the Government regulator in 2013.

August 4, 2017 Posted by | UK, wastes | Leave a comment

Nuclear weapons wastes polluting America’s soil: 12 hotspots

The Invisible War On American Soil, Topic, 29 July 17  Photographs by Nina Berman

War is a dirty, dirty business. Beyond the damage inflicted on the battlefields themselves, every part of a military operation marks the earth. From munitions factories to massive supply lines, collateral costs abound.GIVEN THE SIZE OF OUR DEFENSE BUDGETS, it should come as no surprise that the United States military is one of the planet’s most prolific and chronic polluters. Perhaps more surprising is that this impacts life within the U.S. as well as overseas. Vast stretches of the American landscape are contaminated by the business of war and armed aggression; it’s littered with unexploded ordnance, toxic chemicals, depleted uranium, radioactive particles, and more.

In this essay, we examine seven such sites of environmental damage wrought by the nation’s military and its weapons contractors. The places range from sites in New Mexico, where nuclear weapons have been produced, to the Passaic River in New Jersey, where dioxin from Agent Orange used during the Vietnam War has poisoned the riverbed. As the technology of warfare changes, so has its impact, with current contamination coming from the skies—such as on Whidbey Island, Washington, where Navy testing of EA-18G Growler planes might be making residents ill.


Acid Canyon; Los Alamos, New Mexico……

Trinity Site; White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico……

Haystack Mine; Haystack Mountain, New Mexico……

White Sands Missile Range Museum; New Mexico……

Luis Lopez Cemetery; New Mexico……

San Antonio, New Mexico…….

Fort Wingate, New Mexico …..

Whidbey Island, Washington…..

Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge; Madison, Indiana…..

Near the Starmet Superfund site; Concord, Massachusetts…..

Passaic River; Lyndhurst, New Jersey…..

Tularosa, New Mexico…..

July 31, 2017 Posted by | Reference, USA, wastes, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Piketon’s village government opposes USA D4pt of Energy’s plans for radioactive waste dump

Piketon, DOE spar over proposed on-site waste site, ChillicotheGazette, Chris Balusik, Reporter, July 30, 2017 PIKETON – As those involved with cleanup operations at the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon celebrate the most recent funding allocated for work to create an on-site waste disposal facility, officials within Piketon’s village government are stepping up efforts to prove that work should be stopped.

July 31, 2017 Posted by | USA, wastes | Leave a comment

Japan’s government selects hundreds of coastal sites as potentially suitable for radioactive trash dumps

METI maps out suitable nuclear waste disposal sites, Japan Times, 28 July 17 KYODO The government on Friday unveiled a nationwide map of potential disposal sites for high-level nuclear waste that identifies coastal areas as “favorable” and those near active faults as unsuitable.

Based on the map, the government is expected to ask the municipalities involved to let researchers study whether sites on their land can host atomic waste disposal sites.

 But the process promises to be both difficult and complicated as public concern lingers over the safety of nuclear power since the triple core meltdown in Fukushima Prefecture in March 2011.

The map, illustrated in four colors indicating the suitability of geological conditions, was posted on the website of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry…..

To permanently dispose of high-level nuclear waste, it must be stored at a repository more than 300 meters underground so it cannot harm human life or the environment.

The map identifies about 70 percent of Japan as suitable for hosting nuclear dumps. Up to 900 municipalities, or half of the nation’s total, encompass coastal areas deemed favorable for permanent waste storage.

Areas near active faults, volcanoes and oil fields, which are potential drilling sites, are deemed unsuitable because of “presumed unfavorable characteristics,” and hence colored in orange and silver on the map.

The other areas are classified as possessing “relatively high potential” and colored in light green.

Among the potential areas, zones that are within 20 km (12 miles) of the coastline are deemed especially favorable in terms of waste transportation and colored in green. The ministry formulated the classification standards in April.

Parts of giant Fukushima Prefecture, where decontamination and recovery efforts remain underway from the mega-quake, tsunami and triple core meltdown of March 2011, are also suitable, according to the map. But Seko said the government has no plans at this stage to impose an additional burden on the prefecture.

