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U.S. Nuclear Cleanup Carries Major Risks

Hemos posted more than 9 years ago | from the risks-to-not-doing-it-as-well dept.

Biotech 522

Roland Piquepaille writes "New Scientist reports in this pretty alarming article that there is a 50-50 chance of a major radiation or chemical accident during the cleanup of the dirtiest nuclear site in the U.S. There are indeed lots of things to clean at the Hanford complex in Washington state: 67 tons of plutonium and 190 million liters of liquid radioactive waste stored in underground tanks. A third of them, dating from the Cold War, have already leaked 4 million liters in the environment, contaminating the groundwater and a river. Meanwhile, officials at the DOE, who'll spend $50 billion between now and 2035 on this cleanup, seem less worried than the different specialists interviewed by New Scientist. Please read this overview for selected quotes from the article and from the Hanford site. You'll also find a slide from the DOE showing the timeframe for the cleanup."

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522 comments

NUKES (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9802192)

are not legal for private ownership

please MOVE ALONG....

Do we really need Washington state? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9802197)

Besides nuclear waste, what else do they have? Microsoft? Amazon? Starbucks? A semi-active vulcano? I say we just seal the place up.

Remember back in the day (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9802279)

When you could make a joke about Microsoft and not get modded Flamebait? Good times, good times. I guess those MS ads they run must include some mod points.

Ouch (0, Troll)

ScArE2100 (663201) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802203)

And everyone said nuclear power was "safe" and "efficient". So much for that. Sometimes I wish I didn't live in Washington State.

Re:Ouch (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9802229)

When you compare nuclear to oil, where we have to deal with unstable people in an unstable region of the world, it is somewhat safe. Is it perfect? No, but what energy source is? Yes, some are safer/cleaner, but right now, they're also more expensive/more difficult to deploy/etc

Re:Ouch (5, Insightful)

Jonsey (593310) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802491)

Yeah, there's that, and the fact that a modern nuke plant produces less hard radioactive waste in a year than a coal-burning plant spews (even past modern scrubbers) into the air every year.

We need to stop grandfathering in old power plants of all types, step up, pay some of the up-front costs, and get some good power generation going.

For the NIMBY folks, I'll volunteer to host a PBR in my backyard.

Contrary to what a lot of places would have you believe, if we'd actually shell out some cash and stop only focusing on the very bottom line for hte first year, we've got affordable, safe, and clean nuke power available to us... and it's a shame we've not made use of it.

to grandparent poster: don't be sad you live in WA, I left 11 years ago now, and I go back every chance I get... it only goes downhill from there.

Re:Ouch (-1, Troll)

the_2nd_coming (444906) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802293)

you an idiot.

Coal power is even less safe than Nuclear. the radio active waste produced by Coal is greater than Nuclear and is spread over large areas every day.

Re:Ouch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9802372)

the radio active waste produced by Coal is greater than Nuclear

You mean released waste. Nuclear power produces far more radioactive waste than coal plants, but the vast majority of that waste has not been released so far.

Re:Ouch (4, Informative)

HBI (604924) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802315)

Hanford isn't a nuclear plant, it was a nuclear weapons research facility that also mass-produced plutonium for nuclear weapons.

Moreover, Hanford was one of the places where we found out about dangerous isotopes and how to handle them. It wasn't run properly and in fact hardly could have been. Not to say that there weren't huge screwups there, but comparing this to a well run nuclear power plant is just wrong.

Re:Ouch (1)

EvilBudMan (588716) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802548)

--Hanford isn't a nuclear plant, it was a nuclear weapons research facility that also mass-produced plutonium for nuclear weapons.--

Uh, making Plutonium requires a reactor, therfore it's a plant.

FWIW,
Putonium is one of the most dangerous elements there is. One tenth of a microgram is enough to cause bone cancer. It's a wonder we are not all dead from this as Hanford dates right straight back to the Manhattan Project and they didn't know what they were doing back then.

Re:Ouch (4, Insightful)

Rayonic (462789) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802482)

And everyone said nuclear power was "safe" and "efficient".

Who says this waste is from nuclear power plants? It could be leftovers from nuclear weapons/research.

