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Six of Hanford's Nuclear Waste Tanks Leaking Badly

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the superhero-breeding-facility dept.

Earth 221

SchrodingerZ writes "A recent review of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state (where the bulk of Cold War nuclear material was created) has found that six of its underground storage tanks are leaking badly. Estimations say each tank is leaking 'anywhere from a few gallons to a few hundred gallons of radioactive material a year.' Washington's governor, Jay Inslee, said in a statement on Friday, 'Energy officials recently figured out they had been inaccurately measuring the 56 million gallons of waste in Hanford's tanks.' The Hanford cleanup project has been one of the most expensive American projects for nuclear cleanup. Plans are in place to create a treatment plant to turn the hazardous material into less hazardous glass (proposed to cost $13.4 billion), but for now officials are trying just to stop the leaking from the corroded tanks. Today the leaks do not have an immediate threat on the environment, but 'there is [only] 150 to 200 feet of dry soil between the tanks and the groundwater,' and they are just five miles from the Colombia River."

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Can we 3D print some new ones? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995073)

It's the future, I've been told. Surely all this old gloopy engineering and manufacturing is for Luddites? Just send a 3D printer!

GOODBYE (0)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995263)

Microsoft!

Nothing To Worry About (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995079)

These radioactive leaks are nothing to worry about. All it takes for Congress to actually do something about proper funding, regulations & oversight is a major disaster. How many people have been killed so far? None? Um, well, gee, I guess we'll have to wait until a lot of people die, or a politician or celebrity gets sick.

Re:Nothing To Worry About (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995163)

Regulation doesn't work you libtard. An unregulated FREE MARKET is the only thing that can solve this problem.

Re:Nothing To Worry About (1, Funny)

ichthyoboy (1167379) | about a year and a half ago | (#42996071)

What a great idea! How much do you plan on buying? You can probably scoop it up for pennies per gallon....

Re:Nothing To Worry About (4, Interesting)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995181)

Regulations? This was a government-run site!

As to funding, they are actively cleaning up the site.

Oversight is another mystery - the cleanup is being done by a collaboration between the Department of Energy, the EPA, and Washington State. You have 3 distinct agencies from both state and federal governments "overseeing" the project.

Re:Nothing To Worry About (1)

bbelt16ag (744938) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995337)

maybe there should be some outside scientists who go over it every few years? Perhaps a non-gov organization of interested people?

Re:Nothing To Worry About (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995467)

But the government was in charge, so they could have called in such advisers if they cared.

Re:Nothing To Worry About (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995635)

Shh.. Government solves everything and people will walk down rose lines streets.

Re:Nothing To Worry About (5, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995761)

Unbelievably, the responses so far are that the government wasn't being overseen by enough other government. Of course, then you need government to oversee the government that oversees the government.

Re:Nothing To Worry About (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995355)

Regulations? This was a government-run site!

Yes, and without regulations no-one can tell if they are running it well.
Without regulations it's impossible to say who failed to do his work properly and it's impossible to do anything about it since everyone did what they were supposed to.
With regulations it is possible for those in charge of the facility to report upwards that they don't have the necessary funds to fulfill the requirements.
Without regulations the only requirement is to spend whatever they get as efficiently as possible.

Re:Nothing To Worry About (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995465)

Wait, doesn't the government do the regulating? When the government is running the show, who the heck is the regulator?

Re:Nothing To Worry About (4, Interesting)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995767)

Yeah, but.... government is not monolithic. NRC is not hand in glove with EPA, for instance. Each branch and agency has its own fiercely-defended rice bowl. I'm not saying collusion isn't possible, only that it's not automatic.

Re:Nothing To Worry About (2)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995783)

There are already 3 agencies jointly overseeing the site, including one that is a state agency. Are you suggesting another would solve the problems there?

Re:Nothing To Worry About (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995835)

There are already 3 agencies jointly overseeing the site, including one that is a state agency. Are you suggesting another would solve the problems there?

Clearly you've never seen the episode of Big Bang Theory where Wolowitz doesn't join them for dinner and they can't function with just "three".

Re:Nothing To Worry About (1)

Celeritas 5k (1587217) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995781)

More government!

(An illustration of the fatal flaw in government.)

Re:Nothing To Worry About (5, Funny)

TheCarp (96830) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995219)

SImple.... all we need is to get some congressional aid to slip language into a bill (since they don't read them anyway) requiring congressmen to do a walking tour of each nuclear site at least every 5 years. Garaunteed everything is squeeqy clean and no longer hot in 4 years.

That or there would be an emergency session of congress to remove the requirement for national security reasons.

Re:Nothing To Worry About (1)

olsmeister (1488789) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995269)

I really like the way you think... however, I would modify your proposal to include a provision that ensures someone who is elected to the House for 2 years and then either doesn't run again or is beaten is not exempted. Also, require immediate family members to participate in the walking tour as well. (Of, course, make sure full protective gear is provided. I'm not cruel.)

