Nine Questions about Hanford And Nuclear Waste; Does Anyone Have Answers?

Photo via Peace Action West/Flickr

by Lauren Paulson

1. Are the nuclear reactors from decommissioned U.S. submarines still being barged up the Columbia River to be deposited at Hanford?

2. Is there a nuclear waste-contaminated water plume leaching its way to the Columbia River? If so, when is it expected to infect the Columbia River water table? Is other low level nuclear waste presently being deposited at Hanford?

3. Is it true that the government still has Hanford on the nuclear waste list of government sites to receive nuclear waste in the future?

4. Reed College has a nuclear reactor. Last year nuclear fuel was delivered to Reed. From where and why? Where does their nuclear waste go?

5. What nuclear waste is still at the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant? What is the plan for that? While nuclear power plants are shut down, isn’t it true we have no plan for what to do with nuclear waste from closed sites like Three Mile Island and other nuclear power plants?

6. The Nuclear Regulatory Agency has recently had severe political fallout resulting in a no confidence vote taken by the four members against the chairman. Why?

7. A wealthy Republican donor wants to deliver nuclear waste to Texas. From where and why?

8. Recently, I talked to a worker on the Vitrification containers being built at Swan Island in Portland, Oregon. He thinks they are making it up as they go. There is an unbelievable number of changes being made to the containers. Exactly what is the state of this art, or is it science?

9. U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas warned Oregonians in 1970 that we did not know what to do with nuclear waste. Did anybody pay any attention to him? Why not?

  2 comments for “Nine Questions about Hanford And Nuclear Waste; Does Anyone Have Answers?

  1. Chris
    April 22, 2012 at 11:14 PM


    Transitioning our energy economy and infrastructure from its current state to one where technological improvements and reduced consumption allow us to satisfy our energy needs using “green”/clean/sustainable energy sources will optimistically take DECADES. In the meantime we still need to generate energy, and the way we’re primarily doing that now is though oil, coal, and natural gas – methods which produce literally thousands of tons of greenhouse gases and carcinogens that vent directly into our atmosphere because even with filtration we can’t contain all the waste.

    While nuclear power does present the problem of long-term waste storage, at least until we come up with a viable way to turn that waste into something less harmful, the idea that an energy source that produces a small amount of waste that is easily contained is somehow worse than one that belches gigantic clouds of pollution into the air is not merely a matter of personal opinion – it is profoundly ignorant.

    While it’s true that sites such as Hanford demonstrate how incompetently nuclear waste can be (and is) handled, the choice we face is not between nuclear power and safety, but between nuclear power and something else that is easily as deadly, if not more so, in its own way.

    It’s too bad the national conversation about nuclear power is driven by science alarmism and falling educational standards.

  2. April 24, 2012 at 3:06 PM

    There are other types of reactors, though few know about them, that don’t have the waste problems our current reactors have (light water reactors, LWR), and that don’t have the steam/hydrogen explosion risks.

    The long-term waste can be Used, as fuel, in a completely different reactor. We operated one for 5 years, then stopped for political reasons.

    LFTR doesn’t need water at all, so can’t have steam explosions, is cooled by molten salt instead.

    LFTR can use LWR waste as fuel, and since the fuel is molten, consume it completely. (It’s only the fuel rods that make LWR consume less than 2% of the fuel!)

    See LFTR for how a “molten salt reactor” such as the liquid fluoride thorium reactor, can consume nuclear waste, how much safer they are, how to generate CO2-neutral vehicle fuel, how they’d do in an earthquake, how much less money they’d cost to build.

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