Also, nuclear power plant technology has vastly improved since this particlar waste repository was first opened up.

Re:Ouch (1)

nelsonal (549144) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802586)

Presumably you are on the West side of the state, in which case the large mountain chain and prevailing winds should keep you reasonably safe (if the moss/mutant banana slugs don't get you first).

Post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9802208)

Of the first. For rizzle yo! This is to all my homies in D Block, Sex Offenders ward!

Why not compare it with coal-fired plants? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9802215)

I'm pretty sure it has caused more health problems in the U.S. than nuclear power has.

Re:Why not compare it with coal-fired plants? (2, Informative)

strictnein (318940) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802251)

Newer coal plants trap most of the coal dust and many of the other polutants. They're actually getting much cleaner [usatoday.com].

It's the old ones (especially in places like China) that are the problem.

Re:Why not compare it with coal-fired plants? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9802344)

And where does this coal waste end up?

Re:Why not compare it with coal-fired plants? (1)

strictnein (318940) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802523)

they reprocess some of it and burn it again, the rest, I would assume, goes into a landfill.

And lets see... coal dust... nuclear waste... coal dust... nuclear waste... what would you rather live by?

Re:Why not compare it with coal-fired plants? (1)

krog (25663) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802258)

Wait 5000 years.

Re:Why not compare it with coal-fired plants? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9802313)

If humans in 5000 years can't deal with a bit of nuclear contamination, then we've failed as a species. Look at where we were 5000 years ago.

Re:Why not compare it with coal-fired plants? (1, Insightful)

km790816 (78280) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802303)

There is an issue of severity and immediacy. You'll get cancer from coal power plants, but it'll take year of exposure, not a single jump in the river.

I do agree with you, though.

Re:Why not compare it with coal-fired plants? (5, Insightful)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802306)

We don't compare the Hanford site to coal-fired plants because the main use of this facility was to produce nuclear weapons materials, not electrical power generation.

Re:Why not compare it with coal-fired plants? (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802380)

No kidding. Can any nuclear scientists comment here? AFAIK, Plutonium is a fairly innocuous problem. It's heavier than just about everything, so it doesn't float. It's not water soluble, and it primarily releases Alpha particles (a non-threatening form of radiation). Unless they're leaking something like Strontium-90, Iodine-129, or something fresh out of the reactor with a half-life of three months, then I'm not particularly worried. I'm far more worried about all that Lead and battery acid we're throwing in landfills.

Re:Why not compare it with coal-fired plants? (4, Interesting)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802422)

IAMA(nuke arms scientist)
Plutonium is far more toxic than radioactive (as far as hazards go). What I mean by that is that it takes fall less PU to kill you by poisioning than required to cook you with radiation.
-nB

Re:Why not compare it with coal-fired plants? (0, Offtopic)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802446)

~s/M/N/
DOH
-nB
That and I hate the damn 2 minute wait. Why not allow editing your post within the first 2 minutes and loosing any moderation on the post if you do so?

Re:Why not compare it with coal-fired plants? (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802513)

Agreed. But one of my points is that if it leaks into the water supply, it's most likely going to settle and become a complete non-threat. AFAIK, it's not water soluble, so the worst that could happen is that it gets swept along by strong currents until it settles in an area with far more gentle currents.

BTW, Plutonium does release a small amount of Gamma radiation as well, but all that water should actually help in shielding against it.

Re:Why not compare it with coal-fired plants? (1)

tlk nnr (449342) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802461)


It's not water soluble, and it primarily releases Alpha particles (a non-threatening form of radiation)

Not really correct: Alpha particles are stopped by a sheet of paper. But if you ingest plutonium or inhale it, then it's one of the most dangerous substances around.

Re:Why not compare it with coal-fired plants? (1)

boskone (234014) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802519)

yes, it's radioactive and does bad things inside you, it's also chemically toxic which is a different problem.

Russia? (2, Interesting)

garcia (6573) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802239)

I thought that Russia was going to make it their problem? Russia wants to allow the imports of nuclear waste into their country. I can't find it now but I thought that even though world-wide organizations are denouncing this thought the US was happy to ship some over there for permanent storage.