Re:Nothing To Worry About (0)

Luckyo (1726890) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995987)

And they will just have the stuff moved elsewhere. Probably by the lowest bidder who'll spill a few tanks on the way.

Re:Nothing To Worry About (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995259)

...but for now officials are trying just to stop the leaking from the corroded tanks.

I'll stop worrying when the officials will literally try themselves to stop the leaking (and, of course... video clip or it didn't happen)

Re:Nothing To Worry About (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995383)

Pretty much. I live there. Don't work there but have lots of friends who do. The leak has been known for a while and this story is just finally starting to reach critical mass (ha!) now that we have a new governor that takes it more seriously. The immediate solution is for them to stop cutting funding -- we have 2/3rds of all the high level waste spills here and we get 1/3rd of the cleanup money. It goes back and forth we red tape and lawsuits with the contractors not meeting goals because they don't have funding, so the govt tries to penalize, they try to sue back due to lack of funding... nothing gets done.

A *real* solution here involves our politicians getting off their asses and coming up with a permanent storage solution, which will never happen. Nobody wants that in their back yard. The vitrification plant? I have a friend who's a lead engineer out there and they're making it up/solving problems AS THEY GO. They're not even sure if it's going to work yet! There's no detailed plan, although to be fair that's how the Manhattan project ran in the first place.

Also, Hanford was much more than refining the plutonium for the Fat Man bomb. In fact that reactor is clean, they give tours now (I've been inside it). They invented the process and refined the majority of the stuff for everything in our nuclear arsenal now, and it had several experimental reactors out there to test breeder reactors, fast flux reactors, making medial isotopes, etc. A few of which were never even finished.

Re:Nothing To Worry About (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995645)

Congress can't do anything about it. "Just five miles from the Colombia River". Congress has no jurisdiction in South America!

Re:Nothing To Worry About (5, Informative)

znanue (2782675) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995787)

You're cynical about congress. But, people really don't vote for these issues in any kind of numbers. Not when there are much more important single wedge issues to get irate about. Also, people don't want to be informed about this until it starts retarding babies or dramatically increasing cancer rates. And then, they seem to only think it happens to them when it happens to them.

I much more blame the electorate than congress for this lack of attention. If we took a million people to the capital building, or wrote a million letters, or even wrote a million emails, we might get some attention paid to this issue.

Z

Re:Nothing To Worry About (4, Insightful)

Luckyo (1726890) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995983)

Reality is, it's likely that it's not the radioactivity that's most dangerous. The real issue is heavy metals and those things generally containing entire heavy end of periodic table. Stuff that is REALLY toxic.

Radioactivity from a little leak into a huge river is nonexistent in terms of danger. Toxic heavy metals on the other hands can poison a river even with fairly small presence.

Re:Nothing To Worry About (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42996011)

Nothing to worry about!? If any of that radioactive material makes it to the marijuana, it will only be good for government approved g-13 medical marijuana and Marinol.
Save the Marijuana!

Yucca Mountain (4, Insightful)

lazuli42 (219080) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995103)

How much of this could have been avoided if Harry Reid and President Obama had not derailed the Yucca Mountain project? And if groups like Greenpeace weren't so effective in opposing solutions to nuclear waste storage? They cheered the end of the Yucca Mountain project and called its supporters morons. Where are we now?

Re:Yucca Mountain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995165)

Why is this modded off-topic? I'd say this is pretty fucking well related to the topic.

Re:Yucca Mountain (5, Informative)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995207)

No it isn't, with even a cursory look into the situation. Yucca mountain was for spent fuel rods from commercial plants. This disaster area is the leftover crap from reprocessing fuel to extract the Plutonium. Yucca mountain was primarily for commercial reactors - this was a government-run site.

Re:Yucca Mountain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995291)

Washington State disagrees with you
http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2010/apr/14/washington-sues-to-keep-yucca-alive/

Re:Yucca Mountain (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995489)

No they don't. If you read the article you linked, you will see they are talking about spent nuclear fuel - same as me.

Re:Yucca Mountain (3, Insightful)

peon_a-z,A-Z,0-9$_+! (2743031) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995473)

From the Wikipedia for Yucca, Yucca Mountain was...

...for spent nuclear reactor fuel and other high level radioactive waste...

(Italics added)

In the Nuclear Industry, the byproducts of the Plutonium production situation at Hanford is what we would refer to as high level radioactive waste.

Re:Yucca Mountain (5, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995749)

Yucca mountain could not handle the millions of gallons of waste at Hanford, even if you could find a a way to transport it safely. The largest-scale part of the problem is the roughly 10x20 mile patch of contaminated groundwater, for which Yucca would do nothing.

But step back from numbers for a moment and just use some reasoning... if they can pick it up and bring it to Yucca, then it's not an expensive cleanup issue, is it? Sure, it's no fun to build on-site storage - but it certainly doesn't have much to with cleanup.

