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Six of Hanford's Nuclear Waste Tanks Leaking Badly 221

SchrodingerZ writes "A recent review of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state (where the bulk of Cold War nuclear material was created) has found that six of its underground storage tanks are leaking badly. Estimations say each tank is leaking 'anywhere from a few gallons to a few hundred gallons of radioactive material a year.' Washington's governor, Jay Inslee, said in a statement on Friday, 'Energy officials recently figured out they had been inaccurately measuring the 56 million gallons of waste in Hanford's tanks.' The Hanford cleanup project has been one of the most expensive American projects for nuclear cleanup. Plans are in place to create a treatment plant to turn the hazardous material into less hazardous glass (proposed to cost $13.4 billion), but for now officials are trying just to stop the leaking from the corroded tanks. Today the leaks do not have an immediate threat on the environment, but 'there is [only] 150 to 200 feet of dry soil between the tanks and the groundwater,' and they are just five miles from the Colombia River."
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Six of Hanford's Nuclear Waste Tanks Leaking Badly

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  • Re:Yucca Mountain (Score:5, Informative)

    by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @10:52AM (#42995207)

    No it isn't, with even a cursory look into the situation. Yucca mountain was for spent fuel rods from commercial plants. This disaster area is the leftover crap from reprocessing fuel to extract the Plutonium. Yucca mountain was primarily for commercial reactors - this was a government-run site.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2013 @11:55AM (#42995457)

    You do realize that quote was in reference to a fusion project, not fission. I know Harry Shearer doesn't, I'd hope you take the time to learn a little something.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Too_cheap_to_meter [wikipedia.org]

    Oh, and electricity production does not necessarily lead to nuclear warheads.

  • Re:Thanks Harry! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2013 @12:12PM (#42995533)

    Harry did the right thing. Yucca mountain was one of several sites being evaluated for desirable geological characteristics since the early 90's...one of 3 I think.
    The original plan was that one of the 3 sites would be chosen based solely on technical merits however that was wishful thinking and in the end Yucca mountain was chosen because the politician from the other more populated states successfully shutdown those options because they of course do not want nuclear waste stored in their "back yards". So Yucca mountain is a place that nuclear waste *could* be stored...but there is nothing better about it than any where else. In fact Yucca mountain has seen several earth quakes since they started studying the site and they have also found a relatively high water table so there are probably many better places. The only benefit that Yucca mountain had was that was politically easier to force it on the people of Nevada than it was other places. The best place to store nuclear waste is at its source (so you dont transport it) and in properly maintained tanks. They have failed to maintain these Hanford tanks just as easily as they could fail to maintain Yucca mountains' facilities.

  • Re:Yucca Mountain (Score:5, Informative)

    by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @12:30PM (#42995625)

    Yucca Mountain was designed to store wastes AFTER they had been immobilized and put in long-term storage casks.

    The problem here is that they haven't even started that first step. This is still millions of gallons of raw liquid waste, in a state that is totally unsuitable for interstate transport and burial. If Yucca Mountain were up and running today, it wouldn't help this problem one bit.

    If they actually took the initiative to solidify this waste now and put it in casks, they could safely store it on site for decades or centuries, just like they're currently doing with commercial reactor waste. They don't need something like Yucca Mountain to address the current risks.

  • by znanue ( 2782675 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @12:58PM (#42995787)

    You're cynical about congress. But, people really don't vote for these issues in any kind of numbers. Not when there are much more important single wedge issues to get irate about. Also, people don't want to be informed about this until it starts retarding babies or dramatically increasing cancer rates. And then, they seem to only think it happens to them when it happens to them.

    I much more blame the electorate than congress for this lack of attention. If we took a million people to the capital building, or wrote a million letters, or even wrote a million emails, we might get some attention paid to this issue.


  • Re:Yucca Mountain (Score:2, Informative)

    by peon_a-z,A-Z,0-9$_+! ( 2743031 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @01:06PM (#42995825)

    Millions of gallons can be converted into a smaller volume through chemical reprocessing of the materials. Imagine if every time you took a shit, the water that was in the toilet was instantly put in a tank and designated part of the "waste" produced by you.

    This is similar to the situation at Hanford - had reprocessing not been outlawed we wouldn't have had to (and still could go back and fix) this political problem of storing the ENTIRE waste byproduct.

  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @03:01PM (#42996445) Homepage Journal

    It's not at all unsolvable. The waste we're talking about here is not nuclear power leftovers and is not the result of modern methods.

    All of this is leftovers from weapons manufacturing. It is the problem it is because at the time, getting the weapons made at any cost was the priority. Nobody at the time cared how much waste it produced or in what form.

    A responsible power program will take the 'spent' fuel and reprocess it into new fuel rods (95% of the material) and a highly radioactive waste in solid form (the other 5%) that will decay in 200-500 years. At that point, it will be less radioactive than the uranium ore that was dug out of the environment in the first place.

    We could build several modern reactors and power them on nothing but the existing stockpile of not really spent fuel we have sitting in dry storage. The result would be a net reduction of the amount of nuclear waste in the world.

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