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article imageHanford Nuclear Plant leak poses threat to NW region

By Carol Forsloff     Feb 16, 2013 in World
The Department of Energy reports a leak at the Hanford Plant, where radioactive waste has been stored in tanks long since too old to safely contain that waste in an area some scientists have referred to as "the most toxic waste dump in the world."
The fact is that a leak of any kind in an area where radioactive waste presents a serious threat to the environment of much of the Pacific Northwest, is a serious matter, according to Washington State Governor Jay Inslee.
Scientists are concerned about the fact, that even though the project for cocooning the reactors is ahead of schedule, there could be an earthquake of major proportions, such as the one that hit Japan, creating major widespread damage in 2011.
According to the Columbia Anthology history records, nine plutonium production reactors were once developed at Hanford, outside the Tri-City area of Pasco, Kennewick and Richland, that were built during the war. The B Reactor was the first complete nuclear reactor in world history, and the Hanford Plant was said to have produced 1/4 of the world's plutonium.
While Congress fiddles over the budget, the problem is that "burning" from these dead reactors means highly toxic waste products may drain into the Columbia River that spans much of Oregon and Washington.
Scientists have complained over many years about the lack of oversight and responsibility in the development of the cocoons for the Hanford Reactors. The Los Angeles Times reported just two days ago that Donna Busche, a nuclear engineer and health physicist, had filed a suit that alleges that plant executives tried to persuade her not to raise warnings about the serious problems involved with the design of the waste site. She alleges that executives at the plant threatened to fire her over her efforts to point out the problems that she maintains could impact the safety of the containment vessels.
Environmentalists worry about the fact that the cleanup plant is only half constructed. Problems related to waste removal and protection of the environment have yet to be resolved for the estimated 53 million tons of radioactive waste. Some of that waste is contained in tanks that are long past the life span projected for safety.
In an article entitled, “Veteran Hanford Engineer Says DOE’s Multi-Billion Dollar Hanford Nuclear Waste Processing Plant Might Not Work Properly and Has Serious Potential Safety Problems”, author David Rosenthal wrote about Dr. Walter Tamosaitis, who was the research and technology manager and the deputy chief processing engineer for URS Corporation. URS Corporation is a subcontractor to Bechtel. Bechtel is in charge of the clean-up. Tamosaitis claims he was literally escorted out of the plant “like an absolute felon." He was subsequently fired for raising concerns about safety violations at the plant.
This reporter attended a major rally in the Tri-Cities area in the spring of 2012, where activists from the Pacific Northwest voiced concerns about the lack of safety precautions surrounding the Hanford Plant.
Governor Insley summarized the issue by saying, "The leak raises concerns about the integrity of other storage facilities at the highly contaminated site".
This is the concern voiced by major scientists who have been involved in the production of safe guards for radioactive waste and a major concern for environmentalists in the Pacific Northwest. And because of the potential for earthquakes to occur in a region already considered at risk, the threat to the welfare of the population is also a major factor in the Governor's planned journey to Washington DC to confer with Department of Energy officials. And the federal budget, if interrupted by Congressional debate, is said to be of particular consequence in the protection of the people and environment of the Northwest region.
More about Hanford Nuclear Plant, N reactor, B reactor, Governor Jay Inslee, Dr Walter Tamosaitis
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