Re:Yucca Mountain (2, Informative)

peon_a-z,A-Z,0-9$_+! (2743031) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995825)

Millions of gallons can be converted into a smaller volume through chemical reprocessing of the materials. Imagine if every time you took a shit, the water that was in the toilet was instantly put in a tank and designated part of the "waste" produced by you.

This is similar to the situation at Hanford - had reprocessing not been outlawed we wouldn't have had to (and still could go back and fix) this political problem of storing the ENTIRE waste byproduct.

Re:Yucca Mountain (0)

magarity (164372) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995581)

How much of this could have been avoided if Harry Reid and President Obama had not derailed the Yucca Mountain project?

Never mind that; what if they hadn't wasted so much money on "stimulus" this cleanup would be paid for many times over.

Re:Yucca Mountain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995947)

If we hadn't wasted all that money bailing out banks, I might be able to drive to work without loosing a filling.

Re:Yucca Mountain (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995587)

Yucca was a political construct, an idea developed by politicians, not scientists. The idea was created so politicians could show they were trying to so something about the problem of nuclear waste. It was never a real option. And even if it was, it was an idiotic idea. I see you fell for that one.

Re:Yucca Mountain (5, Informative)

Waffle Iron (339739) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995625)

Yucca Mountain was designed to store wastes AFTER they had been immobilized and put in long-term storage casks.

The problem here is that they haven't even started that first step. This is still millions of gallons of raw liquid waste, in a state that is totally unsuitable for interstate transport and burial. If Yucca Mountain were up and running today, it wouldn't help this problem one bit.

If they actually took the initiative to solidify this waste now and put it in casks, they could safely store it on site for decades or centuries, just like they're currently doing with commercial reactor waste. They don't need something like Yucca Mountain to address the current risks.

Nuclear Power, here to stay ... (4, Funny)

Rambo Tribble (1273454) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995131)

... for the next 240,000 years, regardless.

Re:Nuclear Power, here to stay ... (1)

peon_a-z,A-Z,0-9$_+! (2743031) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995227)

Oh the age old "I confused Nuclear Power with Nuclear Weapons" sentiment again!

Re:Nuclear Power, here to stay ... (1)

Rambo Tribble (1273454) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995373)

LWRs produce plutonium as a byproduct.

Re:Nuclear Power, here to stay ... (3, Insightful)

peon_a-z,A-Z,0-9$_+! (2743031) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995437)

LWRs produce plutonium as a byproduct.

...and then this Plutonium is contained within the Spent Nuclear Fuel on-site until another Yucca Mountain proposal goes through or we recycle the material.

Hanford's original purpose was solely to produce weapons grade Plutonium (different than a small amount of Plutonium in spent fuel) for use in the weapons program. The resulting waste was stored in these canisters which are being mentioned in the article. Just because two different actions of man utilize the same resource does not mean that their intentions are identical.

If you have any more confusion relating Nuclear Weapons to Nuclear Power as it pertains to this article post below or perhaps read the Hanford article on Wikipedia to learn some of what I just said and more Hanford Site: Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

Re:Nuclear Power, here to stay ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995493)

How is this modded down? This seems like an above-and-beyond answer to the OP's uneducated one sentence connections between Nuclear Power and Nuclear Weapons.

Re:Nuclear Power, here to stay ... (2)

Rambo Tribble (1273454) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995559)

The material doesn't go away just because you move it along. A shell game is not the same as elimination.

Re:Nuclear Power, here to stay ... (3, Interesting)

peon_a-z,A-Z,0-9$_+! (2743031) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995623)

Another one-sentence post, somehow instantly modded up.

Anyways, I'll bite.

What makes you want to get rid of this material? Plutonium, sure it has a long half-life, but is that a bad thing? As a transuranic artificial element, Plutonium is one of the most expensive materials on Earth primarily in the fact that you can't put a price on it in many cases. So now you may ask, "So what if it costs a lot. Things can cost a lot and not be useful."

How excited were you and the rest of this Slashdot community when the Mars Rover Curiosity began is successful exploration a few months back? This piece of science and engineering happens to run off of a "Plutonium battery" if you will Curiosity [wikipedia.org] , called an RTG RTG Explanation [wikipedia.org]

O.K. so now you may ask "Great, we don't actually WANT to get rid of Plutonium, but what about all those other nasty chemicals? Surely they validate my unfounded convictions that I'm espousing with somehow successfully modded posts?"

Well, actually, we have answers for that too, it just so happens they have largely been illegal in the United States for much of the time since their invention. As a leader in the Nuclear Industry at its birth, the United States outlawed reprocessing with the thinking that other countries would follow suit. As history stands, this was not the case, and instead of "storing" things like we politically decided to do in the mid-seventies we could easily reprocess them based upon one of the many methods depending on the situation Nuclear Reprocessing. [wikipedia.org]

So, what's the real challenge, you ask? It's convincing uneducated people about the science ACTUALLY behind everything Nuclear such that they don't hold uneducated convictions such as yourself and end actual technological progress.

