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What makes Hanford’s ‘TRU’ tank waste different from the rest? via KPLU 88.5 (NPR, Seattle)

The U.S. Department of Energy says its wants to send 3 million gallons of radioactive tank waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation to a storage site in New Mexico. That’s 3 million gallons out of a total of 56 million gallons of some of the most toxic stuff on earth.
[...]
Transuranic waste has a lot of very long-lived radionuclides with higher numbers on the periodic table than uranium – think that special little box on the periodic table under the big one you studied in high school. Some radioactive stuff in it has a half-life of 24,000 years. That means this waste will be dangerous for a long time, longer than a lot of the other waste at Hanford.

But here’s the thing, it has never been in contact with high-level waste. It’s from a different chemical process. Sure it’s hot, but some of it is easier to handle. So that’s why Hanford engineers can send this waste to salt caves in New Mexico and the rest of it is waiting for a $12 billion waste treatment plant in southeast Washington.
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“We think that’s a designation that would have to be made by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and not the Department of Energy,” says Tom Carpenter, head of Hanford Challenge, a Seattle-based watchdog group. His and two other environmental organizations say DOE’s plan is illegal and a time waster. They just sent a letter saying that to Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

“Again, you’re just putting complication upon complication and risk,” Carpenter says. “And we’re tired of that. We’d like to see a simple solution that gets us down the road. And that solution is new tanks.”

The Department of Energy responds: that the new option would expedite cleanup at Hanford without risking the mission of the federal waste storage facility in New Mexico.

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