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Radioactivity Cleanup At Hanford Nuclear Reservation, 25 Years On

samzenpus posted about 3 months ago | from the get-scrubbing dept.

Earth 123

Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "The cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington was supposed to be entering its final stages by now. The reality is far from that. The cleanup was to be managed under the 'Tri-Party Agreement', signed on May 15, 1989, which was supposed to facilitate cooperation between the agencies involved. Today, underfunded and overwhelmed by technical problems, the effort is decades behind schedule. Adding to the frustrations for stakeholders and watchdogs is a bureaucratic slipperiness on the part of the Federal Department of Energy. As one watchdog put it, 'We are constantly frustrated by how easily the Department of Energy slips out of agreements in the Tri-Party Agreement.'"

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Usual story, nothing to see here? (5, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 3 months ago | (#47034195)

This seems fairly typical of what happens, and not just with nuclear. Lots of industrial sites need expensive clean-up when they are decommissioned and of course no-one wants to pay for it because it isn't making any more money at that point. Contractors doing the clean-up want to milk it, and often we find that things turned out worse than expected and there are new technical problems that arose because we came to understand the science better in the years since the facility was built. Sometimes the original designers were just overly optimistic or cheap.

Then the blame game starts, and nothing gets cleaned up. Happens over and over.

Prediction: The rest of the discussion will be nuke fans lamenting the lack of proper storage facilities and breeder reactors, without proposing any practical solutions. In other words, more blame, mostly aimed at environmentalists even though this is primarily a financial and regulatory problem.

Re:Usual story, nothing to see here? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47034295)

Prediction: The rest of the discussion will be nuke fans lamenting the lack of proper storage facilities and breeder reactors, without proposing any practical solutions. In other words, more blame, mostly aimed at environmentalists even though this is primarily a financial and regulatory problem.

Disclaimer: Pro-nuke. But no, not from me.

The problem is precisely what you said - financial and regulatory, and it's not nuclear-specific. From TFA: "The Department of Energy has too long and deep a track record of failure," he said. The work could be turned over to the Environmental Protection Agency, or the government could create a new agency to do the job, Carpenter suggested."

At which point I fucking lost my sanity.

Nobody is interested in fixing it, not even the environmental guy. The longer it goes unfixed, the more the DoE contractors can extract from DoE through the revolving door. If it gets turned over to EPA, look for three years and at least one election season before the budget to hire the contractors to do the studies for EPA can even be drafted, let alone completed, and if we take Carpenter's "solution" at face value - the creation of Yet Another Government Agency to do what the first two haven't been able to do for decades - we're talking about doubling that time (and political risk because the momentum for the agency is going to be a function of how many elections there are between now and the agency's creation) again.

tl;dr: Bureaucracy multiplies itself, and once it's hit critical mass, nothing will ever get done about anything, because there are more dollars released in bouncing contracts and contractors through the revolving door, than there are dollars released by actually completing the cleanup and shutting down the site in an environmentally sound fashion. We're well past critical mass on this project, which means it'll never get fixed no matter whose side of the aisle you're on in terms of R-vs-D-vs-EPA-vs-DOE-vs-private-vs-public-vs-nuke-vs-solar-vs-fossil.

Re:Usual story, nothing to see here? (1)

hey! (33014) | about 4 months ago | (#47034979)

To do be fair, if somebody dumped the problem in *your* regulatory lap, the intelligent thing to do would be to commission studies.

It's not the EPA's fault that the funding situation is chaotic. The system is designed to make spending money complicated; the original intent might have even been to make spending money *hard*, of course complexity only makes it easier to spend money on stupid things. Something like nuclear cleanup needs stable, multi-year funding, not something that get put through the belt-and-suspenders-and-yet-more-suspenders Congressional budgeting and appropriations system.

A non-profit corporation or public authority funded by energy taxation would be the way to go.

Re:Usual story, nothing to see here? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47035053)

Sounds like you guys need a little bit of socialism.

Posting AC because I used the s-word.

Re:Usual story, nothing to see here? (4, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | about 4 months ago | (#47035261)

Posting Non-AC 'cause I don't fear being S-worded.

It's odd how words are perceived differently in different parts of the world. The word "socialist" is by no means an insult in most parts of Europe. Hell, more than one country has parties in power that have "socialist" somewhere in their name. Not that it matters too much these days anymore.

OTOH, you might want to watch out who you call "Republican" around some parts. The Republicans [wikipedia.org] are a German right-wing party with little, if any, political impact.

So, in general, if you feel like calling me a socialist, be my guest. But don't you DARE calling me a Republican!

Re:Usual story, nothing to see here? (2)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about 4 months ago | (#47037149)

I'm a republican.

Of course I should point out I'm a brit living in France, so I'm a republican in the sense that I want to get rid of the British Monarchy, and I detest the (admittedly rare) crazies who want to bring monarchy back in France.

(In fact, in order to explode a few American heads - I'm a republican socialist!)

Re:Usual story, nothing to see here? (1)

OneAhead (1495535) | about 4 months ago | (#47039163)

(In fact, in order to explode a few American heads - I'm a republican socialist!)

Heh lol as a European who has long been living in the USA, that comment made my day.

Re:Usual story, nothing to see here? (1)

michael_cain (66650) | about 4 months ago | (#47035543)

Nobody is interested in fixing it, not even the environmental guy.

However, there are millions of people downstream of Hanford who are seriously interested in having the site cleaned up, and politicians who are terrified that at some point the feds will punt and it will all fall to Washington and Oregon to deal with. The lack of trust is understandable; the DOE asserts that it has cleaned up the much smaller Rocky Flats site upwind from Denver, but refuses to allow Colorado to have any independent testing done.

Re:Usual story, nothing to see here? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 4 months ago | (#47035713)

If it gets turned over to EPA, look for three years and at least one election season before the budget to hire the contractors to do the studies for EPA can even be drafted, let alone completed, and if we take Carpenter's "solution" at face value - the creation of Yet Another Government Agency to do what the first two haven't been able to do for decades - we're talking about doubling that time (and political risk because the momentum for the agency is going to be a function of how many elections there are between now and the agency's creation) again.

Don't be ridiculous. In many ways the EPA is as bad as the DoE, or even worse.

If they were put in charge, they'd probably turn the entire Hanford region, including Richland, Kennewick, Pasco, and a long stretch of the Columbia River into a giant Superfund site, and then try to regulate everything in it from curfews to toothpaste.

