HANFORD, MERCURY WASTE DUMP OF NATION? 11,000 METRIC TONS
All the Mercury in the USA, currently existing, and generated by private sources, up to 11,000 metric tons, may be stored at Hanford Nuclear Reservation, 215 miles upstream of Portland, on the Columbia River. The US Department of Energy is considering this plan and accepting comments.
COMMENT DEADLINE: AUGUST 24, 2009 COMMENT ONLINE: http://www.mercurystorageeis.com/comment.asp (paste address into your browser)
NO MERCURY STORAGE AT HANFORD NUCLEAR RESERVATION
USDOE wants to consolidate all US generated mercury in a single location. USDOE Hearings have been held recently on the consolidation of mercury at cities and towns near the 7 locales being considered, including Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Congress rightly banned the export of US mercury—third world countries worldwide suffer when accepting USA toxins, which are stored and processed, more cheaply than corporations would have had to pay to process and dump mercury waste in the USA. But what to do with what exists and what is being generated?
ABOUT 40 PEOPLE SHOWED UP AT THE LAST MEETING FOR MERCURY SITE STORAGE SELECTION WHICH WAS SCHEDULED IN PORTLAND, OREGON ON AUGUST 13, 2009, INCLUDING THE OREGON DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY AND PORTLAND MAYOR SAM ADAMS. NOBODY WANTED HANFORD DESIGNATED AS THE NATION'S MERCURY WASTE DUMP.
Up at the Tri-Cities, next to Hanford, Gary Petersen, Vice President of Hanford programs for the Tri-City Development Council didn't want it either. "Mercury is forever," he said. "It does not have a half life. I do not see any reason why they should bring more material out here and have it become a waste dump."
REASONS WERE: HANFORD SHOULD BE CLEANED UP FIRST OF ALL ITS NUCLEAR WASTE ACCORDING TO THE TRI-PARTY AGREEMENT BEFORE ACCEPTING NEW MISSIONS, NO STORAGE FACILITY EXISTS AT HANFORD, THE DANGER POSED BY LIQUID MERCURY ON THE SITE, PORTLAND'S DOWNRIVER LOCATION TO HANFORD, THE VULNERABLE RIVER LOCATION, OREGON HIGHWAYS AND BRIDGES NOT BEING ABLE TO HANDLE THAT KIND OF ADDITIONAL TOXIC TRAFFIC, HANFORD SHOULD NOT BE THE NATION'S MERCURY WASTE DUMP, AND ETC.
USDOE has been mandated to find a place to consolidate all the mercury in the USA by an Act of Congress, passed in the 110th Congress, second session begun January 3, 2008—the MERCURY EXPORT BAN ACT OF 2008, see: http://thomas.loc.gov/
7 SITES ARE BEING CONSIDERED FOR MERCURY STORAGE:
1. -- Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho (Governor Butch Otter does not want it.)
2. -- Hawthorne Army Depot, Nevada (The largest weapons storage depot in the USA, currently stores 4,200 tons of the nation's mercury, overseen by the army)
3. -- Savannah River Site, South Carolina (Savannah River site has serious nuclear waste clean-up operations as is. It is storing a LOT of USA Plutonium. Savannah is the sister site to Hanford, and now the Savannah River is as, or more, polluted with radionuclides than the Columbia. Savannah is a terrible place to put liquid mercury.)
4. -- Kansas City Plant, Missouri (Governor Jay Nixon does not want it, says, "Missouri is not a dump." 85% of nuclear weapons parts are made here.
5. -- Waste Control Specialists, Texas panhandle (This is a private company. Having liquid mercury stored by a private 'waste specialist' is irresponsible. Private corporations simply walk away from their worst messes, as proven over and over at Hanford Nuclear Reservation alone. Additionally, the panhandle location for WCS LLC is right on top of the Ogallala Aquifer. There are serious long term issues with storing highly toxic waste along rivers, lakes, and on top of fresh water aquifers. The United States does not have clean water to spare.)
6. -- Grand Junction Disposal Site, Colorado (Governor Bill Ritter does not want it, says the site is too close to the Colorado River)
7. -- Hanford Nuclear Reservation, Washington (Hanford is in the process of trying to 'clean up' highly toxic nuclear waste now 68 years old left over from the Cold War. Located on the Columbia River, the site already has too many missions.)
HANFORD IS THE MOST CONTAMINATED SITE IN THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE, AND THE LARGEST ENVIRONMENTAL CLEAN-UP PROJECT IN THE WORLD.
DOES THIS PLACE NEED YET ANOTHER 'MISSION'?
Hanford covers 586 square miles of desert in eastern Washington. 51 miles of the Columbia River runs through it. It is 35 miles north of the Oregon border, and 215 miles upstream from Portland.
