Has too much plutonium made Hanford waste untreatable? Western world’s most expensive construction project having nuclear chain reaction worries

Published: March 23rd, 2012 at 8:05 pm ET
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Title: Technical problems still bedevil Hanford plant
Source: Seattle Times
Author: Craig Welch
Date: March 23, 2012

So many technical issues now plague a $12.2 billion plant that’s supposed to rid the Hanford nuclear reservation of millions of gallons of radioactive waste [...] 

Engineers admitted they still have not resolved major safety problems with the plant [...] 12 years after design of the Western world’s most expensive and complex construction project began. [...]

Even though the project is half-built, engineers acknowledged they still haven’t figured out how, once it is operational, they will keep waste stirred up so it doesn’t spark a nuclear chain reaction.

Officials also are still working out ways to avoid hydrogen explosions in miles of piping and prevent radioactive waste from eating its way through metal tanks in a building that will be so polluted that no human could get inside and make repairs during the 40-year life of the plant. [...]

Untreatable?

[...] contractors told a federal panel Thursday they can’t say how much waste it ultimately will treat [...] 

During a rare public hearing in the Tri-Cities on Thursday, the federal Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, a nuclear-oversight panel appointed by the White House [...]

So to make sure the plant is safe, engineers may have to rule out processing some volume of the waste, either because it contains high volumes of plutonium or because the mix of chemicals and gases is corrosive or explosive.

That means some as-yet unproven new technologies will have to be used to deal with at least some of Hanford’s waste.

Asked by the chairman of the safety board how much waste will fall into that category, Dale Knutson, the Department of Energy’s project director, said it was still too soon to say.

“As a personal opinion, I’m still convinced a vast majority of the waste will be treatable,” he said.

Read the in-depth report here

Published: March 23rd, 2012 at 8:05 pm ET
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36 comments

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36 comments to Has too much plutonium made Hanford waste untreatable? Western world’s most expensive construction project having nuclear chain reaction worries

  • Looking at the intensity in arguments and attacks on ENE and Huffpost, I would say that the anti-nuke effort is being effective.

    The pro-nuke sector is going to the wall to fight back.

    They are a rabid badger pushed against the wall.

    they do have money and resources, and sharp teeth, don't under estimate them….however, they are backed up to the wall

    Lets put a nail in their coffin


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  • Just like the Cash for Clunker program that took alot of gas guzzlers off the road,
    Obama should make a

    Nuke Cash for Clunkers. Any plant over 30YO is eligible. The nuke plant emergency funds, as well as general fund would "buy" the Clunker from the owner and decommission it. Owners would provide their budget set aside for decommission, and the nuke energy emergency fund would also be tapped.

    These Old Clunkers need help

    http://nukeprofessional.blogspot.com/2012/03/cash-for-clunker-plants.html

    http://nukeprofessional.blogspot.com/2012/02/cash-for-clunker-nuke-plants.html


    Report comment

    • AGreenRoad AGreenRoad

      Why should the public pay to shut down private for profit companies that deserve to go bankrupt?

      I guess it makes sense because the alternative is certain destruction of humanity.

      SOMEONE has to stand up and take bold action, and shift some paradigms.

      Who is going to put this into effect?

      It is definitely worth a try..

      Would you like help promoting it? I can blog about it…

      What we really need is a BILLION dollar crash program to incubate some kind of new invention that transmutes radioactive elements into harmless non radioactive elements immediately, but without any danger.


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  • Lacsap Lacsap

    1.keep waste stirred up so it doesn’t spark a nuclear chain reaction
    2.ways to avoid hydrogen explosions in miles of piping
    3.tanks in a building that will be so polluted that no human could get inside and make repairs

    Three huge problems but lets start building the plant and figure things out later well if it fails only 12 billion USD will be gone but who cares only the taxpayers will eat less of this not us.