So what happens if this stuff does leak out? Would that be considered a Superfund site? Funding for ecological disaster recovery was slashed by the current administration.

Our world looks better and better ever day.

Re:Russia? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9802400)

*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_
g_______________________________________________g_ _
o_/_____\_____________\____________/____\_______o_ _
a|_______|_____________\__________|______|______a_ _
t|_______`._____________|_________|_______:_____t_ _
s`________|_____________|________\|_______|_____s_ _
e_\_______|_/_______/__\\\___--___\\_______:____e_ _
x__\______\/____--~~__________~--__|_\_____|____x_ _
*___\______\_-~____________________~-_\____|____*_ _
g____\______\_________.--------.______\|___|____g_ _
o______\_____\______//_________(_(__>__\___|____o_ _
a_______\___.__C____)_________(_(____>__|__/____a_ _
t_______/\_|___C_____)/INSERT\_(_____>__|_/_____t_ _
s______/_/\|___C____LIL_GARCIA|_(___>___/__\____s_ _
e_____|___(____C_____)\_HERE_/__//__/_/_____\___e_ _
x_____|____\__|_____\\_________//_(__/_______|__x_ _
*____|_\____\____)___`----___--'_____________|__*_ _
g____|__\______________\_______/____________/_|_g_ _
o___|______________/____|_____|__\____________|_o_ _
a___|_____________|____/_______\__\___________|_a_ _
t___|__________/_/____|_________|__\___________|t_ _
s___|_________/_/______\__/\___/____|__________|s_ _
e__|_________/_/________|____|_______|_________|e_ _
x__|__________|_________|____|_______|_________|x_ _
*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_g_o_a_t_s_e_x_*_


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Re:Russia? (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802495)

For security reasons, I wouldn't ship the stuff there. Even assuming terrorists can't get to the material, there's still the risk that Russia would become hostile.

To the sun! (1, Interesting)

Kozz (7764) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802247)

Not an original idea, I grant you, but I always thought it'd be neat to be able to take this nasty stuff and launch it into the sun. That'd clean up pretty well then, I think.

But what would be the problem with doing so? Is it a matter of dangers of rocket failure (e.g. huge atmospheric dirty-bomb), or is it also quantity of waste to be disposed of and the cost?

Re:To the sun! (5, Interesting)

strictnein (318940) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802295)

I thought that would be a great idea too, until I realized how much waste there was.

67 tons of plutonium and 190 million liters of liquid radioactive waste stored in underground tanks

So, at $1000 or so a pound... well, you do the math.

Sun Launch: Dirty and Expensive (1)

handy_vandal (606174) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802311)

... launch it into the sun.

But what would be the problem with doing so? Is it a matter of dangers of rocket failure (e.g. huge atmospheric dirty-bomb), or is it also quantity of waste to be disposed of and the cost?


Yes, and yes.

-kgj

Re:To the sun! (2, Insightful)

chill (34294) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802337)

The first rocket that explodes on launch will end this idea once and for all.

Powdered plutonium is a serious carcinogen. There were major worries when Cassini was launched, with a few kilos of the stuff and you're suggesting sending TONS up?

Yes, it *IS* a good idea, if we can guarantee 100% safety of the launch.

Re:To the sun! (3, Interesting)

Niles_Stonne (105949) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802410)


How about a Space Elevator? It would still need an engine of some sort to get out of orbit, but that could be shipped up seperately.

If the space elevator fails, it would be unlikely to explode. Add a "recovery system" to the capsule that carries the radioactive material (think parachute), and potential problems would be very small.

Price could also be greatly decreased using a Space Elevator.

Re:To the sun! (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802503)

If large pieces of the shuttle can survive a reentry after the shuttle has been ripped to pieces, why can't the plotonium be safely encased in something to protect it?

Well, it can, but your side doesn't want to mention that because it hurts donations.

Re:To the sun! (2, Interesting)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802510)

Powdered plutonium is a serious carcinogen. There were major worries when Cassini was launched, with a few kilos of the stuff and you're suggesting sending TONS up?

So don't powder the stuff - armored radioisotope generators are a solved problem.

