Hanford Poo

Hanford, Washington. The site of 9 nuclear reactors and 5 processing plants used during the Cold War to produce plutonium. Sixty-seven tons of plutonium. Shut down now, but still the most radioactive site in the United States. Stored at the site are 53 million gallons of high-level liquid radioactive waste stored in large tanks. About a third of them are leaking. A major plume of that radiation is in the ground water and migrating toward the Columbia River. There are almost a 100,000 cubic yards of solid waste on site as well. Dump sites of pure plutonium have been found, there are no records of much of what was done, and the clean-up operation will stretch beyond our life times.

There was no plan to deal with the waste, it just piled up. Current plans to vitrify the waste and store it on site in pits is on hold, although that seems like the best alternative at the present time. Leaving the waste in the tanks is a recipe for failure, given the amount of time necessary to allow it to decay to safe levels. Since plutonium has such a long half-life, the waste will not be safe for a quarter of a million years. While that sounds like hyperbole, 24,700 years is the half-life, and 10 half-lifes will have to pass before it will decay enough, although it is true that this process follows a gradient, becoming less dangerous over time.

I am not opposed to nuclear power. I am opposed to teh stupidity. Whether it’s coal, oil, nuclear, they all have risks, but deliberately using a technology that creates waste that remains dangerous for tens of thousands of years and failing to plan for that waste is immoral.

Hanford is one site. There are more, and as foreshadowing, let’s just say the U.S. did way better than the Soviet Union.

If one is sufficiently lavish with time, everything possible happens.
–Herodotus

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