Re:Nuclear Power, here to stay ... (2)

Rambo Tribble (1273454) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995903)

The only point I was wishing to make was simply that once the genie is out of the bottle, you're committed. That's true whether it's handguns, fracking or nuclear power; there will be consequences and those selling the product will attempt to obscure tradeoffs with a "win-win" marketing ploy. The nuclear industry is one that has long been writing checks the public has had to cover, as your posts backhandedly expose.

John Tyndall demonstrated the effect on energy absorption gas composition had, some 152 years ago. It took until a few decades ago for anyone to put together what that might mean for the climate vis-a-vis human activities. With a track record like that, science and scientists would be wise not to trumpet the infallability of their judgment.

Washington State wines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995135)

I'm a fan of Columbia Crest wines, they make a great $13 Cab Sauv. Uh oh, the vineyard is only 40 miles from HNR, and downstream on the banks of the Columbia River...

Re:Washington State wines (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995605)

I'm a fan of Columbia Crest wines, they make a great $13 Cab Sauv. Uh oh, the vineyard is only 40 miles from HNR, and downstream on the banks of the Columbia River...

Are you saying they light up your life?

(the marketing avenues are endless)

Addie the Atom Says... (4, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995143)

"Clean, safe and .too cheap to meter!"

Is there any reason why we shouldn't reduce our current nuclear arsenal to something less than 1000 warheads, instead of replacing them with new ones? Can anyone think of a plausible situation where we would need 1000 nuclear warheads?

Re:Addie the Atom Says... (2)

peragrin (659227) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995161)

when the evil space aliens come we need more than just 1000 nukes to blow up their giant space ships

Seriously though Yucca mountian was a new design facility for long term storage, not the temporary storage that currently exists

Re:Addie the Atom Says... (2)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995281)

when the evil space aliens come we need more than just 1000 nukes to blow up their giant space ships

Seriously though... (grin)... for evil aliens, we know Slim Whitman is enough (unless RIAA sends a C&D/DMCA take down letter). The only use for them would be to hit asteroids, with no space shuttles and Bruce Willis close to the retirement, they are useless.

Re:Addie the Atom Says... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995191)

Can anyone think of a plausible situation where we would need 1000 nuclear warheads?

Aliens...

Re:Addie the Atom Says... (-1)

rubycodez (864176) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995215)

yes, in an all out war with Russia or China we would need to strike more than 1,000 targets. and contrary to popular belief fueld by Hollywood, this would neither kill all human nor plunge us into a nuclear winter.

Re:Addie the Atom Says... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995615)

You first.

I, personally, would rather stay on the 'ignorant' side of that particular experiment.

Re:Addie the Atom Says... (1)

znanue (2782675) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995821)

yes, in an all out war with Russia or China we would need to strike more than 1,000 targets. and contrary to popular belief fueld by Hollywood, this would neither kill all human nor plunge us into a nuclear winter.

From a wikipedia article...

A minor nuclear war with each country using 50 Hiroshima-sized atom bombs as airbursts on urban areas could produce climate change unprecedented in recorded human history. A nuclear war between the United States and Russia today could produce nuclear winter, with temperatures plunging below freezing in the summer in major agricultural regions, threatening the food supply for most of the planet. The climatic effects of the smoke from burning cities and industrial areas would last for several years, much longer than previously thought. New climate model simulations, which are said to have the capability of including the entire atmosphere and oceans, show that the smoke would be lofted by solar heating to the upper stratosphere, where it would remain for years.

Here is the original source It has a really neat video with a well spoken guy! [rutgers.edu]

Z

Re:Addie the Atom Says... (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995233)

I'd say you need to do both. Reduce the number, but also keep updating the tech for the remainder that you do keep around.

Interestingly, the Obama administration seems to be seeking a non-treaty path with Russia to warhead reduction. They seem to be doing this because of all the trouble they had getting the last START treaty through congress.

Asteroid defense (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995293)

One nuke won't do it.

Re:Addie the Atom Says... (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995349)

They were built on the assumption thar a lot of them might be destroyed or otherwise fail due to missile defence systems etc. The is massive overprovisioning for things like submarines that carry enough to take out a country on their own.

No country really needs that many any more.

Re:Addie the Atom Says... (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995363)

You need enough that you won't need to use them. The world is fairly peaceful right now - the old threat of Russia dimmed, China seems intent on ecodenomic success rather than military conquest for their future, and any other nuclear power the US is on generally good terms with. But you can't be sure that'll stay forever. What'll happen if, in ten years, a Russian president comes to power on an anti-west platform, calling for a return to the glory days? Or if North Korea gets nuclear weapons? If that happens, the only thing protecting the US from attack is the assurance that if anyone is dumb enough to nuke one of their cities, they are ready to hit back at the attacker so hard their ashes will glow in the dark. Maintaining peace by the threat of overwhelming firepower isn't exactly the most tactful of solutions, but it seems to work. Regional conflicts have abounded since the invention of nuclear weapons, but no-one is foolish enough to start World War 3.