Re:To the sun! (1)

andreMA (643885) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802360)

Aside ftom the obvious expense and hazards of such launching, I think it'd be far better to come up with a means of storing it safely but accessibly.

I'd hate to be slapping my forehead in a hundred years when some new industry comes along finds such waste a valuable resource...

No the moon! (1)

Decaff (42676) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802407)

Not an original idea, I grant you, but I always thought it'd be neat to be able to take this nasty stuff and launch it into the sun.

No - let's bury it on the moon, and then when it all explodes - Space 1999, just a few years late!

Electromagnetic Rail Gun (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802418)

Imagine how useful this sort of not-far-off technology would be in this situation? Send it to the sun for the cost of electricity. Just hope you REALLY didnt want any of that 'waste' cause theres no getting it back!

Will it be considered ironic when energy from nuclear plants is used to propel their own waste into space?

Re:To the sun! (1)

nanter (613346) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802445)

If you can make it safe, and economically feasible to launch it into space at all, why even bother sending it into the sun? Once it's been launched, it's safe in the infinite void of space. What's going to happen - accidentally crash into an alien vessel on its way to visit us? :-)

Re:To the sun! (2, Insightful)

l4m3z0r (799504) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802465)

Let's say we ignore our current concerns with putting that stuff up in the air(cost and danger) and suppose we have found a safe and cheap method to get that to the sun, there is still something we must consider: Should we dispose of the material to a place where it can never be retrieved(the sun)? Its possible that we might find a way to refine or use the waste effectively 100 years from now but because we sent it away into the sun to be effectively destroyed, we no longer have that resource. Before we go tossing away our limited supply of resources we should at least consider this possibility.

Re:To the sun! (2, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802481)

I'd rather see it recycled. Some of this stuff can be fused to other materials and then used in personal power generation, medical imaging, industrial tools, sensor equipment, etc. That would be far safer than moving it all into one place where the sum radiation is impossible to shield against, and will cause a health hazard for the next 100-300 years.

Re:To the sun! (1)

ChickenAintDone (713461) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802546)

I'm not sure how much this liquid radiation weighs, but if it's about the same as water, that's around 421,618,593 pounds. Anyone know the cost per pound to send things into space? If it's just $100 per pound (which I know is probably shooting way low), that's at least 42 billion just for the liquid radiation. I also doubt that would all go up on the same space craft, which means each installment has a chance to fail and cause some nasty effects, like 190 million liters of liquid radtion rain. So it's probably a combination of cost and danger.

Curses! Fooled Again! (4, Informative)

bshroyer (21524) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802255)

I've got to start reading the submitter's name more often. Every time I click through on a story Roland's submitted, I feel I've been duped. You're welcome, RP.

Is there any way I can configure my slash options to ignore his stories altogether?

River (5, Informative)

cyocum (793488) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802256)

"A third of them, dating from the Cold War, have already leaked 4 million liters in the environment, contaminating the groundwater and a river."

I do not usually comment but I would like to remind everyone that the river mentioned would be the Columbia River since Hanford is within sight of the river and a large number of fish spawn there every year.

Re:River (4, Informative)

forevermore (582201) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802389)

Mod the parent up! This river is not only a major spawning ground, but supplies irrigation water to many eastern Washington and Oregon farms, and has hundreds of people living on its banks (including big cities like Portland, OR).

Hanford PR people claimed for years that it would take decades for their waste to filter into the Columbia, until some scientists pointed out that the waste had already been flowing into the Columbia for years.

67 tons of Pu... (5, Informative)

andreMA (643885) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802261)

...was the lifetime production of the facility, not material to be cleaned up as implied.

Re:67 tons of Pu... (4, Funny)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802601)

Silly me - I read that as 67 tons of poo, which is about what my 3 toddlers produce in a given month...

DO the submitters actually read the articles? (5, Informative)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802263)

There are indeed lots of things to clean at the Hanford complex in Washington state: 67 tons of plutonium

Actually, from the article, the 67 tons of Plutonium were the product of the Handford site, not a side-effect left littering the place.

Note, before anyone starts whining about nuclear power not being clean, that Hanford isn't about nuclear power, but about nuclear weapons.