EPA is not your friend. It hasn't been for decades. It is a giant bureaucracy that seeks little more than to increase its own size and budget, and believe me because I've seen it: they don't give a damn if they have to ruin your environment to do it.

Re:Usual story, nothing to see here? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 months ago | (#47038483)

I like how you continuously make shit up out of whole cloth to try and get people to support your bias and think you personal narrative has any meaning what so ever.

Sorry, I'm to familiar with people. a the EPA. How they get more responsibility, but not an increase in budget to meet the new responsibility. Then the people that don't give them the money to do what they ask(pubs) go to the media and whine the EPA doesn't work.

You are basically the bitch of the pub controlled media, falling for the typical pub MO. Take funding away until something breaks, then blame the agency.

But hey, lets go back to burning river, drive animals into extinction, throwing DDT into the air. That was fun.

Re:Usual story, nothing to see here? (2)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 months ago | (#47038415)

Bullshit.
Get rid of the private contractors. They ahve been fucking the clean up, and becasue the media loves to stir up shit about the goverment, it always bounces back to a government agency.

The contractor should be removed, and sued into nonexistence.
We SHOULD create a new agency SPECIFICALLY for nuclear clean up. Hell, all nuclear power should be removed from private contractors and be government run. The solves nearly all the money issue. The agency set to build and run the plants should be an agency onto itself. This way it isn't regulating it self, and having an agency for building and running, one for design regulation and compliance and a third for wast disposal compliance

Re:Usual story, nothing to see here? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47038847)

Exponential costs tend to be that way. Yay for the nuclear future!

4th gen reactors consume old waste as fuel ... (2, Interesting)

perpenso (1613749) | about 3 months ago | (#47034447)

Prediction: The rest of the discussion will be nuke fans lamenting the lack of proper storage facilities and breeder reactors, without proposing any practical solutions.

Bad prediction. Some proponents of moving off of fossil fuels include nuclear along with renewables and point out that 4th gen nuclear reactors will consume the waste of previous gen reactors as fuel, and the waste from 4th gen only remains hazardous for a few centuries rather than tens of thousands of years. So there, a practical solution to getting rid of current waste. Practical as in 4th gen test reactors are up and running.

There we have it, a forward looking plan for a solution. Not a backward looking lament about what we could have but did not do or did not build.

In other words, more blame, mostly aimed at environmentalists even though this is primarily a financial and regulatory problem.

Actually various environmentalists are coming over to the above. They've looked at the science and realize that renewables alone won't prevent the continued use of coal and other fossil fuels as billions of people in the developing world demand more and more electricity. They admit that 3rd gen reactors are far safer then current reactors and that 4th gen can help eliminate a very dangerous existing stockpile of waste.

Re:4th gen reactors consume old waste as fuel ... (3, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | about 4 months ago | (#47035395)

and point out that 4th gen nuclear reactors will consume the waste of previous gen reactors as fuel

Yes they can use some waste material as fuel, in fact some of the most difficult stuff to store. Unfortunately utter idiots have been pretending that they can consume all waste by magic and those utter idiots have set back the cause they are trying to promote. You appear to have fallen victim to such an idiot.
So when you "point out" something it's best not to oversimplify it to the point of telling three year olds bedtime stories with magic. It's not "a practical solution to getting rid of current waste" - it's a recycling option that reduces the amount of waste. It's starting out with magic expressed as fact that makes discussions about civilian nuclear power quite juvenile, especially since someone who considers practicalities instead of believing in magic is instantly considered to be an opponent of civilian nuclear power (eg. nuclear waste storage technique researchers and even the people on the Clinton era Thorium project becuase they dared to say it was more safe than current technologies - daring to imply that current reactors were not perfect resulted in a shutdown of the program).

Re:4th gen reactors consume old waste as fuel ... (1)

sillybilly (668960) | about 4 months ago | (#47035675)

The real issue is jobs. Without more sites to clean up, these guys are out of a job. So of course the stuff drags on and on. For a career, for a lifetime. All they gotta do is set their geiger counters to detect cosmic radiation, and there you go, more beeps means more digging. All they know how to do is make a geiger counter beep and dig some earth with an excavator. They are not gonna take some burger flipping job next to a teenie weenie for minimum wage or a factory production line for minimum wage when they can make at least double minimum wage. All you gotta do is give them a job somewhere in Canada or even in the US near a nuclear fuel mine, and they can do what they do best, hunt for the most beeps and keep digging. Miraculously all the EPA cleanup sites will officially be done, signed off by the people running the show. If you can't find them nuclear mines, use them at other regular mines, where instead of geiger counter beeps, they get ore concentration numbers (either from a lab or from an xray spectroscope (xrf fluorescence) or even a blowpipe/borax bead) to guide them which way to dig. Digging is what they are best at.

Re:4th gen reactors consume old waste as fuel ... (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 4 months ago | (#47035877)

Without more sites to clean up, these guys are out of a job

There's plenty of potential work of that type out there but not the will to fund it.

If you can't find them nuclear mines, use them at other regular mines

Spot on. There are plenty of mine sites one flood away from making the fish downstream unfit for human consumption for years.

Re:4th gen reactors consume old waste as fuel ... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about 4 months ago | (#47036399)

and point out that 4th gen nuclear reactors will consume the waste of previous gen reactors as fuel

Yes they can use some waste material as fuel, in fact some of the most difficult stuff to store. Unfortunately utter idiots have been pretending that they can consume all waste by magic and those utter idiots have set back the cause they are trying to promote. You appear to have fallen victim to such an idiot.

No, you merely mischaracterize what I have written by deleting relevant portions. I'll highlight the relevant portion you deleted:
"point out that 4th gen nuclear reactors will consume the waste of previous gen reactors as fuel, and the waste from 4th gen only remains hazardous for a few centuries rather than tens of thousands of years."

By the way, one source of info for the above: the people who have been building reactors for decades. I'm sure I can find others put this was one of the first things that google finds. Their web site is terrible, you have to hover the cursor over the "nuclear waste" tab but there it is.
http://www.ga.com/energy-multi... [ga.com]

Re:4th gen reactors consume old waste as fuel ... (4, Informative)

michael_cain (66650) | about 4 months ago | (#47035513)

...point out that 4th gen nuclear reactors will consume the waste of previous gen reactors as fuel...