Seko also signaled that Aomori Prefecture, which hosts a nuclear fuel reprocessing facility, is exempt from the hunt because the prefectural government and the state have agreed not to build a nuclear waste disposal facility there.

Japan, like many other countries with nuclear power plants, is struggling to find a permanent geological site suitable for hosting a disposal repository. Finland and Sweden are the only countries worldwide to have picked final disposal sites.

July 29, 2017 Posted by | Japan, wastes | Leave a comment

Hanford nuclear waste site – a national disaster they don’t want to talk about.

“Nobody in the world has waste like ours,” says one of my guides as we enter the site. No one has so much strontium 90, for instance, which behaves a lot like calcium and lodges inside the bones of any living creatures it penetrates, basically forever. Along with chromium and tritium and carbon tetrachloride and iodine 129 and the other waste products of a plutonium factory it is already present in Hanford’s groundwater. There are other nuclear-waste sites in the United States, but two-thirds of all the waste is here. Beneath Hanford a massive underground glacier of radioactive sludge is moving slowly, but relentlessly, toward the Columbia River.

The place is now an eerie deconstruction site, with ghost towns on top of ghost towns. Much of the old plutonium plant still stands: the husks of the original nine reactors, built in the 1940s, still line the Columbia River, like grain elevators. Their doors have been welded shut, and they have been left to decay—for another century.

 Only one stakeholder in the place wanted to know what was going on beneath its soil: the tribes. 

WHY THE SCARIEST NUCLEAR THREAT MAY BE COMING FROM INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE, Vanity Fair, BY  MICHAEL LEWISSeptember 2017  “………By the early 1940s the United States government understood that for democracy to survive it needed to beat Hitler to the atom bomb, and that the race had two paths—one required enriched uranium, the other plutonium. In early 1943, the United States Army was evicting everyone from an area in Eastern Washington nearly half the size of Rhode Island and setting out to create plutonium in order to build a nuclear bomb. The site of Hanford was chosen for its proximity to the Columbia River, which could supply the cooling water while its dams provided the electricity needed to make plutonium. Hanford was also chosen for its remoteness: the army was worried about both enemy attacks and an accidental nuclear explosion. Hanford was, finally, chosen for its poverty. It was convenient that what would become the world’s largest public-works project arose in a place from which people had to be paid so little to leave.

From 1943 until 1987, as the Cold War was ending and Hanford closed its reactors, the place created two-thirds of the plutonium in the United States’ arsenal—a total of 70,000 nuclear weapons since 1945. You’d like to think that if anyone had known the environmental consequences of plutonium, or if anyone could have been certain that the uranium bomb would work, they’d never have done here what they did. “Plutonium is hard to produce,” said MacWilliams. “And hard to get rid of.” By the late 1980s the state of Washington had gained some clarity on just how hard and began to negotiate with the U.S. government. In the ensuing agreement the United States promised to return Hanford to a condition where, as MacWilliams put it, “kids can eat the dirt.” When I asked him to guess what it would cost to return Hanford to the standards now legally required, he said, “A century and a hundred billion dollars.” And that was a conservative estimate.

More or less overnight Hanford went from the business of making plutonium to the even more lucrative business of cleaning it up. In its last years of production the plutonium plant employed around 9,000 people. It still employs 9,000 people and pays them even more than it used to. “It’s a good thing that we live in a country that cares enough to take the time it will take, and spend the money it will spend, to clean up the legacy of the Cold War,” said MacWilliams. “In Russia they just drop concrete on the stuff and move on.”

The Department of Energy wires 10 percent of its annual budget, or $3 billion a year, into this tiny place and intends to do so until the radioactive mess is cleaned up. And even though what is now called the Tri-Cities area is well populated and amazingly prosperous—yachts on the river, $300 bottles of wine in the bistros—the absolute worst thing that could happen to it is probably not a nuclear accident. The worst thing that could happen is that the federal government loses interest in it and slashes the D.O.E.’s budget—as President Trump has proposed to do. And yet Trump won the county in which Hanford resides by 25 points. Continue reading

July 28, 2017 Posted by | Reference, USA, wastes | Leave a comment