Re:DO the submitters actually read the articles? (1)

falconed (645790) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802458)

so that begs the question (and I'm sure a quick google could answer this but I'm too lazy): how much waste does a nuclear power plant generate in comparison to a nuclear weapons plant?

you have to do something about them (1, Interesting)

the_2nd_coming (444906) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802265)

personally, I think we should be reprocessing the waste into safer materials so that we can move them or reuse them.

Re:you have to do something about them (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802525)

Please, tell me: What do you do to reprocess plutonium debris to make it safer? Which materials did you have in mind? Do these materials exist? If so, which are they?

I live downstream... (2, Funny)

abh (22332) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802272)

The river is the Columbia River, an important transportation and power supply for the region.

I live downstream. Would you like to shake any of my three hands?

Decommisioning (2, Interesting)

pklong (323451) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802276)

Look here For a video [ukaea.org.uk] covering the decommisioning of a small experimental Oxford reactor. Very Very scary (especially pushing graphite blocks into a shredder with no more protection than blue gloves!

Cheap vacation! (2, Funny)

53cur!ty (588713) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802283)

Bet the Hotels in that area are pretty cheap!

Plus glow in the dark showers!!

Book me now!

Re:Cheap vacation! (1)

dr_dank (472072) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802312)

No in-room coffee maker need either. Just place your cup on the ground for a minute. Voila!

Cheap houses (1)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802387)

Friend of mine worked there for Bechtel for a number of years. After the foldup, he couldn't give his house away. Bad spot when you owe $50,000.00 on a hpouse now worth $0.50. Luckily, he had inherited the old home place, which he moved his family back into.

Re:Cheap houses (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9802473)

I grew up in this town. Surprisingly, the population is incredibly pro nuke. The town is booming now, due to the fact there is so uch waste to clean up.

My high school mascot was a mushroom cloud.

Necessary evil (4, Informative)

cyberzephyr (705742) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802285)

Considering the fact that the material has to be moved, every consideration must be made to properly secure the material from accidents and theft.

DOE is more than capable of doing this and have done so for many years. Admittedly there have been a few problems but it never started a real situation of calamatious proportions.

I almost signed up to work for DOE in this team capacity after i got out of the Army as a RANGER and i was very impressed with the security, armament and professionalism these folks have at hand. I just did not like the hours.

+++Warning to any fool that thinks it's easy to steal radioactive material from one of these teams. You'll die twice before you get to pull your trigger once!+++

Cyberzephyr

Re:Necessary evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9802470)

Who has to steal it, they just have to wait for you retards to lose it on your own. How many unaccounted for fuel rods are currently missing?

So, clean it up. (4, Insightful)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802287)

there is a 50-50 chance of a major radiation or chemical accident during the cleanup of the dirtiest nuclear site in the U.S.

And a 100% chance of a major radiation or chemical accident if they don't. So this really looks to be a non-issue.

Tough job (2, Interesting)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802289)

I was interviewed for 3 different jobs doing cleanup at Hanford around 10 years ago. Sort of glad I didn't take any. Talk about a thankless dirty job (we would have been using remote methods, but still). Anyway, two points: a) pollution from nuclear is comparable to pollution from other energy sources. Lead, polonium, mercury, etc just get spread thinner with other methods. Nuclear keeps it concentrated. Call it "choose your poison." Even windmills have been implicated in killing endanged animals (thwack!). b) 60+ tons of plutonium seems a bit high. Not impossible, but a bit high. Given how highly it is sought, you'd think it would have been extracted.

Re:Tough job (1)

irokitt (663593) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802584)

Hanford is not a power reactor, but a breeder reactor that was designed to produce Plutonium. The 67 tons mentioned in the article were the reactor's product, not its waste.

Breeder reactors have enjoyed a double standard power reactors have not. Because they exist "for reasons of national security", safeguards and limitations were not subject to strict outside review by NRC. This is compounded by the fact that Hanford was an early breeder design, and was built before the danger of waste was made clear. In fact, the plant stands as a brutal lesson: nuclear waste cannot be stored in underground tanks like oil or water can.

