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Radioactive Waste Is Leaking From Washington’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation

Radioactive Waste Is Leaking From Washington’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation thumbnail

And now for a quick lesson in government spending: in the 1940s the federal government created the now mostly decommissioned Washington’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation as part of the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. During the Cold War, the project was expanded to include nine nuclear reactors and five large plutonium processing complexes, which produced plutonium for most of the 60,000 weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Sadly, many of the early safety procedures and waste disposal practices were inadequate, and government documents have since confirmed that Hanford’s operations released significant amounts of radioactive materials into the air and the Columbia River.

The weapons production reactors were decommissioned at the end of the Cold War, but the decades of manufacturing left behind 53 million US gallons of high-level radioactive waste, an additional 25 million cubic feet of solid radioactive waste, 200 square miles of contaminated groundwater beneath the site and occasional discoveries of undocumented contaminations that slow the pace and raise the cost of cleanup. The Hanford site represents two-thirds of the nation’s high-level radioactive waste by volume. Today, Hanford is the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States and is the focus of the nation’s largest environmental cleanup. The government spends $2 billion each year on Hanford cleanup — one-third of its entire budget for nuclear cleanup nationally. The cleanup is expected to last decades. It turns out that as Krugman would say, the government was not spending nearly enough, and moments ago Governor Jay Inslee said that six underground radioactive waste tanks at the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site are leaking.

From AP:

Inslee made the announcement after meeting with federal officials in Washington, D.C. Last week it was revealed that one of the 177 tanks at south-central Washington’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation was leaking liquids. Inslee called the latest news “disturbing.”


The tanks, which already are long past their intended 20-year life span, hold millions of gallons of a highly radioactive stew left from decades of plutonium production for nuclear weapons.


The U.S. Department of Energy said earlier that liquid levels were decreasing in one of the tanks at the site. Monitoring wells near the tank have not detected higher radiation levels.

And some more lessons on government spending:

Central to cleanup is the construction of a plant to convert millions of gallons of waste into glasslike logs for safe, secure storage. The $12.3 billion plant is billions of dollars over budget and behind schedule.

See: if only the plant was hundreds of billions, or better yet, trillions of dollars over budget, funded entirely by the Fed’s monetization of debt issuance of course, all would be well. Sure enough:

Inslee and Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber have championed building additional tanks to ensure safe storage of the waste until the plant is completed. Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said earlier this week that he shares their concerns about the integrity of the tanks, but that he wants more scientific information to determine it’s the correct way to spend scarce money.

What is this “scarce money” he is talking about? Does he not know that today total US debt just hit a ridiculous all time high $16,608,318,357,376.54, which is $20 billion more than yesterday, and at this point is an absolutely meaningless number? It’s not like anyone holds any hope that the US will repay this debt ever.

Then again, if the Columbia river ends up spawning some cool-looking mutants, and if the Canadians start turning violent over concerns that the US is exporting them a little more radiation than they bargained for, then the resulting civil/Canadian war once the US can no longer funds its trillion+ deficits will be all the more colorful and vibrant.

So let radiation leak: in fact print more money to buy more Made in Fukushima plutonium and bury it under the complex. After all – as with every thought experiment, such as that of the US solvency when debt is now 104% of GDP, it must be taken to its absurd limit to be fully appreciated by all those who fought tooth and nail against our original proposal from a year ago to build a death star. Because the only thing better than a nearly $1 quintillion death star is two nearly $1 quintillion death stars.


8 Comments on "Radioactive Waste Is Leaking From Washington’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation"

  1. BillT on Sat, 23rd Feb 2013 4:34 am 

    Multiply this by the 400+ nuclear sites around the world and see what the futre holds for our grand children, and theirs … if they survive that long. “Energy too cheap to measure” became “Too deadly and expensive to own.”

  2. dave thompson on Sat, 23rd Feb 2013 4:48 am 

    I keep hearing the solution to our energy problems and green house gas emissions is nuclear.

  3. DC on Sat, 23rd Feb 2013 5:23 am 

    This is not new ‘news’ Hanford has been leaking for decades. And its not getting better. If you really want to experience anger, read up on Bechtel Corp and how they designed a lot of the tanks @ Hanford. Many of them were so poorly designed and built, they started leaking within a few years. I had to laugh at this article mentioning the 20 year tanks. 20 year tanks, for a substance that will remain deadly for thousands of years. Most of the tanks were single-walled, and many did not even make it to the very low bar of 20 years. That place is 300+ miles or so from me, but its still way too close…

  4. Ken300 on Sat, 23rd Feb 2013 5:34 am 

    Ask the people of Chernobyl or Fukishima how long it takes to clean up a nuclear disaster.

    20 years after the disaster at Chernobyl they are building a new billion dollar containment structure over the existing structure that is collapsing. The cost will go on FOREVER.

    TEPCO released their stabilization, clean up and dismantling plan for their disaster and the plan is for it to be cleaned up in 2051 – 40 years after the disaster.

    When we start to dismantle and clean up all the nuclear sites around we will see how costly this experiment with nuclear energy really was.

    The cost will go on FOREVER.

  5. BillT on Sat, 23rd Feb 2013 7:20 am 

    Ken, they will NEVER be cleaned up. To assume so is to believe that there will be wealthy economies to foot the huge, never ending bill. That is the 250,000+ tons of Nuclear waste in the living room. It will be left to radiate everything for the next thousand years.

    The human species has no future. The sad thing is that we will take the rest of the ecology down with us. We had our shot and we blew it. The next 100 million years may be ruled by huge roaches and 100 feet tall weeds.

  6. GregT on Sat, 23rd Feb 2013 10:35 pm 

    Kind of begs the question:

    How long will it take to clean up the planet after the fossil fuel disaster of the 20th century?

    The social, environmental, and economic costs, will go on forever.

  7. Gates Outcast on Sun, 24th Feb 2013 6:55 am 

    Please you ignore the real problems how will this affect our reality TV stars, and what about Harry Potter and gay people, and evolution, and tree hugging liberals, these are serious things to think about, please ignore the rest. Go back to sleep, consume, consume.

  8. Ken300 on Sun, 24th Feb 2013 5:33 pm 

    Nuclear energy is too costly and too dangerous.

    It is time to transition to safe, clean alternative energy sources.

    Wind, solar, wave energy and geothermal are safe, and clean sources of energy.

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