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    • americancommntr

      How about see if a HOH welder will burn a flame underwater. I would perform an experiment with a system involving underwater Brown's Gas flame, and see if it would render the radioactive materials non-radioactive. It works for Cobalt 60 pellets, it should work for any radioactive material. It would be alot easier to handle the waster afterward if this was effective. It would only be an elemental toxin. It would be interesting to see what would happen to a subcritical mass of bomb grade plutonium, treating it with Brown's Gas flame. Would it still be bomb grade? If not, this is probably reason number one nobody ever hears anything about BGF being used to treat radioactive waste. Number two would be that it probably also represents a source of free energy, which would threaten the entire energy industry. How many other new industries would start, however, if we had, essentially, free energy?


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      • Fall out man!

        Interesting about Browns Gas and Cobalt. There seem to be a lot of web pages talking about it. Here is one that mentions the Chinese replicating the experiment and a demo for a congressman.

        http://pacenet.homestead.com/Nucwaste.html

        No doubt if the technology is related to free energy, it won't be looked at further. I guess the only way to know for sure is to try it out. But I'm not going to vaporize a cobalt sample with a browns gas welder! No doubt if more people had basic diy engineering skills it would put big business, out of business.


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  • Whoopie Whoopie

    I SHALL NEVER STOP POSTING ENENEWS NEWS!! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/09/fukushima-anniversary-nuclear-disaster-extreme-climate-events_n_1331977.html?ref=green#comments DEAD THREAD!!
    I'm truly disappointed at the LACK OF IMPORTANT COMMENTS ON HP THREADS THESE days! (not YOU guys…but the THREAD IS DEAD! WTF?)
    WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE? LONG TIME PASSING!!
    SAD AND A WORRY TO ME! No one is commenting, be it Anti-Nukes or pro-nukes.
    SOMETHING EVIL THIS WAY COMES" imho!!


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  • Whoopie Whoopie

    A GREEN ROAD…someone gave you great CREDIT TONIGHT! Wow! I'm impressed and everyone else should be!! YAHOO!!
    Joe Ebslap
    How the nuclear industry deceives the public…
    http://agreenroad.blogspot.com/2012/03/primer-in-art-of-deception-cult-of.html


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  • aigeezer aigeezer

    From today's article about Hanford: "But their answers still angered whistle-blowers who have complained that lead contractor Bechtel National and its subcontractors are way behind because their instinct has been to bury safety concerns — and punish those who raise them."

    Enenews poster "midwestern" shared some detailed clips of this type back in October. What caught my eye are some of the now-familiar company names that have been popping up all this week. From October:

    "The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the agency that oversees energy and the safety of handling nuclear material, supervises the cleanup efforts, which are currently undertaken by Bechtel National Inc.—infamous for its mishandling of Iraq reconstruction efforts—and a handful of other companies like URS and CH2M HILL."

    http://enenews.com/forum-discussion-thread-october-18-24-2011/comment-page-3#comment-144794

    Much more detail from "midwestern" if you follow the link above.

    From this week, the thread with the most detailed information about these companies is:

    http://enenews.com/strange-us-to-burn-100s-of-tons-of-radioactive-waste-from-germany-in-tennessee/comment-page-1

    The thread contains a lot of detail. Within it, one snippet shows how one of the companies legally bypasses the requirement that government contracts must be issued using full and open competition.

    http://www.ch2m.com/corporate/about_us/contracts/gsa.asp

    All week there have been references to the same small group of companies, in all the nuke-related headlines, including Fukushima, Hanford, ORNL, and today New York.

    If you want to know how the system works, explore these threads and links. To search on your own, try "enenews "CH2M"" for starters. As you find new material, please share it.

    TRUTH IS NOT THE FRIEND OF NUKE


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  • bleep_hits_blades

    Maybe someone else here has more specific information. But re the need to keep the nuclear waste at Hanford 'stirred up' — I recall from my reading a few months ago that there was a huge explosion in nuclear waste just dumped in trenches, I believe, in the Soviet Union… this was long before Chernoboyl, in the younger days of the nuclear 'infatuation.'