As for the mess, the waste from a breeder reactor comes in this liquid form. A power reactor produces its waste in the form of solid fuel pellets, which can be stored more safely. Fuel pellets could also be "recycled" into other isotopes, although reprocessing is not allowed in the United States (it is carried out in France, as I fuzzily recall, where commercial waste is recycled to make nuclear weapons. Could someone else confirm that?).

Question... (3, Insightful)

Xentax (201517) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802292)

So, is this all coming from plants that were producing weapons-grade material?

What I'm getting at is, how much of this waste is comparable (in terms of which specific materials, and in what volumes) to what a nuclear powerplant would produce?

I'm not trying to diminish the magnitude of the mess or the impact it has on the area, but I can already see people taking this and running in the wrong direction with it - namely, that every nuclear power plant will produce this sort of mess over time. I *believe* this is the exception rather than the rule, because this site was/is producing weapons material rather than electricity, but it'd be great if someone with hard data could confirm/invalidate that...

Xentax

why worry about it? (2, Informative)

jest3r (458429) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802316)

Plutonium doesn't sound all that bad ...

Despite being toxic both chemically and because of its ionising radiation, plutonium is far from being 'the most toxic substance on earth' or so hazardous that 'a speck can kill'.

On both counts there are substances in daily use that, per unit of mass, have equal or greater chemical toxicity (arsenic, cyanide, caffeine) and radiotoxicity (smoke detectors).

more: http://www.uic.com.au/nip18.htm [uic.com.au]

There is a silver lining. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9802335)

I don't live anywhere near there.

FUD (5, Insightful)

D3 (31029) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802361)

Beware the FUD that comes from articles like this. Last night on 60 minutes they ran an article about the Nevada Yucca mountain site. Totally one sided and full of FUD. At one point they interviewed a guy who said there would be 300 foot long tractor trailer trucks "the length of a football field" hauling this through people's neighborhoods. Last I checked, tractor trailers are 80 feet long. Just lots of sloppy reporting without proper fact checking.

New Scientist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9802515)

Maybe to didn't follow the link. This isn't some loon we've never heard of publishing. It's in New Scientist, a well respected magazine. You'll find it in the coffee room in just about every UK science lab.

Re:FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9802521)

They guy's mind was probably affected by the radiation. He probably can't judge distances anymore =P

RTFA (5, Insightful)

Spl0it (541008) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802362)

Guys, this is a site that has spent most of its existance producing chemicals,etc.. weapons. This is not a nuclear power plant site. Please read the article and stop modding people as informative for saying nuclear power isn't clean the article is not about nuclear power.

Nuclear waste leaks (4, Interesting)

Grym (725290) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802366)

I'll admit, I only know a little about the storage of nuclear waste, but can someone PLEASE explain how it could possibly be so difficult to keep the stuff from leaking?

It's not like these containers are sitting outside exposed to the elements. They're, AFAIK, stored underground in secure facilities.

People make it sound like the government spends millions of dollars to develop these high-tech facilities and then just haphazardly sprays the stuff into old, rusty oil-drums. Surely this isn't the case.... right...?

-Grym

Re:Nuclear waste leaks (1)

LordKaT (619540) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802480)

My understanding is that they're burried under a while lot o' dirt.

But then again, I pick my nose, so who's counting?

Re:Nuclear waste leaks (1)

Izeickl (529058) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802565)

The radiation decays the containers, I recently read the thing on BBC as UK is pondering storage requirements also.

"Currently, after a period of temporary storage, when the most radioactive products have had a chance to decay, high-level waste from spent nuclear fuel is encased in a borosilicate glass and sealed in stainless steel drums. But this is really only a short-term solution because the radiation emitted by the waste will slowly attack the integrity of the containers. "

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3896463.stm

Re:Nuclear waste leaks (1)

worst_name_ever (633374) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802591)

People make it sound like the government spends millions of dollars to develop these high-tech facilities and then just haphazardly sprays the stuff into old, rusty oil-drums. Surely this isn't the case.... right...?

I was in a museum [omsi.edu] recently where they had an exhibit about Hanford. Yes, a lot of the nasty stuff was basically stored in single-wall steel tanks not unlike oil storage tanks. As time has passed, many have rusted through and released plumes of really bad gunk into the groundwater.