From 1943 to 1988 Hanford produced plutonium for nuclear weapons, using a line of nuclear reactors along the Columbia River. Cooling water from the river was piped through the reactors, and then fed back into the river. Spent fuel rods from the reactors were dissolved in nitric acid to separate out the plutonium. 60% of America's plutonium was made at Hanford. The bomb dropped on Nagasaki was made at Hanford. Enormous amounts of highly radioactive and chemical waste were generated in the process. Since the production of plutonium ceased, Hanford's only big mission has been clean-up. The site has always had, and still has, 'secret missions'. The US navy uses it to dispose of its nuclear submarine reactor hulls; submarines are dismantled in Bremerton, Washington, and the hulls barged up the Columbia River through the locks and over the dam to Hanford where they are buried in the sands.
USDOE should focus on the many highly toxic areas across the Reservation such as Hanford's Tank Waste, which is 53 million gallons of high level Strontium, Cesium, and Plutonium in 177 gigantic tanks, now buried under the sand. http://www.hanfordwatch.org/images/Photos/Tanks/images/tank_constr_snow.jpg 67 of the tanks leak into the groundwater. Only 7 of the tanks are now emptied.
link to www.hanfordwatch.org
Completion of Tank Waste clean-up is now moved to 2040. Meanwhile, tanks continue to leak and the waste is moving, via the groundwater, into the Columbia River.
Enough Plutonium and "Transuranic" waste is in Hanford soils for fifty nuclear bombs. "Large Quantities of Plutonium Waste 'Lost' in Hanford's Soil." http://www.hanfordnews.com/static/includes/documents/lostplutonium.pdf
And there are MANY other nuclear waste clean-up projects at Hanford according to the Tri-Party Agreement: http://www.hanford.gov/?page=90&parent=91 with others yet to be documented.
Why has Washington's Governor Gregoire not come out against storing mercury at Hanford? One answer might be that Washington's governor fears the vote potential of part of the Tri-City community, which may want this unwieldy project.
Hanford just received 2 billion in stimulus money for toxic nuclear waste clean-up. A huge community of workers has grown up around Hanford Nuclear Reservation. As a nation, we can be grateful that toxic waste 'clean-up' workers exist, but the United States needs to consider re-training as projects are completed.
As is, workers and corporations who are always eager for 'Projects' see the road ahead possibly as one where clean-up jobs will dry up in a few decades. The Tri-Cities, which grew up around Hanford since its inception in 1945, is now booming as a result of this stimulus money. People are flocking there from all over the country for jobs. The forces to keep people occupied and working are great.
In essence, nationally in the USA, toxic clean-up is growing itself—especially at places like the Waste Control Specialists, LLC in Texas, which just got a railroad line paid for by tax dollars, and in South Carolina, and at Hanford. At these 'sites', corporations both national and foreign (such as AREVA) want lucrative USDOE 'projects' and 'missions'—paid for by American tax dollars.
USDOE holds meetings inviting 'stakeholders.' Most of these meetings are held in the center of the communities where the projects are to be placed, even if the projects affect millions living miles away in the surrounding area. A minority of workers and corporations (even tribes) are making a big noise and thus making decisions affecting a much greater majority of many millions of people.
VOCAL CORPORATIONS WITH CLEAN-UP WORKERS TIED TO A SHORT TERM VESTED FINANCIAL INTEREST ARE DETERMINING THE LONG TERM HEALTH FOR MILLIONS IN A VERY WIDE AREA, DOWNWIND AND DOWNSTREAM.
NO MINORITY WITH A VESTED FINANCIAL INTEREST SHOULD IMPACT THE LONG TERM HEALTH OF MILLIONS OF AMERICANS. YET THIS IS OFTEN THE CASE.
USDOE proposes putting "8,300 TO 11,000 METRIC TONS OF PURE LIQUID MERCURY from private sources for storage over 40 years" at a single locale adjacent to major rivers, or on top of a major aquifer, moving mercury across US highways, from locales all over the USA via truck, constructing a whole new set of buildings to house the waste (in the middle of a lot of nuclear clean-up activity at Hanford on the Central Plateau) and then overseeing the safety of all this mercury.
USDOE'S Environmental Impact Statement for Mercury storage and consolidation is for 40 years. And that's the great problem with Environmental Impact Statements.
Thinking only 40 years ahead is far too short sighted.
50 years ago, nuclear power was thought too cheap to meter. Now, it is proving to be a highly cost in-effective method of power production heavily subsidized by US tax payers, not only responsible for insuring the companies against nuclear accidents but also paying for the subsequent 'clean-up' of the nuclear waste generated by the plants, the clean-up of this waste often then given to the same corporations which gave us the waste to begin with. And nobody knows how to safely dispose of nuclear waste. What does it matter if nuclear power plants put out small amounts of carbon compared to coal plants? Nuclear is very dirty. 70 years of nuclear waste from munitions and nuclear power production has not changed the fact that we still do not know how to safely store the toxic waste.