    This huge detonation was so alarming to the USSR that they just got out of nuke stuff completely (for a while), and communicated with/warned/alerted the USA regarding their extreme concern about it, as I recall.

    If no one else knows anything about this, I will try to locate more info on it.

    Main point – if this is what might happen to the waste at Hanford – it really IS a top level serious matter.

    From what I have read, Hanford is like all the other nuke facilities basically – horribly toxic, and really no way to 'fix' it – so all they can do is dither and pretend that things are in control and mislead the public – and hope like hell that it doesn't literally blow up in their faces.

    As most here at enenews.com know, the nuclear industry and partner governments entered blithely into this whole nuclear expansion WITHOUT having solutions to some key problems like – what to with this hugely toxic nuclear waste that will remain toxic for hundreds of thousands of years (!!!)… surely, was the expedient thinking, a solution will 'soon' be found.

    But not to date, it hasn't been. Too 'hot' to get close to is to 'hot to 'fix.' Duh.

    And the world is slowly perishing in this toxic effluvia. Really makes ya mad, doesn't it? There just aren't any words to express it.


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  • Chelsea_

    Sounds like Hanford and the NRC needs to get in contact with STUK…


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  • bleep_hits_blades

    yes I just searched around and that is what I found -

    Kyshtym, Soviet Union (now Russia) from Wikipedia

    Sept. 29, 1957

    10,000 people were evacuated. 200 deaths reported/attributed (but probably is an underestimate).

    Russia has a vast underpopulated areas as a 'buffer zone'; but Hanford is very near to the Tri-Cities (Richland, Kennewick, Pasco), not far from Walla Walla, right on the (radioactive0 Columbia River (favored by windsurfers), etc.; Seattle, Tacoma, and Portland are not that far away. Idaho is towards the east, not that far away.


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  • bleep_hits_blades

    @AGreenRoad, thanks for posting link to that good article. I really like your blog. Very good posts, good clear explanations for the technologically backward types like yrs. truly!


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  • bleep_hits_blades

    Re Bechtel which is doing this work at Hanford – it is one of these 'sweethearts' of the USG, was awarded all sorts of lucrative contracts in Iraq and if my memory is correct 'lost' or cannot account for a huge sum of money… no problem, of course… no consequences… either it lost the millions, or Blackwater – now Xe -renamed because of its notoriously bad rep as Blackwater.

    http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=6671 about Bechtel

    Anyway Bechtel and Blackwater have been awarded numerous lucrative (read 'padded') no-bid govt. contracts. Obvious insiders raking in the millions of taxpayer $ and if they lose a few million, or screw up badly at Hanford… hey, no problemo.


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  • Nuke is very dangerous.
    Over 1% of all nuke plants blow up or melt down.
    It just too dangerous to even play with. It kills over long periods of time.

    http://nukeprofessional.blogspot.com/


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  • bleep_hits_blades

    TY stock! Us weak ego types (you'd never guess, would you?) need them strokes!


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  • TheBigPicture TheBigPicture

    They can't clean it up because it can't be cleaned up. Just another example of complete fools messing up our wonderful planet.


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  • Net

    Just Curious…does anyone think this can affect the apples grown in Washington? Has anyone tested Washington apples?


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    • NoNukes NoNukes

      Good point, Net. I'm sure that someone has, right? We are eating apples from Chile right now, as ridiculous as that is. Hope that the ships they travel in aren't too radioactive by now.

      In a post-Fukushima world, the man with a scintillator is king.


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  • stopnp stopnp

    Damn it. Theaes ppl are such assholes. They're destroying the planet. With my taxes!


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  • Atomfritz Atomfritz

    People get too squeamish.

    A small explosion involving a few kilograms of HLW is nothing of importance compared with dozens of 250 cubic meter tanks of plutoniumnitrate solution satiated with cesium, strontium and other spices leaking into groundwater aquifer, or even explode like in Kyshtym.