Re:Addie the Atom Says... (1)

Grayhand (2610049) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995381)

"Clean, safe and .too cheap to meter!"

Is there any reason why we shouldn't reduce our current nuclear arsenal to something less than 1000 warheads, instead of replacing them with new ones? Can anyone think of a plausible situation where we would need 1000 nuclear warheads?

They actually are cannibalizing old ones to maintain the stockpile because we no longer have facilities to create new weapons and parts of the bombs degrade. It's one of the reasons both the US and Russia have been for reductions. I think the number of weapons is a third of what it was at the height of the Cold War.

Re:Addie the Atom Says... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995457)

You do realize that quote was in reference to a fusion project, not fission. I know Harry Shearer doesn't, I'd hope you take the time to learn a little something.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Too_cheap_to_meter [wikipedia.org]

Oh, and electricity production does not necessarily lead to nuclear warheads.

Re:Addie the Atom Says... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995629)

You do realize that quote was in reference to a fusion project, not fission. I know Harry Shearer doesn't, I'd hope you take the time to learn a little something.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Too_cheap_to_meter [wikipedia.org]

Oh, and electricity production does not necessarily lead to nuclear warheads.

And that phrase was used by proponents of nuclear (fission) power for years until they actually built out commercial scale plants and decided they'd needed to get the billions of dollars from somewhere.

Re:Addie the Atom Says... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995501)

Well, i guess its common sense that IF there will be first strike against USA, its main goal will be to destroy USA nuclear weapons.
So army planners will need 100 to hit back, but since 90% will be destroyed, we need 1000. Simple. Its like having RAID5, spare discs and similar stuff - we need to be prepaired.

Re:Addie the Atom Says... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995519)

"Clean, safe and .too cheap to meter!"

Is there any reason why we shouldn't reduce our current nuclear arsenal to something less than 1000 warheads, instead of replacing them with new ones? Can anyone think of a plausible situation where we would need 1000 nuclear warheads?

Having nuclear warheads isnt about a situation where we would need to fire them. You obviously dont know much about war and nuclear weapons.

Having 1000 nuclear warheads isnt about using them at all, having that many is about the nuclear deterrent. Look if every major country has nuclear weapons aimed at everyone else no one will fire theirs because they know it wouldnt mean just the destruction of their enemy but the desctruction of virtually the entire world. So no one wants to pull the trigger because they know it will mean the end of billions of lives. Kill your enemy with a nuclear weapon and your enemy will also kill you along with just about everyone else.

So right now nuclear weapons arent for actual useage, they are to prevent others from using theirs. Nuclear weapons help maintain peace.

Re:Addie the Atom Says... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995549)

Although I hate nuclear weapons with a passion, I must say that I understand that if you reduce the amount of nuclear warheads too much, you get into trouble.
You see, if we don't have the capacity to take down all potential nuclear armed enemy powers, some unscrupulous and rather psychopathic foreign leader could decide to detonate a nuclear bomb in one or more of our cities, but in a way that obfuscates where the hit came from, without fear of reprisal.
That's one of the sadder parts of nuclear deterrence: everyone needs the capacity to blow everyone else to smithereens.

Re:Addie the Atom Says... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995617)

The reason we have 1000s of warheads is in order to maintain second-strike capability.

The cold war is over, but there is still some utility in having second-strike capability. Just because the cold war is 'over' doesn't mean that it couldn't start again if we started appearing weak suddenly.

Re:Addie the Atom Says... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995731)

The USA must have enough military power to exterminate every other human being on Earth. 1000 is not nearly enough.

Re:Addie the Atom Says... (0)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995823)

Not any more, I hope. Did we ever really need that many? Crazy cold-war MAD maths, I guess.

On-topic because Hanford made plutonium for nukes, but offtopic regarding nuclear power as implied in your first line.

All types of energy production, yes, all, including solar, wind and other so-called 'green' alternatives have an environmental impact and hence cost. Bullshitters who deliberately understated those associated with nuclear did incalculable harm to what indeed should have become a great source of cheap, clean and safe energy. Cheapskate and corrupt politicos and contractors knocked the final nails into the coffin. So now the USA, China et al are all burning shitloads of coal, which, as been pointed out here before, is pretty obnoxious for the environment, starting with the mining. Shame, could have been so different, for example:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_france [wikipedia.org]

Re:Addie the Atom Says... (1)

onyxruby (118189) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995941)

Because the period of MAD was the most peaceful period in human history. Look at the body count websites before and after the cold war and you can see the chilling effect MAD had on war and genocide.