-1, Paranoid Scare Tactics (5, Insightful)

ryanwright (450832) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802374)

This entire article is based on a study by one person, no doubt with a political agenda.

I've lived next to Hanford since I was 3 years old, and work a couple of miles from the nuke plant. I've toured the site many times. I've followed local news, which reports on every boring little detail since they have nothing better to do, my entire life.

Are there problems? Sure. I remember when the single walled tanks started leaking, and they pumped everything into new double-wall tanks. Will there be problems in the future? Sure. Will those problems affect me? No. The accidents that take place may be major to the people working on that particular project, but are not catastrophic in the grand scheme of things.

Look: The Hanford site has been operational for decades. The number of serious accidents is tiny, and said accidents have only affected the workers directly involved with that given project, not the rest of us. Yes, there are environmental concerns. No, they aren't as horrible as this article makes them out to be. We swim in and eat fish from the river. Our water comes from the river and local groundwater. None is contaminated enough to be detectible, let alone harm somebody. And I'm right here, a fraction of a mile downstream from the site.

Even if the clean-up goes according to plan, Boldt claims there will still be 260 square kilometres of groundwater exceeding drinking water safety limits for over 10,000 years.

He's full of himself. This is nothing more than paranoid scare tactics.

Re:-1, Paranoid Scare Tactics (1)

Cuzzle (776855) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802589)

I have lived right next to Hanford all of my life and it has never bothered me in the least. There are some pretty smart scientists working on cleaning this stuff up. My dad works as a biologist monitoring the wildlife on Hanford reservation and while there have been a few "issues" they are tiny considering the amount of toxic garbage that exists. Modern reactors can actually create "good" byproducts isotopes used for treating cancer, etc.

Told ya so! (0, Troll)

Cervantes (612861) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802378)

Weren't we telling the nuclear power industry 20 years ago "Hey, you know all that glowing stuff your reactors keep spitting out? You know you'll need somewhere to put it, right?".
And, as I recall, the industry said "Yeah, sure, we've got plans, no need to worry. Reactors in every state, money for everyone!". And there was much rejoicing, because the industry knew the problem, and would save us from it, regardless of whether it cost them an arm and a leg.

Yeah, so much for that. Letting capitalists handle any situation where the good of the people must be weighed against the almighty dollar is just a BAD IDEA.

Now, looking at all the glow-y stuff in your water, and the 3 headed pig on your dinner plate... who's for MORE deregulation? Anyone? Raise your hands...

-Cerv

Re:Told ya so! (1)

D3 (31029) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802442)

"who's for MORE deregulation? Anyone? Raise your hands..." Yes, all 8 of them!

Re:Told ya so! (2, Informative)

ryanwright (450832) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802457)

Weren't we telling the nuclear power industry

The contamination isn't from nuclear power. It's from producing nuclear weapons, and general experiments. You must remember, a large amount of our nation's nuclear research was done at Hanford, including the world's first man-made, sustained nuclear reaction. The mess is from this activity, conducted decades ago when we didn't know as much as we do now.

This has nothing to do with nuclear power generation.

That evil HanfordCo! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9802511)

Yeah, because Hanford was run by a giant corporation working for private profit and not subject in any way to the beneficial oversight of the wise federal government.

Looks like you have no clue what Hanford was (a government lab), who owned it (the feds), who operated it (the feds), and who regulated it (the feds).

And as soon as you find out, I bet you throw that knowledge down the same memory hole as Chernobyl and all the poisoned lakes in Eastern Europe and Russia. Look where strong regulation by a strong government got them.

spoNge (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9802409)

Hubbard And Mike move forward, Fact: *BSD is dying It's best to try Ago, many of you company a 2 BSD machines, BSD managed to make backwards. To the the bottoms butt Cuntwipes Jordan at times. From Decentralized FreeBSD used to Baby take my anything can Channel, you might I'm sick of it. and sling or table fly...don't fear person. Ask your towels on the floor It simple, at times. From direct orders, or a losing battle; achieve any of the LEGITIMISE DOING to survive at all than its Windows of open-source. windows, SUN or

Less noxious than cleaning Redmond's FUD! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9802423)

The word "radioactivity" is surrounded by too much FUD to allow for intelligent public debate. Slashdot should stick to investigations of toxic memes coming out of Washington!

