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Shipping Hanford’s transuranic (TRU) tank waste to WIPP

FROM AN INQUIRER: What is your organization’s position on shipping waste to WIPP? As you know, after years and years of bitter fighting, the people of New Mexico were assured that only low level waste would be shipped there. Attempts to change that via the permitting process have been rebuffed.

Nearly two dozen nuclear facilities have unloaded waste at WIPP. To date, Hanford waste is not authorized.

I am one of many former New Mexicans living in Washington state. It’s my sincere hope that the DOE and organizations like yours will press for alternative proposals that will contain the waste at Hanford.

RESPONSE FROM PAIGE KNIGHT:

The fact is that Transurinic waste (TRU) has been coming to New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Project from many Defense Waste Sites around the country for years. The “pre-70’s” TRU has never been authorized until now. I have actually visited the salt caves there. They are pretty impressive in terms of their geology, but I cannot be assured that they will protect the future. Nothing can accurately insure that.

I am aware that citizen groups have fought the import of TRU from other sites. I understand that. After 2 decades of looking at all the issues of nuclear production and nuclear waste, I have begun to see things in a different light. The TRU waste that needs to be sent from Hanford to WIPP is, it seems the best alternative now because there are no other options than all of the nuclear sites keeping their waste on site, regardless of the lack of safety and treatment options. Hanford has taken cesium capsules from other sites over the years because of the kinds of storage we have available.

Hanford Watch is not supportive of sending all waste to the back yard of someone else. We basically believe that if you make it here, you keep it and treat it and store it, however, some places are better able due to the “safety” of a place (geology and transportation). The government has long considered that Hanford, because it is a distant desert, especially to the Eastern U.S., is the greatest place to send all waste that other sites don’t want so that they can say that their “cleanup” is complete. It just doesn’t work this way. Right now, with the waste at Hanford and other places aging and on the verge of causing untold harm to populations through waterways some accommodations need to be made. This is an incredibly complex issue with no easy answers. I can honestly state that at this point there are no alternative proposals for waste disposal while the state of the sites continues to worsen. New Mexico’s geology stands a much better chance of “protecting the future” than Hanford’s alternative or lack thereof ensure.

I know that this is not an answer that some of you want to hear or will necessarily respect. It’s the best I can give right now. Sincerely, Paige Knight, HANFORD WATCH


The latest news of 6 leaking tanks at Hanford

This latest news of the increase in Hanford tank leaks is highly disturbing. In my 20 years of working on Hanford cleanup issues, this is not the first time that the truth has come out too late.

DOE and its contractors have in the past fabricated or downplayed the data about leaks from the tanks to the environment. Their negligence in assessing the data is an ongoing problem through the last 2 + decades of the cleanup program through different leaders in the agency. I believe we really have to look at the lack of intentional and conscientious oversight of the contractors and labs that test the tanks.

This issue demands that DOE and Congress appropriate money for building new tanks to contain the waste while DOE finds its way to get the Waste Treatment Plant back on track, if that is possible. We CANNOT fail to treat millions of gallons of radioactive waste sitting in failing underground tanks, no matter if they sit far from the Columbia River, the life blood of the Pacific Northwest or the five miles from the river as they truly do.

The contractors and the DOE have created a cash cow that sucks the taxpayers dry. It is time for this mentality and practice to change and for the government and we, the people, to demand a moral and physical resolution to cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Safe storage and treatment of nuclear waste is tantamount to protecting our waterways, our health, our economy and future generations.

This will require an end to the production of nuclear waste. All nuclear reactors no matter how “small” will produce deadly waste. Cleanup is the price we pay, and that we are owed by a nuclear weapons and nuclear power industry that has been uncontrolled.

KING 5’s Gary Chittim on why Hanford matters to every Washington resident
May 2, 2013
KING 5 environmental reporter Gary Chittim talks with Susannah Frame about the dangers posed by nuclear waste at the Hanford Site. He talks about why western Washington residents should be informed about a site located 200 miles away. moreContractor discounted Hanford leak evidence for a year
Suzannah Frame, KING5, April 22, 2013
“Hanford Determines Double-Shell Tank Leaked Waste From Inner Tank.” This headline on a Department of Energy press release from last October was bigger news than it appears on first glance. For the first time, the type of massive storage tank built to hold some of the most radioactive waste in the world was found to be slowly leaking. more

Hanford Cleanup Slows While Tanks Leak, Treatment Plant Stalls
Anna King, Northwest News Network, March 25, 2013
RICHLAND, Wash. — Up to three gallons of radioactive waste per day at Hanford seeps into the desert sand from underground tanks, not far from the Columbia River. That’s prompted Washington State Governor Jay Inslee to tour the remote site along with buses full of officials and media that roll through a sea of sagebrush. more

Sealed ‘black cells’ stall Hanford tank waste cleanup
Scott Learn, The Oregonian, March 17, 2013
“One of the huge design failures is black cells,” said Tom Carpenter, executive director of the watchdog group Hanford Challenge. “Everything bad that’s flowed out of the waste treatment plant really started with that decision.” more

Q&A: What Went Wrong At Hanford?
Cassandra Profita, OPB, March 11, 2013
The past three weeks have been bumpy for the agency managing the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in south central Washington.
The Hanford site is still storing nuclear waste leftover from the World War II and Cold War plutonium production process. News that at least six storage tanks are leaking has triggered widespread concern over the massive federal clean-up process. more