Local wars were local and not world wide in scale. Nuclear weapons are terrible, conventional arms have them outclassed in every real world measure like body counts though.

Re:Addie the Atom Says... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995975)

Is there any reason why we shouldn't reduce our current nuclear arsenal to something less than 1000 warheads, instead of replacing them with new ones?

The reason is called Radioactive Decay.
The nuclear material decays over time and has to be replaced, the exact life-span of a warhead before it becomes unreliable is a closely guarded secret. There's basically a cycle of making new warheads, replacing the ready ones, and then reclaiming part of the old one. As for how many of the warheads in the "arsenal" are in any particular state, that is also a closely guarded secret.

Thanks Harry! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995147)

If only there was some place better to put this stuff.

Oh wait, there was.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yucca_Mountain_nuclear_waste_repository

It is just a matter of time until this happens again somewhere else. It probably is already.

Re:Thanks Harry! (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995533)

Harry did the right thing. Yucca mountain was one of several sites being evaluated for desirable geological characteristics since the early 90's...one of 3 I think.
The original plan was that one of the 3 sites would be chosen based solely on technical merits however that was wishful thinking and in the end Yucca mountain was chosen because the politician from the other more populated states successfully shutdown those options because they of course do not want nuclear waste stored in their "back yards". So Yucca mountain is a place that nuclear waste *could* be stored...but there is nothing better about it than any where else. In fact Yucca mountain has seen several earth quakes since they started studying the site and they have also found a relatively high water table so there are probably many better places. The only benefit that Yucca mountain had was that was politically easier to force it on the people of Nevada than it was other places. The best place to store nuclear waste is at its source (so you dont transport it) and in properly maintained tanks. They have failed to maintain these Hanford tanks just as easily as they could fail to maintain Yucca mountains' facilities.

Re:Thanks Harry! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995935)

You raise a meaningless point. No doubt many sites were evaluated. Ultimately Yucca was selected and billions were spent on development.
Now the project has been canceled for political reasons only, with no alternative plan.

Harry did the right thing for Nevada. The Obama administration did the wrong thing for America.

Re:Thanks Harry! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995563)

> Thanks Harry!

That's probably going to be the reaction of the people of Nevada as they learn more about Hanford.

Turn it into glas / Correct (1)

burni2 (1643061) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995157)

to embed it into molten glas or glasify the material.

The glas however will emmit nearly(embedding into another material -> shielding) the same amount of radiation, however:

The advantage it's encased and if it comes into contact with water or air such a glas brick will not release that much contaminant.
But neutron and alpha bombardmend for what I'm familiar with, leads to material degradation through the built up of new elements within the structure.
This is a problem when it comes to pressure vessels of nuclear fission reactors, because the new elements are defects within the crystaline structure and
defects are starter for cracks. (But glas has no crystaline structure)

Re:Turn it into glas / Correct (1)

Sique (173459) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995279)

Glas material is prone to break if there are sudden temperature changes, e.g. if suddenly cold water runs over the slightly heated (due to the radioactive decay) glas bricks.

Re:Turn it into glas / Correct (1)

burni2 (1643061) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995451)

Well, that depends on the material the glas is made off, e.g. glas cups.

But small broken out parts are itself a containment -> no dust.

Reframing... (2)

Mad_Rain (674268) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995183)

The Hanford cleanup project has been one of the most expensive American projects for nuclear cleanup. Plans are in place to create a treatment plant to turn the hazardous material into less hazardous glass (proposed to cost $13.4 billion), but for now officials are trying just to stop the leaking from the corroded tanks.

Don't think of it as a nuclear waste clean-up project, environmental fiasco, or other government boondoggle. Consider it a gift of a $13.4 billion dollar jobs program. ;-) (one with reeeeeally high stakes if it's screwed up).

Concrete and forget (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995187)

Just put a big block of concrete over it and forget there ever was anything there. The number one method of dealing with hazardous materials, worldwide.

Re:Concrete and forget (1)

PPH (736903) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995619)

Just put a big block of concrete over it

Or a mountain.

One Word (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995217)

STOP LEAK

OK, maybe that is two words, but it works in my car radiator. I would imagine Bardahl would donate a few thousand gallons just for the publicity.

Re:One Word (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995477)

STOP LEAK

OK, maybe that is two words, but it works in my car radiator. I would imagine Bardahl would donate a few thousand gallons just for the publicity.

Relax this car 'aint goin' noplace. Blackie Carbon

Re:One Word (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995925)

A bit of history on Bar's Leaks - http://www.barsproducts.com/company/history [barsproducts.com]

      I remember reading in the book (forgot title; I think it was before "Nautilus Ninety North" though) there'd been a leak in a secondary steam condensing loop of the reactor in Nautilus (SSN-571) while she was in transit from the Canal to Hawaii and on to Greenland by way of the North Pole.
      The Navy and Westinghouse had had teams of engineers aboard trying to isolate and stop the leak, none were successful. While is wasn't a critical leak, it's not something you'd want to go sideways whilst under ice. Anyway, somewhere between the first attempt and the final run, she stopped in Seattle.
      Members of the crew were put ashore to buy up all the cans of Bar's Leak they could get (the skipper and other officers chipped in all their cash along with the ship's fund). The leak was stopped. (sorry my memory's not better; I no longer have the book. Maybe someone here will have more precise info.)