Unfortunately, much of the waste at Hanford is not in a form that can be easily converted to usable fuel for anything. Think millions of gallons of seriously nasty chemical toxins, that just happen to also have a batch radioactive isotopes dissolved in it. The clean-up plan calls for a one-of-a-kind chemical plant to handle separation and break-down of the stuff. Much of the delay can be attributed to problems with the design of said plant; a lot of experts assert that it simply won't work.

Re:4th gen reactors consume old waste as fuel ... (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | about 4 months ago | (#47042235)

Yes, building that plant to separate the radioactive elements from the rest of the toxic waste is a huge problem. The radioactives are so nasty that once the plant starts running it will be impossible for a human to safely enter it for thousands of years. They have to design and build it so maintenance and repair can be done remotely. Just thinking about that stuff which is about 200 miles from where I live gives me the willies. It's mostly leftovers from the production of plutonium in the 1940's and 1950's. Some of the first waste from the production of plutonium for the Fat Man bomb [wikipedia.org] was just dumped in trenches in the ground but once they came to realize how nasty the stuff was they started putting it in tanks. Some of it has been there for nearly 70 years now.

Re:4th gen reactors consume old waste as fuel ... (4, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 4 months ago | (#47036323)

Bad prediction. Some proponents of moving off of fossil fuels include nuclear along with renewables and point out that 4th gen nuclear reactors will consume the waste of previous gen reactors as fuel, and the waste from 4th gen only remains hazardous for a few centuries rather than tens of thousands of years. So there, a practical solution to getting rid of current waste. Practical as in 4th gen test reactors are up and running.

We clearly have different definitions of "practical". So far no-one has built a working commercial scale breeder reactor, and all of the prototype/research ones have had severe problems.

That was my point really. Nuke fans make it sound like we just need to hire someone to thrown some some concrete and five years later all our problems will be solved. Even if the technology could be made to work properly you would still need to store the remaining waste for hundreds of years, and the US still doesn't have a plan to do even that.

My prediction was spot on.

Re:4th gen reactors consume old waste as fuel ... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about 4 months ago | (#47036377)

Prediction: The rest of the discussion will be nuke fans lamenting the lack of proper storage facilities and breeder reactors, without proposing any practical solutions.

Bad prediction. Some proponents of moving off of fossil fuels include nuclear along with renewables and point out that 4th gen nuclear reactors will consume the waste of previous gen reactors as fuel, and the waste from 4th gen only remains hazardous for a few centuries rather than tens of thousands of years. So there, a practical solution to getting rid of current waste. Practical as in 4th gen test reactors are up and running.

We clearly have different definitions of "practical". So far no-one has built a working commercial scale breeder reactor, and all of the prototype/research ones have had severe problems. That was my point really.

No, it was not. You have moved the goal post. Originally you claimed that no one would propose solutions for moving forward. Well, one has been proposed, and it is currently being researched and worked upon. Now you complain that we are at the start of the research rather than near then end. That is a quite different point.

Re:4th gen reactors consume old waste as fuel ... (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 4 months ago | (#47036423)

The research has been going on for decades, the problem is that the cost of developing it into a working commercial scale reactor is too great and will take took long. Tens of billions of dollars and a decade minimum. Even then it might not work. Doesn't make economic sense, will never be funded, not a practical solution.

That's not moving the goal posts, that is reality. Your argument is basically a straw man, because you are choosing an easier target. Practical means something we can actually do now.

Re:4th gen reactors consume old waste as fuel ... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about 4 months ago | (#47039941)

The research has been going on for decades, the problem is that the cost of developing it into a working commercial scale reactor is too great and will take took long. Tens of billions of dollars and a decade minimum.

4th gen reactors are relatively new. Not long into the test reactor phase. Its 3rd generations that has only recently moved into the commercial construction phase. I'd expect more like 20-30 years before 4th gen is ready for commercial operation. Even so, the ability to recycle existing waste is a huge offset and a huge win. Managing that waste has an incredible cost.

Even then it might not work. Doesn't make economic sense, will never be funded, not a practical solution.

If there are funding problems the cuts will be political in nature, not based in economics. As was done in the 90s under Clinton.

That's not moving the goal posts, that is reality. Your argument is basically a straw man, because you are choosing an easier target. Practical means something we can actually do now.

Your prediction was that no one would propose a practical solution and just blame environmentalists. The ability to build something now is your recent addition, the moving of the goal post. Continuing to research a promising series of designs that can offer enormous benefits not seen before is a very practical thing we can do right now.

You want some info on what is doable from the folks who have been researching and building reactors for decades? Their web site is terrible, you have to hover the cursor over the "nuclear waste" tab but there it is. http://www.ga.com/energy-multi... [ga.com]

Re:4th gen reactors consume old waste as fuel ... (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 4 months ago | (#47040893)

I'd expect more like 20-30 years before 4th gen is ready for commercial operation.

So we are back to practical again. What investor is going to put money into something that will be ready in 20-30 years, by which time the market will have changed and some countries, like Germany, will have ditched nuclear altogether?

If there are funding problems the cuts will be political in nature, not based in economics.

I think you are mistaking funding for subsidy.

Re:4th gen reactors consume old waste as fuel ... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about 4 months ago | (#47041731)

I'd expect more like 20-30 years before 4th gen is ready for commercial operation.

So we are back to practical again. What investor is going to put money into something that will be ready in 20-30 years, by which time the market will have changed and some countries, like Germany, will have ditched nuclear altogether?

Germany made that move for political reasons, the coal industry controls many politicians. The old lignite burning coal plant are "paid for" so they are incredibly cheap to operate and the external costs of lignite use is not charged to the companies. Despite this, Germany has some of the highest electricity costs in Europe. France, which is 75% nuclear, has some of the lowest.

Regarding who is investing: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, European Union, France, Japan, South Korea, Russia, South Africa, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States. And possibly Australia in the near future.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G... [wikipedia.org]

4th gen group US Dept of Energy helped start ... (1)

perpenso (1613749) | about 4 months ago | (#47040193)

Here is a better take on reality. A 4th gen reactor group that the US Dept of Energy helped start.