    Just accept that there can and will be some accidents, as at every industrial project of this magnitude.
    We really need to get that stuff vitrified, even if there will probably a few peanut explosions occur in the processing of this vast mass.


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  • chrisk9

    Hanford and the other facilities that created our first nuclear bombs are a completely different animal from nuclear power plants. I have worked shortly at Hanford, and had many friends who worked there for many years. At the time of construction and start of the program the United States was in a full scale race to create the bomb before Germany could build one. Knowledge about radiation was almost non existent, so the entire operation was run in ways that seemed prehistoric just a few years later.

    The operation there has so many problems that are probably unsolvable. There will never be a way to clean up a huge area of the reservation. No one even really knows what is buried there or how to handle the problem. The major concerns are these storage tanks that are deteriorating. and have potential for major consequences. These problems hopefully can be avoided so no major event takes place, but there will never be a "real" clean up of the area,ever.

    So this is the consequence of a war 70 years ago, and the decisions made at that time. The only priority at that time was developing a bomb before Hitler did, and we will pay the price for that forever.

    Go check out the size of the Hanford reservation on a a map, and know that area of our earth is unusable forever.


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  • HoTaters HoTaters

    AGR, did you watch the video on growing hyphae underground to encapsulate the waste in the soil? Some fellow (mycologist?) in Washington State (somewhere in the Redwoods, West Coast) posted a long video discussing how underground hyphae and mushrooms could be used for decontamination. Someone posted a link here. It might be in the forum archives. If I can find it in my bookmarks, I'll post it here.

    Ta-dum! I found it (sigh of relief):

    http://www.ted.com/talks/paul_stamets_on_6_ways_mushrooms_can_save_the_world.html

    Here are a couple of other articles on radiation and soil remediation:

    http://wwwsoc.nii.ac.jp/jnrs/paper/JN61/jn6125.pdf
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1469-8137.2003.00747.x/full

    You might consider joining GreenMedInfo.org if you're interested in the health aspects, and having access to top flight peer reviewed articles on radiation remediation, and detoxifying the body from the effects of radiation.

    What I would like to know is if peat moss can absorb and "digest" radiation. It absorbs and digests oil from oil spills, and possibly dioxins. For some reason it seems to be able to digest very toxic substances, and render them harmless.


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    • HoTaters HoTaters

      BTW, the fellow who posted the "6 solutions" video is, although quirky, a brilliant fellow. I think he is one to something!


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    • HoTaters HoTaters

      The other thing they should be exploring for the Hanford situation (if they haven't already considered it) is using some types of algaes to absorb and digest the waste. This method is used for sewage treatment. A friend of mine worked to develop one of the first sewage treatment systems up at Humboldt State Univ., in northern California.

      My point is, there are many plants which can digest and neutralize very, very toxic substances. IMHO there should be a lot of research money devoted to using natural solutions, to see if such a solution can be applied to the problem of nuclear waste. Such methods have already been used for sewage treatment, absorbing and digesting oil spills, and cleaning up toxic chemical spills.

      Perhaps it's a different situation with radioactive isotopes. I still think it bears being studied as a possible solution.


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      • HoTaters HoTaters

        The HSU system incorporated leaching the waste into a special pond where special algaes were grown. A natural ecosystem was developed and incorporated into a wetlands area. It is a beautiful system and is actually wildlife-friendly. Hard to imagine in the case of nuclear waste, but maybe there is some "natural" solution to this unnatural problem?


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      • HoTaters HoTaters

        Looked up Paul Stamet's info. on mushrooms. Thats's mycelium, not hyphae! Fungi put out hyphae; mushrooms grow mycelium.


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    • HoTaters HoTaters

      Here's another link to the Paul Stamets video:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XI5frPV58tY


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    • HoTaters HoTaters

      My apologies. I've made a couple of errors here. Paul Stamets is from Washington state, but he does not reside in the Redwood forests. He lives in or near the Washington state rain forest. The redwood forests (coast redwoods) are limited to coastal areas in California.


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