It's a good thing we have Yucca Mountain (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995277)

Oh wait, the Obama administration canceled it with no alternative plan.

If you want this cleaned up ... (1)

Turminder Xuss (2726733) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995297)

Plant some evidence that it's a fiendish Al Quaeda radiological weapon; a dirty bomb with a long fuse planted by sleeper agents who hate the USA.

Vent radioactive gas? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995327)

Y-E-S!

Where is Homer Simpson when you need him?

Hanford and Modern Nuclear Power (2)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995389)

There is no relationship (other than historical) between the manufacturing processes and waste at Hanford, and modern nuclear power plants .

Indeed the problems in Japan would certainly be almost impossible with current designs.

Re:Hanford and Modern Nuclear Power (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995655)

Indeed the problems in Japan would certainly be almost impossible with current designs.

We should really deal with the problems at hand rather than espouse the virtues of things that do not yet exist. In fact, a non-negligible percentage of currently operating nuke plants in the US absolutely could suffer a catastrophic disaster like Fukushima –not from tsunami, but from earthquake or perhaps terrorism, and in a similar fashion (if the plant loses power and it isn't restored before the batteries die, they'll experience the same form of meltdown).

Please come up with a safe solution for current problems, and cease the handwaving dismissal of these problems because more modern on the drawing board designs won't have the same flaws. Building a plant that can't melt down like Fukishima does NOTHING to fix the damage done by Fukushima or the very real possibility of a Fukushima-scale accident occurring at currently operating plants.

Re:Hanford and Modern Nuclear Power (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42995673)

There is nothing technically wrong with current designs. The problem is that there is no one willing to build one according to these plans, for a budged that is economically more profitable than non-nuclear power stations. All companies cut corners when not doing so would make the whole project unprofitable. Aside form this financial-corruption, governments also have the political-career-corruption, and don't have shareholders that stop this career-corruption when it affects there financial-corruption.

Common sense (1)

Grayhand (2610049) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995397)

How about this, we clean up the mess we already have before we go making new messes? Make it true of all industries from coal to nuclear as well as oil. The problem is the industries always manage to move on and leave us stuck with the bill. Hanford was mostly used for weapons production but I believe they also produced some of the first reactor fuel. Make the military take the money from their budget for the clean up before they are allowed to buy any new toys. It's like making a kid clean up his room before they watch TV. Just make everyone responsible for the messes they make and the problem goes away!

Re:Common sense (0)

pavon (30274) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995443)

Because idiot activists and politicians have countered every sane plan for storing or reprocessing this waste, forcing people to store it where it was generated. And since nuclear power plants need lots of water for cooling, this means storing it very close to those bodies of water. Absolutely retarded, but people insist on judging against an unrealistic perfect world, rather than whether it is an improvement on the current situation.

My understanding (3, Interesting)

Scarred Intellect (1648867) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995637)

Talking with the guys that do this at a job fair.

First, what could take so freaking long to clean stuff up? "Stuff you don't understand." Right, bureaucracy, nothing else.

Anyway, the waste from Hanford was stored in Single-Shelled Tanks (SSTs), until they later started storing it in Double-Shelled Tanks (DST's). The SST's are leaking, we know this, so this is not news. What's currently being done is pumping the waste from the leaking SST's into the DST's and cleaning the SST's. They do this because the vitrification plant is not built yet.

They're out of DST's. So now they have to decide whether to build more DST's or expedite the vit plant. Basically a few million dollars now, a few billion dollars now, or a few million dollars now AND a few billion dollars later.

I got to school at the WSU campus nearby, and this is all I've been able to get someone to tell me. Correct me if I'm wrong. I probably am.

Oh. Right. Safety. This stuff's NASTY. That's been holding it up for over 20 years.

The 'Colombia' River? (1)

RealGene (1025017) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995675)

Nothing to worry about, then. Now if it were the Columbia River, I would be a little nervous...

Unsolvable problem (5, Insightful)

Lars -1 (308687) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995741)

The nuclear waste problem was the biggest driver for germany's nuclear exit decision, for 30 years this was discussed and determined to be basically unsolvable. (The incident in japan led to a re-think of the exit-of-the-exit decision, but the doubts about waste handling had been there at all times).

