This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 18, 2011 5:13 AM. The previous post in this blog was Portland school construction bond election tightening up. The next post in this blog is Tri-Met looking ever more pitiful. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Look out, DNA, here they go

They're sending more brave souls into a melted-down reactor at Fukushima, Japan today. Crews are heading into unit 2 to check radiation levels in the plant. Apparently there are no working remote sensors to do the work, so human beings have to go in. Given the extreme radiation levels found in the building housing reactor no. 1, it's not likely that the workers will be dawdling.

Meanwhile, there's been some interesting nuke news closer to home. U.S. nuclear power plants use the same types of vents and valves that failed in Japan, causing the explosions that sent the airborne radioactivity all over the Northern Hemisphere. It can't happen here? Don't kid yourself.

And here in the Pacific Northwest, the never-ceasing battle over how much nuclear garbage the federal government can import into the Hanford Nuclear Reservation heated up a bit last night. Hanford, on the banks of the Columbia River in south central Washington, is already the site of some of the worst radioactive contamination anywhere on the planet. Given that it's messed up beyond restoration, the temptation is great to bring in and dump more nasties that other folks don't want. The latest proposal is for shallow burial at Hanford of nuclear waste that's charitably known as "greater than Class C," coming mostly from nuclear power plants but also from some medical facilities. It's highly radioactive garbage -- way worse than the "low level" waste that's already shipped into Hanford on a routine basis by commercial outfits from all over.

All the usual huffing and puffing that comes with plans to dump nuclear waste anywhere are being revisited at Hanford, with the same old arguments being heard on both sides that have bounced around town hall meetings on the subject for many decades now. If the feds stick the GTCC waste at Hanford, a lot of it will be cruising on Portland freeways at high speeds as it rolls into the region from points south. If it gets into the groundwater under the dump site, it will soon be found in the Columbia River.

Hanford and its neighbors have already suffered enough from the radiation that place has already produced. To bring in more hazards would be the exact opposite of fairness. But when it comes to the nuclear industry, it's all about convenience, and money of course. Fairness isn't anywhere to be found on the template.

Comments (5)

Hey other states ,
You make waste , You keep it.

Hanford is already a very bad idea , putting all that horrific material in a major watershed is beyond stupid , it is criminal.

Because , you know major rivers never flood ,
[like in the midwest right now]

from the Oregonian, "One of six vote-counting machines had not been properly connected into the network."


And they think those of us who doubt their integrity have no basis for our skepticism.

It’s not only the danger of accidents that opponents of the DOE’s plans are worried about.

According to the Hanford Watchdog group, Heart of America Northwest, Hanford is the most contaminated site in the Western Hemisphere. Nuclear waste has been dumped there for more than 60 years. Plutonium was both produced and stored there. High level radioactive and chemical wastes, including Plutonium, were dumped into 40 miles of unlined trenches.

In July of 2010, the New York Times reported that much more plutonium was produced and stored at Hanford than the government admits, with 11655 kg of plutonium now stored on site, more than 12 tons. One speck of plutonium inhaled is enough to cause cancer. Plutonium is radioactive for 240,000 years, longer than the time humans have been on earth.

Rather than clean up Hanford, it is one of six sites the DOE is considering as a permanent repository for “GTCC LLNW”-- Greater than Class C Low Level Nuclear Waste-- with two loads a day passing through Portland for twenty years. Don’t let the words “low level” confuse you-- Class C “Low Level” Nuclear Waste is waste that is dangerous for UP TO 500 years. “Greater than Class C Low Level Nuclear Waste.” is hot for more than 500 years. The DOE’s own figures for similar shipments of high level waste projected, even if things go smoothly, 800 fatal cancers along the truck route from the shipments.

The DOE proposal also would convert the Hanford Reactor-- now run by an outfit called “Energy Northwest”-- to a plutonium reactor, fueled by a mixture of Uranium and Plutonium. All the Plutonium waste from our nuclear programs, military and commercial, would be shipped to Hanford and burned on-site to produce nuclear power. This would solve the government’s problem of what to do with the tons and tons of plutonium produced during weapons production and commercial nuclear reaction. The spent fuel rods, which would also contain plutonium, which would be stored on site in spent fuel cooling ponds right above the reactor itself, as they are above the mox reactor at Fukushima.

Plutonium fuel operates at a higher temperature than uranium fuel and has a lower melting point, so it produces more radioactive gases. Because it has a higher decay heat, it is at greater risk for catching fire.

Today radioactive and toxic contamination flows into the Columbia River, which flows through Hanford for fifty miles, at levels as high as 1,500 times the federal Drinking Water Standard. Over a million gallons of deadly liquid High-Level Nuclear Waste has leaked from tanks at Hanford, and over 1.7 trillion  gallons of these deadly wastes was dumped into the soil. The contamination is spreading towards the River faster than the federal Energy Department (USDOE) claimed was possible.

Rather, than try to do whatever is possible to remediate the damage already done at Hanford, the DOE proposes to almost double the amount of waste stored there.

The DOE is holding hearings tomorrow (May 19) from 5:30 to 9:30 PM at the Doubletree Hotel at 1000 NE Multnomah St. Online registration to testify is closed now, but people can sign a signup sheet on site. The government information site on the hearings and the plan is at

And the Hanford watchdog group Heart of America Northwest has much information on Hanford and on the hearings at http://www.hoanw.org/index.cfm

A "mox" reactor means a reactor fueled by a mixture of Uranium and Plutonium. One of the reactors at Fukushima is a mox reactor, and the DOE proposes to convert the nuclear plant on the Hanford site, the one nuclear plant in Washington State, to mox fuel.

You can check beta radiation levels via your android phone. Portland monitoring station is online as I post this.


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