The nuclear industry hasn’t solved the long-term problem of what to do with nuclear waste, which presents a uniquely dangerous environmental threat. That danger is now highlighted by leakage at one of the oldest nuclear sites in the world, Washington State’s Hanford facility, writes Gina Mason.
By Gina Mason
Living with radiation sickness is not on my bucket list, and I would hazard that it isn’t on yours either. Nor is it what I have in mind for my children’s future. Yet our government continues to manufacture nuclear materials and unsafely store radioactive waste in clear violation of the public trust.
Nowhere is this more visible than at Washington State’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the most radioactively contaminated site in the western hemisphere, where we now know radioactive sludge is leaking badly from at least six underground tanks. The management of this catastrophe is vitally important to the Pacific Northwest and the rest of the nation — indeed, the biosphere. Unfortunately, environmental disasters do not stop at city, state or national borders.
The Hanford Nuclear Reservation is located on the 1,243-mile-long Columbia River and sits upstream from drinking water facilities for the Washington Tri-Cities area, tribal lands and many other towns and cities before it empties into the Pacific Ocean.
Built in 1943, this facility is home to the first plutonium production reactor. Hanford is responsible for having manufactured the material used in the first atomic bombs, including the bomb that killed and poisoned scores of thousands in Nagasaki, Japan, on Aug. 9, 1945.
When stacked against other environmental issues – timber clear-cutting, setting aside wilderness areas and even plastic waste floats larger than Texas, the risk of radioactive contamination to our environment is infinitely more catastrophic. I feel that this issue demands our full attention.
Unlike the Fukushima disaster only two years ago, the Hanford radioactive leaks are not the result of a massive natural disaster triggering an anthropogenic catastrophe. This is an event brought on entirely by our own human arrogance and mismanagement, demonstrated repeatedly by poor predictions about how safe it all is.
Read more at Seepage from an Aging Nuclear Site
- Energy Department says budget cuts could delay cleanup at highest-risk nuclear sites via The Washington Post
- Manager says safety issues are ignored at Hanford nuclear site via Los Angels Times
- Nuclear Waste Seeping From Container In Hazardous Wash. State Facility via npr
- ‘No immediate risk’: Nuclear waste tank leaking in Washington via RT
- Underground Nuclear Tanks Leaking in Washington State via NY Times
- American Chernobyl via Intercontinental Cry