To me, this is nuclear's biggest threat, and whenever I see discussions on slashdot this does not really seem to be an issue to US citizens at all. Why is this the case? Are these problems properly addressed in school and media? In germany, we have constantly very critical journalism regarding nuclear waste disposal, as we also have a site where waste is leaking and this proves to be a huge and expensive problem. Generally, storing waste for 10.000 years in a safe manner is not considered to be possible. (And think about the costs which occur in those timelines).

When reading slashdot, I always get the impression that people still think nuclear has a future, and that we simply have not got the right technology in place yet. To me, nuclear has been a dead end for years, and its only a matter of time that everyone needs to switch to renewables (which would happen in 20 years max). Is nuclear really considered as a real option by the general US population? Are the implications properly educated? Total costs of waste disposal and storage and the risks which remain?

Regards,
Lars

Re:Unsolvable problem (2)

CMontgomery (1238316) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995879)

I imagine the main reason for the US liking nuclear power more is that the US is much larger than Germany. We have lots of very open spaces to store material. The Yucca Mountain project was an unfortunate failure (nearly from the start), but in America we have the area to put bad material in the middle of nowhere. To me at least it seems that will only be necessary for a few decades until we get new plants that can run on old waste. As long as the waste is dangerous it still has energy we can use. I am counting on the fact that new techniques will become available in 100 years or so to harvest the energy of the nuclear waste until it becomes something more manageable. Something that we can throw under another mountain in the middle of Arizona for 50 years and call it good.

But more importantly is we need nuclear energy. We are very dispersed around the country, wiki says Germany is at 234 people/km^2 while US is at 34 people/km^2. We can't use wind or hydroelectric for our baseline energy, it can surely supplement a good portion of what we need. But 315 million people need energy over almost every climate-zone possible. We need high localized energy that can be transmitted long distances.

I think to have taken nuclear energy so far and leave it with only one problem left to solve is not right. There's only one thing left to figure out, and we get awesome amounts of energy from right here in the US.

Re:Unsolvable problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42996103)

We're still interested because the question is never, ever "is X solution good," the question is always "is X solution better than other available solutions". In this case, the other economically viable solutions have tremendously shitty environmental consequences of their own. Oil spills make nuclear meltdowns look downright tame as far as environmental consequences go, and there's even an argument to be had that more nuclear power would mean fewer meltdowns (we have learned something in the last half century about reactor design and safety, but current policy prevents us from building newer reactors AND force us to push older reactors FAR (2-3x) beyond their designed lifetimes). Pumping the atmosphere full of particulates and CO2 is another cost of sticking with current tech.

The tech nuclear must beat in order to be practical is not solar panels and wind farms. Those are still economically laughable, and are essentially off the table. I would fully support funding research into those areas, but I think efforts to make the switch right now are highly misguided. They cost a lot of money and are largely ineffective at replacing existing power sources. Increasing the cost of energy 5x has scary consequences NOW, not in the future, and the global economy puts countries into a prisoner's dilemma with regard to making the jump, so I would never expect to see it actually happen. By refusing to settle for an economically viable second-best, I believe hardline environmentalists are doing tremendous damage to the world they are trying to protect. Their "double or nothing" strategy seems crazy to me in light of my estimate that the "nothing" has a >90% chance of coming to pass.

None of this presupposes any advances in nuclear disposal technology, but I'm somewhat more optimistic on the front of nuclear waste recycling / minimizing technologies than I am on technologies that make renewables economically viable. Too bad it's not up to me. At this point, it looks like we've bet everything on the hope that some future discovery wrt renewables will pull our ass out of the fire. I hope it works out, but I suspect that it won't.
 

Re:Unsolvable problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42996131)

Generally, storing waste for 10.000 years in a safe manner is not considered to be possible. (And think about the costs which occur in those timelines).

I would suggest it's your education which is lacking. The dangerous radiation is stuff with a short half-life, that's what makes it so dangerous. Long half-life material is often toxic, but in terms of radioactivity it's not dangerous at all.
There are a variety of ways for us to re-process waste material into safer to store forms, but frankly speaking there are compounds and materials which are just as dangerous to the general public which are not related to nuclear waste and are tossed on the ground every day.

And just FYI, there is no such thing as a 'renewable' energy source, all the 'renewable' energy sources are just on such a long depletion timescale that nobody really cares.

ancient news (1)

hb253 (764272) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995813)

I remember reading about this problem in a Scientific American article, it was around 10-15 years ago.

Reread the '50s and '60s pro-nuke propaganda (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | about a year and a half ago | (#42995841)

This might be a good time to reread the pro-nuke propaganda put out by the government in the '60s and '70s. This kind of thing would never happen . . ..

Think about that propaganda in the current-day context of global warming and pollution propaganda.

This time, this leak... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42996101)

...is not a wikileak :D.

Laugh (1)

koan (80826) | about a year and a half ago | (#42996205)

"150 to 200 feet of dry soil between the tanks and the groundwater,' and they are just five miles from the Colombia River.""

Seems like a great place to build a waste facility, nothing catastrophic there.

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