VHTR: The very-high-temperature reactor is a further step in the evolutionary development of high-temperature reactors. The VHTR is a helium-gas-cooled, graphite-moderated, thermal neutron spectrum reactor with a core outlet temperature higher than 900 C, and a goal of 1 000 C, sufficient to support high temperature processes such as production of hydrogen by thermo-chemical processes. The reference thermal power of the reactor is set at a level that allows passive decay heat removal, currently estimated to be about 600 MWth. The VHTR is useful for the cogeneration of electricity and hydrogen, as well as to other process heat applications. It is able to produce hydrogen from water by using thermo-chemical, electro-chemical or hybrid processes with reduced emission of CO2 gases. At first, a once-through LEU (
SFR: The sodium-cooled fast reactor system uses liquid sodium as the reactor coolant, allowing high power density with low coolant volume fraction. It features a closed fuel cycle for fuel breeding and/or actinide management. The reactor may be arranged in a pool layout or a compact loop layout. The reactor-size options which are under consideration range from small (50 to 150 MWe) modular reactors to larger reactors (300 to 1 500 MWe). The two primary fuel recycle technology options are advanced aqueous and pyrometallurgical processing. A variety of fuel options are being considered for the SFR, with mixed oxide preferred for advanced aqueous recycle and mixed metal alloy preferred for pyrometallurgical processing. Owing to the significant past experience accumulated with sodium cooled reactors in several countries, the deployment of SFR systems is targeted for 2020.

SCWR: Supercritical-water-cooled reactors are a class of high-temperature, high-pressure water-cooled reactors operating with a direct energy conversion cycle and above the thermodynamic critical point of water (374C, 22.1 MPa). The higher thermodynamic efficiency and plant simplification opportunities afforded by a high-temperature, single-phase coolant translate into improved economics. A wide variety of options are currently considered: both thermal-neutron and fast-neutron spectra are envisaged; and both pressure vessel and pressure tube configurations are considered. The operation of a 30 to 150 MWe technology demonstration reactor is targeted for 2022.

GFR: The gas-cooled fast reactor combines the advantages of a fast neutron core and helium coolant giving possible access to high temperatures. It requires the development of robust refractory fuel elements and appropriate safety architecture. The use of dense fuel such as carbide or nitride provides good performance regarding plutonium breeding and minor actinide burning. A technology demonstration reactor needed for qualifying key technologies could be in operation by 2020.

LFR: The lead-cooled fast reactor system is characterised by a fast-neutron spectrum and a closed fuel cycle with full actinide recycling, possibly in central or regional fuel cycle facilities. The coolant may be either lead (preferred option), or lead/bismuth eutectic. The LFR may be operated as a breeder, a burner of actinides from spent fuel, using inert matrix fuel, or a burner/breeder using thorium matrices. Two reactor size options are considered: a small 50-150 MWe transportable system with a very long core life, and a medium 300-600 MWe system. In the long term a large system of 1 200 MWe may be envisaged. The LFR system may be deployable by 2025.

MSR: The molten-salt reactor system embodies the very special feature of a liquid fuel. MSR concepts, which may be used as efficient burners of transuranic elements from spent light-water reactor (LWR) fuel, also have a breeding capability in any kind of neutron spectrum ranging from thermal (with a thorium fuel cycle) to fast (with a uranium-plutonium fuel cycle). Whether configured for burning or breeding, MSRs have considerable promise for the minimisation of radiotoxic nuclear waste.

https://www.gen-4.org/gif/jcms... [gen-4.org]

On the origin of this group:

"Meetings of GIF began in January 2000 when the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology convened a group of senior governmental representatives from the original nine countries to begin discussions on international collaboration in the development of Generation IV nuclear energy systems."
https://www.gen-4.org/gif/jcms... [gen-4.org]

Re:4th gen reactors consume old waste as fuel ... (1)

afidel (530433) | about 4 months ago | (#47038511)

We clearly have different definitions of "practical". So far no-one has built a working commercial scale breeder reactor

ahem [wikipedia.org] , there was also the 1,200 MWe unit in France, though it had horrible load availability.

Re:4th gen reactors consume old waste as fuel ... (1)

OneAhead (1495535) | about 4 months ago | (#47039265)

Yeah, the problem with breeders is more fear of proliferation (rational or not) than technical feasibility.

naive question: does this include all waste? (2)

fantomas (94850) | about 4 months ago | (#47036783)

Completely naive question here - civilised answers welcomed.

I've heard that the new generation reactors will be able to use 'old waste' for fuel. Does this include all sort of waste, or only some of it? For example, I believe that "nuclear waste" doesn't just mean Homer Simpson like glowing green spent fuel rods, but lots of things that have to get packaged up and safely disposed of like technicians' work wear, equipment, anything that comes into contact with radioactive sources. Am I right that this is also called "nuclear waste" (apologies, I really don't know much about the topic). If so, can this be used in the new reactors (I am guessing not all of it)? Does it represent a lot of volume / long term risk to be disposed of?

I get the impression that the term nuclear waste is used in a pretty homogeneous way but that it represents a wide variety of materials. I suppose in the case of decommissioned reactors this probably means some of the structure of the buildings themselves (tonnes of old concrete etc). I'm guessing that this can't get poured into a new reactor as fuel? Is this the big issue with decommissioning, not just old fuel rods but all the surrounding materials?

cheers for any measured responses on such an emotive issue.

Re:naive question: does this include all waste? (4, Informative)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about 4 months ago | (#47037163)

Does this include all sort of waste, or only some of it

Only some of it. Just spent fuel, not miscelaneous radioactive shit (which, luckily, is moslly "low level").

Also not the crap that's at Hanford - that shit is seriously fucked up.

Re:naive question: does this include all waste? (2)

Akaihiryuu (786040) | about 4 months ago | (#47038793)

The waste at Hanford isn't waste from nuclear reactors anyway. It is waste from the process used to extract weapons-grade plutonium for use in making bombs. This http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org] will give an idea of the chemicals involved (note: a lot of them are toxic organic compounds). Although it should be noted, that this process wasn't developed until Hanford had been in operation for some time. Prior to that a different process that generated MUCH more hazardous waste was used. And of course, today the stuff in the tanks has been pumped around and mixed so much that they really don't even know what a lot of it is composed of anymore.

Re:naive question: does this include all waste? (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | about 4 months ago | (#47042289)

Most of the low level waste such as technicians work wear and tools are low level wastes and it's sufficient to put them in a landfill set up to receive the low level waste. The really nasty stuff is what develops in the fuel rods of a working reactor and/or the processing to concentrate nuclear ore enough for fuel or bombs. That is what takes extra special handling.

Re:Usual story, nothing to see here? (2)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 3 months ago | (#47034465)

There is a real mess with a history that goes back to the cold war and years of so called "priorities" that gave them an excuse to just leave dumps, pools, and tanks full of all kinds of bad stuff, including radioactive waste.