I can't see any constructive comments (2, Insightful)

geirhe (587392) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802425)

Well, this person is obviously deeply worried.

However, he doesn't say what he wants. Does he want to delay the process, and why does he think that will lead to a better risk management than the current plant? Has he got any suggestions for how the risks can be mitigated?

IMHO, Alvarez comes across as a person that does not want this cleanup to take place at all because that may lead to nuclear power not becoming mainstream if an accident occurs during the cleanup.

LIES about nuclear waste (-1, Troll)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802426)

Let's not forget that the government, and the energy/weapons mafia that pays it off, pretended for decades that Hanford was safe and clean. While it was spewing deadly poison all around the area, into the earth, water, and ecosystem, including the people. Those people who were working there, living the lie, fighting a Cold War for a company and a government that were killing them. Their bitter legacy will now cost us all billions of dollars, and threaten disasters that would cost billions more - and we don't even have words for the suffering, except maybe "milliChernobyl".

Half Right (4, Informative)

geomon (78680) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802492)

The production schedule for the new Vitrification Plant is far ahead of the basic science and engineering that form the foundation for its construction. Although I do not think that they will operate it with the risks for steam explosion that the article alludes to, it is more likely that the tax payers will pay more than the estimated $7B to construct it.

You heard it right, folks - $7B.

As for the groundwater contamination, that is nothing new. A tritium plume extending from the 200 Areas (where plutonium separation was performed) to the Columbia River has been in place since production started. It has fluctuated in size according to the politics of weapons production. The facilities have been shut down since the early 90's and are in various stages of decommissioning.

The issue of iodine-129 is a sticky point. It has a long half-life and had been dumped to the soil column without too much worry about the transport properties of the nuclide. It travels at the same rate through the vadose and groundwater as nitrate. It is very mobile. The toxicity of the isotope is in come dispute. I can get a higher radiation dose from a urniary test than I can get from consuming contaminated Hanford groundwater. I can also dispose of the contamination through my municipal water treatment facility, a practice prohibited for Hanford contractors.

As for the cesium-137 and strontium-90, those isotopes bind to soils high in the vadose and rarely reach groundwater. The are confined to zones near the surface, far from the river, and will be left in place to decay to background beneath low permeability covers. This is not a practice that the USDOE is forcing on the local community, but is a treatment alternative that is accepted by the USEPA and Washington Deparment of Ecology.

It'll be safe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9802497)

as long as there are no middle easterners working in the process

What about IRAN, etc. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9802514)

The Hanford facility was created for the purpose of nuclear research by the world's most diverse economy.

Will the Iran's or the North Korea's of the world do any better job of cleaning up the messes they are currently creating?

Certainly, enforcing economic sanctions cannot be an answer. Can anyone name a single time those have worked?

At some point in time we have to take those countries out of the nuclear mix, less San Francisco is the target of their wrath and becomes the next nuclear wasteland we have to clean up.

50 billion ??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9802520)

Haliburton must have the contract.

people are big dumb panicky animals (2, Informative)

rh9shrike (764498) | more than 9 years ago | (#9802587)

I live right next to the Idaho National Engineering lab. (INEL) we have 53 reacotrs out there, among them were the first to produce electric power, and the first breeder (plutonium producing) reactor. There is also one other interesting piece of tech out there- a calciner. This calciner takes liquid waste and makes it a solid. Litle balls about the size of cookie sprinkles. The stuff is still radioactive (no fix for that) BUT it can no longer seep inot groundwater, it no longer eats away at its container, it is much more stable with regard to the environment. Hanford has to know about this and I imagine they didn't do it because it would be a major pain to get the stuff here to calcine it, or it was expensive. (Most likly both transporting "hot" nuclear materials is probably the biggest paperwork nightmare I can imagine. one last point- the people who work there don;t want to die anymore than you do. These people know what they are doing- (but managment is the one that makes the papers.) And even if their managment tells them to do something stupid- the guy on the ground wants to go home to his family tonight. I serously doubt there will be a problem- I have lived here my whole life without problem, and plan to stay.
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