The United States is awash in toxic nuclear waste and plutonium and uranium tailings, as well as toxic chemical waste, from mercury to pesticides. And the stuff is moving through the environment in water, wind, rain, fire, animals, and man.
How many trucks of mercury will be moving across the highways?
Liquid mercury is stored in elongated flasks which hold 3 liters per each one. Each flask weighs 75 lbs. So, how many liters is 11,000 metric tons? 11,000 metric tons is 11 million kilograms, which is 808,824 liters, divided by 3 liters since this is the amount held by each 75 lb. flask, and you get 269,608 flasks that would have to be moved and stored. To get the total number of lbs moved, you simply multiply 269.608 by 75 lbs per flask and you get 20,220,600 lbs. (not including the 3 liters of mercury stored inside each flask).
The question is: how many truckloads does it take to safely move 20,220,600 lbs. given that there are no accidents or acts of terror? Thousands. Possibly tens of thousands. There is a whole lot of mercury to be moved right away. Mercury may be coming in increments of just a few flasks from one locale and a lot of flasks in trucks from other locales—mercury containing trucks zooming down the highways. Mercury will be trucked from the Eastern USA, Georgia among other states, and the middle of the USA.
The toxic releases emanating from the processing (a lot of it is not 'pure liquid' yet) of this massive tonnage of mercury to "pure liquid form" is not even being addressed. It is in another part of the United States, and another state's responsibility. NOTE* Toxic air releases do not stay orderly within state lines.
LOTS of clean-up work is supposed to be going on at Hanford, and that means moving other toxins OUT of Hanford along highways across the Pacific Northwest, and chemicals to treat the waste being trucked IN to Hanford across the Pacific Northwest.
Liquid mercury as stored is highly toxic. An enormous mercury holding building is supposed to be constructed in Hanford's 'Central Plateau'. Isn't this the same area where there is a gigantic groundwater treatment system being built, large enough to treat 85 million gallons of contaminated groundwater per month? Many trucks will be zooming in and out to do merely that. All that activity on the Central Plateau, AND THE STORAGE OF MERCURY ON TOP OF ALL THAT GROUNDWATER PROCESSING?
Additionally, in the future, a mercury processing plant may be developed whereby mercury is FURTHER TREATED so that it may safely be released back into the environment. Do we want to build this potential liquid mercury reprocessing treatment plant right there on Hanford's Central Plateau, right in the middle of all the existing nuclear waste clean-up activity? If not, do we want to risk more thousands of trucks hauling the mercury to yet another location?
And why do we need to purify mercury into liquid form? What do we need all that liquid mercury for these days? Isn't the need for liquid mercury dying out? What kinds of money will it take to separate liquid mercury from the mercury containing sludge left over from chlorine production in Georgia or from gold mining in various parts of the USA? How toxic is this separation process? What exactly is being stored? Why do we need it to be in this 'liquid' form? These are questions which remain unclear from the USDOE presentation.
How toxic is liquid mercury? See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_(element)
PUTTING VARIOUS TOXINS CLOSE TOGETHER IS JUST ASKING FOR TROUBLE.
What if one thing explodes and causes a chain reaction and other explosions?
WHAT ABOUT FORCES OF NATURE, SUCH AS FIRE?
In July 2000, a brushfire, which started off the reservation, as a result of a car accident, caught the wind and was whipped into a huge wildfire. This fire is known as the "24 Command Wildfire" of July 28-30, 2000 at Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
If anyone doubts the fact that errors take place in an emergency, have them read the hour by hour account of what took place as the fire grew and quickly spread. http://www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/rp/wildfire.PDF The file reads like something out of The China Syndrome. Plutonium was found in the air after the fire (see Tri-City HERALD)
Radioactive and chemical contaminants, including Tritium and Plutonium, are in Hanford's groundwater and flowing into the Columbia River. Strontium 90 now enters the Columbia at a greater rate than was thought possible, leaking off the reservation via the groundwater.
For answers to other questions about Hanford, and the mercury issue, see: http://www.hoanw.org/ , http://www.hoanw.org/ , link to hanfordchallenge.org
COMMENTARY DEADLINE IS AUGUST 24, 2009.
COMMENT ONLINE AT http://www.mercurystorageeis.com/comment.asp
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Recommended commentary is that the USDOE TAKE NO ACTION, NOT ACCEPT COMMERCIAL MERCURY WASTE, the army should handle the mercury storage. At the very least, NO MERCURY TO HANFORD.
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