There is cleanup work underway, its been fairly steady since at least the early 90's, but the bureaucracy and mentality of establishment-ism kills momentum and makes everything harder than it has to be. Lots of people getting paid to sit around and "manage", few actually doing the work. In defense of some, the mess is so bad that they have to work out very elaborate solutions and move slowly to prove they are working. Setbacks happen. But its way too slow. There are too many people that know they'll keep getting a paycheck if they drag it out.

Fortunately, we are no longer creating more messes like Hanford, Rocky Flats, etc.

Re:Usual story, nothing to see here? (1)

Nethead (1563) | about 3 months ago | (#47034507)

Exactly. There is fuck else to do in the Tri-Cities but farm, and if you don't speak Spanish, you can't get hired for even that. Without the cleanup Richland and Kennewick will look like Pasco. It's not a cleanup, it's a jobs program to keep Doc Hastings in the 4th.

Re:Usual story, nothing to see here? (1)

petermgreen (876956) | about 4 months ago | (#47035823)

Fortunately, we are no longer creating more messes like Hanford, Rocky Flats, etc.

How do you know? Did the general public know what was going on at hanford when it was active? or did the horrible details only come out later?

Re:Usual story, nothing to see here? (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 4 months ago | (#47037003)

How do you know? Did the general public know what was going on at hanford when it was active? or did the horrible details only come out later?

The "cold war" programs that were the greatest contributor to the problems are no longer in place, or have been heavily re-tasked. Where in that past that behavior was routine, today it is criminal. There is a regulatory structure in place now that didn't exist 50 years ago that tightly controls waste just as in the public sector. The major facilities that have capability to produce such waste are generally known, it would be difficult to hide any output.

One could always imagine that there is some super secret program going on where they are just dumping waste and burying it, and its a negative nobody can prove. But from a practical standpoint, it would be a losing proposition for all involved these days and there is no reason to risk it. Actually, our federal labs & workers these days are very environmentally & safety conscious.

Re:Usual story, nothing to see here? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 months ago | (#47038503)

Because it's shut down and the are taking it apart. That's a pretty good clue aren't still aren't doing anything new there.

Re:Usual story, nothing to see here? (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about 4 months ago | (#47037189)

There is a real mess with a history that goes back to the cold war

2nd world war, some of this predates the cold war.

Re:Usual story, nothing to see here? (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | about 4 months ago | (#47042321)

Yep, Hanford is where the plutonium for the Fat Man bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945 was produced.

The problem is the Vitrification Plant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47035163)

The big money sink is the Vitrification Plant, or waste treatment plant as named in the article.

I have an engineer friend working on it. He says they don't know if it will ever work and they are designing the thing as it is being built. In other words, they are just building based on best guesses and have no real plan as to how this will turn the waste into stable glass. My friend has raised concerns many times over systems that he doesn't think will work, and is hushed. If he wants to keep his job, he keeps on engineering as best he can.

It can be done. I believe France is doing it (maybe not on the scale and at level of automation we are trying) but they're not sharing any secrets.

Re:The problem is the Vitrification Plant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47036291)

seems like an average software development project. It does not mean it has to fail it just means the guys doing it have most of the stuff hidden from them and have to discover things first. That is one side of the story of course. The other is that nuclear is to much in bed with big money and military procurement to give a f.f. (flying fuck) about efficiency or the way things get disposed of after the money dries.

Re:The problem is the Vitrification Plant (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | about 4 months ago | (#47042341)

One of the biggest problems with the vitrification plant is that once they actually start processing the waste it will be way to radioactive for any human to enter it ever again. They have to set it up so all maintenance and repair can be done remotely.

Everyone knows (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47035619)

You don't let the monkeys from earth run your power plants.

Re:Usual story, nothing to see here? (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about 4 months ago | (#47036533)

"Prediction: The rest of the discussion will be nuke fans lamenting the lack of proper storage facilities ..."

Anti-Nuke fan here.
I always lament that nobody will tell us who will pay for guarding the storage facilities for the next 200.000 years.

Re:Usual story, nothing to see here? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 months ago | (#47038529)

Properly disposed of and it won't need to be guarded at all.

We could build power station the burn the waste to create more energy with a serious reduction in half-life. But no, idiots like you who are afraid of science and engineering will raise a stink. I mean, if we reduce the waste so it returns to background radiation level in 200-500 years, what would you whine about? You might actually have to read and learn something! Nothing is more dangerous to your bias and narrative the education.

Re:Usual story, nothing to see here? (1)

OneAhead (1495535) | about 4 months ago | (#47039465)

To be fair, the "won't need to be guarded" only applies to the current relatively low-level waste. In comparison, the "200-500 years" waste you're talking about would be insanely hot (by which I mean radioactive, though it will also produce substantial heat), so would need to be kept in a facility where it can be monitored (as opposed to burying it in a stable geological formation). So the utilities need to put some of their profits aside for bankrolling this kind of storage for several generations (200 years is still a very long time), which would increase the cost of the electricity. And political instability (which area hasn't seen a war, revolution or political collapse in the last few hundred years?) could conceivably compromise the security of the storage.

Before you accuse me of bias, the volumes of waster we're talking about are far, far lower than what we're seeing now, and in this light, I think the concerns in my previous paragraph can be mitigated by rational decision making and enough money. I even speculate (unbiased reliable estimates are hard to find) this increase in cost will be an acceptable price to pay for an otherwise relatively clean power source. I just wanted to point out that it's not all flowers and sunshine; there's a difficult debate to be had, and if you want it to be dirt cheap, you get what you pay for.

Usual story, nothing to see here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47037087)

Prediction: The rest of the discussion will be nuke fans lamenting the lack of proper storage facilities and breeder reactors, without proposing any practical solutions.

Bad prediction, based on lack of understanding. Breeder reactors could burn off plutonium and minor actinides, thereby turning the disposal task from an intractable 100,000 year problem into a tractable 500 year problem with fewer technical difficulties due to lower peak temperatures. But the Hanford waste is not of this kind, it doesn't contain plutonium and it doesn't generate much heat.

And here's the practical solution: http://atomicinsights.com/wp-content/uploads/Practical-Solution-to-Hanford%E2%80%99s-Tanks-26Feb13.pdf

Re:Usual story, nothing to see here? (1)

Ranbot (2648297) | about 4 months ago | (#47037849)

If there was a way to encourage some private interest in the property things would move things along a little faster. I'm not saying that privatization if the cure to everything, just that when there's no direct economic value in a property, nothing gets done. We have thousands of Brownfield sites across the nation demonstrating this. However, there are also many large abandoned industrial sites that are getting cleaned up and repurposed, because someone is finding something valuable to put there. It even encourages gov't agencies to move, because there's potential new tax revenue, jobs, etc.

