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Uranium Found in Salmon Habitat

Hanford, Wash. - Independent analysis has confirmed uranium waste contaminating sediments in the Columbia River. This confirmation comes from joint sampling by the Washington state Department of Ecology and The RadioActivist Campaign, a non-profit, public-interest project.
Ecology and the project collected four samples from the Hanford Reach riverbed in September 2004. Ecology submitted the samples to independent laboratories for uranium-233 analysis. After reviewing Ecology's data, the project now reports the confirmation of uranium-233 in Columbia River sediments.

Norm Buske, director of The RadioActivist Campaign says, "This confirmation raises concern for the health of Columbia River salmon." The concern is mainly for radium-225, a decay product of uranium-233. Radium-225 mimics calcium, an element essential for cellular functions. Salmon hatchlings living in the riverbed are believed to absorb calcium from the environment. The hatchlings would then absorb radium-225 as a calcium substitute. Alpha radioactivity from radium-225 decay could harm salmon development. However, the edibility of adult salmon would not be affected.

The commercial value of the Hanford Reach, fall chinook salmon is $1 billion a year.

According to Buske, "this independent confirmation is a wake-up call for on-going cleanup of Hanford Site. Uranium-233 in the riverbed tells us we need to broaden our view of Hanford cleanup. The current cleanup plan is inadequate to protect the health of the Columbia River."

In a letter dated Dec. 14, 2005, Ecology said that it plans to undertake a special study of its laboratory determinations to gain a clear understanding of the results.

Reactors at Hanford Site in eastern Washington state produced artificial plutonium and uranium for the U. S. nuclear deterrent during the Cold War.

The new report, "Uranium-233 in the Hanford Reach Riverbed," is available at www.radioactivist.org/new.html.

The RadioActivist Campaign is a scientific project of the Tides Center of San Francisco.

homepage: homepage: http://www.radioactivist.org
phone: phone: 360-275-1351