Re:Usual story, nothing to see here? (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | about 4 months ago | (#47042377)

I guarantee you that no private interest would want to touch the Hanford reservation with a 100 mile pole. They wouldn't want the potential liability. In the early days some of the waste was simply dumped in trenches in the ground.

Is it some curious psychological quirk? (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 months ago | (#47034207)

Why is it that, when faced with especially unpleasant materials, we always seem to end up burying them? That's the strategy that makes it hard to check for leaks, puts them close to groundwater, and makes it quite difficult to do any sort of repairs to the containment without heroic burrowing around, which is difficult and expensive at best, and liable to cause further damage at worst.

Shouldn't the really dreadful stuff be stored above ground, ideally with the ground floor left open to make detecting leaks a trivial matter? Are underground tanks just that much cheaper, or do we just feel that much better with everything neatly buried and out of sight, out of mind?

Re:Is it some curious psychological quirk? (3, Interesting)

gmueckl (950314) | about 3 months ago | (#47034345)

Above ground has two disadvantages that come to my mind:

1. You have to guarantee for the maintenance of the storage facility. Otherwise it will decay and expose the stored material to the outside world. This is a problem in the long term because you have to preserve the technology and knowledge on how to do it as well as keep the personnel around.

2. Any kind of waste is better protected from any forces on the surface when buried underground. Natural disasters and man-made weapons or tools can destroy anything we can build above ground and expose its content. This is a lot harder when you have hundreds of meters of solid ground to dig through first. Nukes detonated on or above the surface won't do that much damage down there and won't form craters deep enough to release any waste stored down there. And those are the most powerful weapons we currently have.

Re:Is it some curious psychological quirk? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 4 months ago | (#47034775)

Those are both true, it just seems that (in my admittedly unsystematic sample) underground sites also tend to rot pretty quickly, fast enough that you have to guarantee for maintenance unless you don't care about it leaking actively within 20-50 years, often rather less, and that the construction standards for most underground storage, short of Cheyenne Mountain type stuff, are minimally protective, a few meters of earth at most, open lagoons 'lined' with sheet plastic alarmingly common.

If you were serious about doing the job right, underground probably would be it (in that dry, geologically stable, location that they've been fighting over for decades now); it's just that such standards of underground storage seem never to actually happen, they add just enough dirt to keep you from getting a good look at the stuff inside and call it a day.

Re:Is it some curious psychological quirk? (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 4 months ago | (#47035383)

Those are both true, it just seems that (in my admittedly unsystematic sample) underground sites also tend to rot pretty quickly

Indeed. Ever heard about what happens when the 'time capsule' isn't sealed quite right?
This car [nbcnews.com] wasn't in the greatest shape, and it's one of the better attempts.

Going underground massively increases expenses and potential troubles.

A very secure method of storage would be to place the waste in appropriate sealed containers that are designed to not corrode from the contents and provide sufficient shielding to be safe, then place them in a secure holding facility/warehouse. If the warehouse starts leaking and it's not worth fixing, move the contents to another warehouse.

That way the containers are easy to reach and move as necessary, are unlikely to be crushed, and the shelter is relatively cheap and easy to replace.

Re:Is it some curious psychological quirk? (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 4 months ago | (#47035405)

Or the other idea is chemical incorporation of the waste (eg. Synroc) so that it doesn't matter if it gets wet, just so long as it doesn't wash away downstream. That stuff is finally seeing some use now after decades of development hindered by the perception that funding waste disposal implied a waste problem so it was seen as politically expedient to pretend waste doesn't exist instead.

Re:Is it some curious psychological quirk? (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 4 months ago | (#47035037)

Water. You know what a pain it is to replace the roof every 50 years? Now imagine you have to keep the rain off for 100,000 years.

Re:Is it some curious psychological quirk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47036497)

Replacing the roof every fifty years over 100,000 years, is only a problem if you happen to live for 100,000 years and if that is the case, then you are doing very well, really.

Re:Is it some curious psychological quirk? (1)

OneAhead (1495535) | about 4 months ago | (#47039503)

"Overrated" or "offtopic" seems to be far too mild for such asinine posts. Sometimes I think there really should be a "stupid" mod. It would be abused to hell, of course.

Re:Is it some curious psychological quirk? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47036451)

The uranium originally comes from underground, so putting it back down there is not a bad idea actually. Also, these dirty sites were originally situated in the desert because everyone were well aware that cleanup and containment would be a hard problem and just leaving the sites alone for the next 100,000 years, and periodically pumping yet more concrete around it all, may actually be sufficient.

Re:Is it some curious psychological quirk? (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | about 4 months ago | (#47042577)

The waste in question at Hanford is largely left over from the production of plutonium which is essentially not found in nature.

Re:Is it some curious psychological quirk? (4, Insightful)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 3 months ago | (#47034475)

The problem is they were not stored in engineered facilities. There are many kinds of waste they are dealing with, and each type requires different solutions. Had they spent as much time and money engineering the waste facilities as they did on weapons development and related research, there wouldn't be anything near the mess they have now.

Re:Is it some curious psychological quirk? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 4 months ago | (#47036495)

You have a talent for understatement. A lot of the waste was essentially throw in the ground and covered over, including a safe containing what turns out to be the oldest extant sample of weapons-grade plutonium:

http://www.newscientist.com/ar... [newscientist.com]

Shielding is a good thing. (1)

Grog6 (85859) | about 4 months ago | (#47034913)

There IS a good reason for burying these things in the deep earth.

Some of the radionucleides' Gammas and Neutrons are good for 10 feet of dirt for 50% absorbtion.

100 to 1000 feet is where I'd start considering storage, due to shielding. Remember, neutrons will extend the zone of radioactivity over time. :)

IDK if Yucca mountain is the best possible place to store this stuff, but based on Fukushima, where it is now is much, much worse.

Re:Is it some curious psychological quirk? (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | about 4 months ago | (#47042537)

One of the main advantage to putting the Hanford storage tanks underground is that the ground serves to absorb most of the radioactivity. This waste is so radioactive that it would take massive amounts of shielding to store it safely above ground.

end of unclear wars = new clear options (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47034229)

more like spiritual hibernation? http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=world+wakes+up

easy solution (0)

lazy genes (741633) | about 3 months ago | (#47034307)

Mix the waste materials with well water from the uphill side of the dump and then pump the diluted mix into the ocean. As long as you stay under the legal limit per gallon the fishermen will never know.

Re: easy solution (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47034377)

That method is only approved for chemical weapons.

Re: easy solution (1)

lazy genes (741633) | about 3 months ago | (#47034547)

Oh, things must be different in Japan.

Nuclear lobbiests; here's your new position/job (0)

Grow Old Timber (1071718) | about 3 months ago | (#47034497)

Here, put on this pair of glow in the dark overalls. The ones with a lead lined cup. Yeah. You're already getting paid enough for this kind of work... Here's a question for you;. How much carbon is being spent on this carbon-free source of energy now? Diesels = carbon. Have any electric powered excavators yet? When you clean up your mess and store the stuff safely, we can build more reactors, period.

Re:Nuclear lobbiests; here's your new position/job (1)

sjames (1099) | about 4 months ago | (#47034909)

You do know that Hanford was exclusively devoted to making atomic bombs and not generating power, don't you? No amount of pollution was too much when we 'needed' to make sure we could destroy the red menace more times than they could destroy us.

Re:Nuclear lobbiests; here's your new position/job (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 4 months ago | (#47035089)

Hanford did generate a lot of power, and still does. Columbia Generating Station is a commercial nuclear plant.

Re:Nuclear lobbiests; here's your new position/job (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 4 months ago | (#47035231)

Columbia Generating Station is a commercial nuclear plant.

Located approximately 16 miles away from Hanford; they're separate activities.

Unless you have some evidence that Columbia is responsible for an unusual amount of that pollution?

Re:Nuclear lobbiests; here's your new position/job (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 4 months ago | (#47035679)

There was also the N-reactor [wikipedia.org] which produced both plutonium and civilian electrical power.

Re:Nuclear lobbiests; here's your new position/job (1)

sjames (1099) | about 4 months ago | (#47035803)

The power generation was a secondary function. All that energy they liberated in the process of making plutonium had to go somewhere.

Re:Nuclear lobbiests; here's your new position/job (1)

Grow Old Timber (1071718) | about 4 months ago | (#47035371)

Hanford Nuclear Resevation has nuclear reactors >>>to generate electricity. Has had them for years. 2 of them under construction were mothballed (WPPS) after 3 mile island. To be sure, during WWII they used to just dig a trench in the earliest days. But lately the "leak-proof" containment has become >>> NOT. And too HOT to handle. Now it's on an underground migration to the Columbia River from which there appears no stopping it's eventual contamination of the largest river in the west. Or correct me if I am wrong please.

Re:Nuclear lobbiests; here's your new position/job (1)

sjames (1099) | about 4 months ago | (#47035441)

The reactors were primarily to produce plutonium for the bombs.

No power plant has ever been managed so poorly nor would the NRC ever allow it.

Re:Nuclear lobbiests; here's your new position/job (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47036463)

It depends on your definition of contamination. Coal power stations cause orders of magnitude more contamination all around them on active farmland.

Re:Nuclear lobbiests; here's your new position/job (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | about 4 months ago | (#47042613)

The radiation from coal plant emissions doesn't come anywhere close to the nastiness of some of the stuff that came from the production of plutonium.

Re:Nuclear lobbiests; here's your new position/job (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47036303)

still part of the game - you cannot build a working reactor if you know shit about it so you do experiments, you blow things up etc and besides the whole nuclear power energy is just an off-shot of building the nukes. If we did not want to build the nukes the hurdle to build a reactor would be to big to take for years to come.

"We are constantly frustrated by how easily ... (1)

Nutria (679911) | about 3 months ago | (#47034551)

the Department of Energy slips out of agreements in the Tri-Party Agreement."

This is why socio-political conservatives don't trust Government to solve problems. Similarly, that same slipperiness is why socio-political liberals don't trust Business.

I trust my wife, but that's about it...

Re:"We are constantly frustrated by how easily ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47035495)

the Department of Energy slips out of agreements in the Tri-Party Agreement."

This is why socio-political conservatives don't trust Government to solve problems. Similarly, that same slipperiness is why socio-political liberals don't trust Business.

I trust my wife, but that's about it...

You shouldn't.

Can't tell you why...

No honey. I won't take you on vacation. That's what Mr. Cuckold is for. Remember?

we need some kaiju (0)

nounderscores (246517) | about 3 months ago | (#47034625)

to make a nest there.

Way too much money for the local economy to finish (1)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | about 4 months ago | (#47034751)

The Tri-Cities (Richland-Pasco-Kenniwick) area has been dependent on the Hanford project for prosperity forever. There is absolutely no local motivation to complete the cleanup when thousands semi-skilled workers are making $40/hr+ +benefits. The project will certainly be dragged out until every possible drop is drained from the milchcow.

Re:Way too much money for the local economy to fin (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 4 months ago | (#47036523)

Yet every delay seems to be caused by inadequate funding at the Federal level, to the point where the deadlines have been pushed back beyond the projections for when waste is likely to reach the Columbia River. What's that going to do to the local economy?

Re:Way too much money for the local economy to fin (1)

Markvs (17298) | about 4 months ago | (#47039233)

Yet every delay seems to be caused by inadequate funding at the Federal level, to the point where the deadlines have been pushed back beyond the projections for when waste is likely to reach the Columbia River. What's that going to do to the local economy?

Actually, it improves the potato crop. (FIVE GUYS needs every potato they can lay their hands on!) The waste has also sped up work at the prehistoric Kennewick Man site, and has increased sales of all kinds of abatement gear (and anti-roadrunner technology) from ACME in nearby Walla-Walla.

Nuclear hidden costs (1, Insightful)

manu0601 (2221348) | about 4 months ago | (#47035079)

Right, that means nuclear energy has a hidden cost for cleanup. Perhaps we should think again next time we dismiss an alternative as being too costly.

But there another problem: who makes the gains from operating a nuclear plant, and who pays the hidden cost?

Hidden costs for all power types (1)

Firethorn (177587) | about 4 months ago | (#47035259)

If you're really going to be fair about it, you'd need to ask the same question for coal, natural gas, even wind and solar.

Nuclear is unusual in that like wind&solar, it's mostly direct cost, not indirect cost. The only reason the government is on the hook for Hanford is that it was a government site. Who typically pays decommissioning expenses for a nuclear plant? The owning company. It's part of the reason that the owners don't want to turn them off.

Re:Hidden costs for all power types (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47036281)

Deal with with a solar thermal plant or photovoltaic you could in theory abandon in place with minimal environmental issues. Broken glass, worn out solar panels? Who cares. Same deal with a natural gas fired plant. You can mothball it and if no one ever comes back, nature takes it over.

With nuclear they are going to need to keep messing with the waste for hundreds of years. I personally cannot see how that won't put nuclear power deep in the red when you consider lifetime costs.

Re:Nuclear hidden costs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47035695)

My understanding is that Hanford was primarily a plutonium production facility for supplying material for nuclear weapons, with its origins in the Manhattan Project and a long history of production during the Cold War. The farther back you go, the less clue they had about how dangerous things were, and the less planning they did. I'm not how sure a discussion of alternative energy is appropriate in this context. Maybe alternative weapons and approaches? FAE bombs, bunker busters, fire bombing?

Re:Nuclear hidden costs (2)

Akaihiryuu (786040) | about 4 months ago | (#47038867)

At the time the Hanford tank farms were built, they knew the stuff was incredibly dangerous. But they didn't know what to do with it. They designed the tanks to last for 20 years, and their words were "in 20 years they will figure out what to do with it". There was no planning at all. And I still have no idea what they are realistically going to do with this stuff. The only way to truly clean up a place like Hanford is if the Enterprise decides to park in orbit and beam it all into space.

Re:Nuclear hidden costs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47036473)

No, this mess is from making bombs, before people really knew how. Not from generating power.

Re:Nuclear hidden costs (1)

Akaihiryuu (786040) | about 4 months ago | (#47038839)

Well, the issue here is, the waste we are talking about at Hanford was not generated by nuclear power. It was generated by this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org] process (and older ones that generated more waste of a different type) in order to extract weapons-grade plutonium for use in making bombs. Spent fuel rods from nuclear power are not very difficult to deal with. But Hanford didn't generate spent fuel rods, because it was not a power facility. This waste we are looking at is waste from making bombs, not from nuclear power.

Not cleaning up Hanford is hugely profitable. (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 4 months ago | (#47035101)

They will keep doing that.

"keeping the lights on" (1)

Dereck1701 (1922824) | about 4 months ago | (#47035359)

A Billion dollars a year just to "keep the lights on" at the site? And only one of the four superfund sites there in 1989 has been fully cleaned & removed from the list? Even assuming that there are no more delays or unexpected challenges it is estimated to cost an additional $113 Billion to finish cleanup. Something is definitely wrong here, I realize that dealing with nuclear materials is difficult but this is obscene.

Re:"keeping the lights on" (1)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#47035503)

No. Dealing with nuclear materials isn't "difficult".

It's actually, surprisingly easy. You just have to take the proper precautions and act in an intelligent manner.

And, right there, you see the root of the issue.

The main problems are omnipresent greed, laziness, corruption and stupidity.

Re:"keeping the lights on" (3, Insightful)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | about 4 months ago | (#47035965)

No. Dealing with nuclear materials isn't "difficult".

Dealing with nuclear materials isn't difficult, but you and everybody else in the thread are glossing over the realities at Hanford. It's not just radioactive waste. It's enormous quantities of toxic chemical waste as well, and when you get right down to it, nobody actually knows what's inside a good many of the tanks of sludge they're dealing with. All we know is it's radioactive, chemically toxic, and corrosive to the tank it's sitting in. Records weren't kept of what was dumped where and when. It was appallingly bad management, for decades, and it accumulated a problem far worse than any trivial holding pond at a nuclear reactor site somewhere in the Midwest.

Hanford actually is a difficult and dangerous problem, all foot-dragging and finger-pointing aside. That is indeed part of the problem. 90% of the bureaucrats involved have no clue even where to begin, and they're so ignorant they don't know who to ask or how to find out.

The "problem" will end when the sludge finishes eating through the tanks it's in and it all leaks into the ground, contaminating the region's water supply for centuries. There will be a massive relocation program, a HUGE amount of blame-gaming, none of which will actually stick to anybody, and it then it will all go away. The bureaucrats involved have already proven their one skill: having a chair when the music stops.

Re:"keeping the lights on" (1)

dkf (304284) | about 4 months ago | (#47041041)

The bureaucrats involved have already proven their one skill: having a chair when the music stops.

As long as all the chairs are underneath the eroding tank of toxic radioactive sludge, we'll be OK anyway. Or we'll have a legion of mutant superpowered bureaucrats poised to take over the world...

Hmm, maybe I need to think about this a bit more.

Re:"keeping the lights on" (1)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#47042603)

Nah. That shit only happens in comic books.

More realistically? Think "Emil" from Robocop.

http://youtu.be/tjEdLuqK1RQ [youtu.be]

weapons not energy (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47036009)

As several astute readers who bothered to read the first fucking sentence of the linked article have pointed out, Hanford was used to produce nuclear material for weapons, not for energy. So let's save the energy debate for another thread.

I'm not particularly pro-nuclear, but I think it's always important to obtain a clear understanding of the details before assimilating a presented fact into my framework for thinking about things. In this case, that means not conflating nuclear weapons and nuclear energy. Humans will mess up anything if oversight is lax, but I think historically we've been better at fucking up things that are related to weapons and war (because of large and opaque budgets and lack of regulation due to classification) than things related to energy, commercial stuff, transportation, etc (although we're no slouches at doing royal fuckaroos on those, too, when we find ourselves temporarily short on farce).

Actually has it not been more than 35 years (1)

doomer (2026902) | about 4 months ago | (#47036131)

I stated working at Hanford in 1979 on the cleanup. We had many plans including a deep underground basalt storage system and glassification of radioactive waste. I even spent one year working on the instrumentation for the underground basalt storage system before I went on to other things. Hanford was screwed up then and it will still be screwed up when I die!

Funding with no finish (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47039247)

I live in a town near this location.

The problem for the most part is not funding perse, the problem is never finishing a project in the first place.

Which does relate to funding but not in the sense that they dont have enough.

they start projects for making the cleanup process better / faster / cheaper then when the project is almost done
they run out of money for that project and then the dump and scrap it completely and then start another project
for the same goal and they keep doing that, they never finish any of the projects and just start building another one.

which means none of the projects ever get used, they only start to build the project but never finish building.

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