Crowd Says No to More Waste at Hanfordby Annette Cary
Tri-City Herald, August 28, 2007
TROUTDALE, Ore. -- A standing-room-only crowd near Portland had a clear message for the Department of Energy on Monday night: Send no more radioactive waste to the Hanford nuclear reservation.
It's different than the usual "not in my backyard," said Ken Niles, assistant director of the Oregon Department of Energy.
"We're saying no more in our backyard because it is so horribly contaminated already," he said.
DOE is looking at Hanford as one option for disposing of an estimated 7,280 cubic yards of radioactive waste generated through 2062.
It's a relatively small volume of waste compared with the vast amount of waste already planned to be disposed of at Hanford. But the amount of radiation it contains is significant.
It has an estimated 130 million curies of radioactivity. That compares to the 190 million curies of radioactivity in the millions of gallons of waste held in underground tanks from the past production of plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons program, much of which DOE plans to dispose of off Hanford.
DOE officials faced a crowd of about 80 people Monday who ranged from skeptical to hostile.
"I'm outraged. It's a lie. Isn't it?" demanded Gerald Pollet, executive director of Heart of America Northwest, when a DOE official identified a pictured waste container that was apparently abandoned as one that was being used. Similar waste vaults are being considered for disposal at Hanford, eight other sites or undetermined commercial facilities.
"We're being massaged with a lot of statistics," said Ruth Currie of Portland, who also said she didn't think DOE knows what it is doing.
Problems at Hanford and other DOE sites were a recurring theme, with public comment hitting on delays in construction at the Hanford vitrification plant, last month's spill of high level radioactive waste at the Hanford tank farms and doubts that DOE would ever open the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada.
Given DOE's long history of waste and cleanup mismanagement, a proposal to bring more waste to Hanford is essentially a plan to turn Hanford into a permanent national sacrifice zone, according to comments by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, read into the meeting record by a congressional staffer.
"Hanford should be cleaned up, not dumped on," according to Wyden.
Some of the waste proposed to be sent to Hanford is extremely long-lived and must be isolated for eternity, said Bill Mead, director of the Public Safety Resources Agency in Portland.
The meeting was an early step in determining what to do with radioactive waste that includes activated metals from decommissioning nuclear power plants and high-activity radioactive materials used for medical diagnosis and treatment. More than half would be from DOE nondefense work, with much of that coming from a West Valley, N.Y., project.
DOE is considering sending the waste to a geological repository deep underground, such as Yucca Mountain, or burying it at a site such as Hanford in a deep bore hole or waste containers closer to the surface of the ground.
The international nuclear community has settled on deep bore hole disposal as the preferred option for similar waste, said Christine Gelles, director of DOE's environmental management office of disposal operations.
Keeping the waste on site where it is generated and adding protection to keep it safe from terrorists is a better option, said Angela Crowley-Koch, executive director of the Oregon Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.
Keith Harding of Hood River had another suggestion for where to store the waste -- a certain ranch in Texas, he said, alluding to President Bush's home.
Another public meeting will be held at 6 p.m. today at the Red Lion Hotel, 2525 N. 20th Ave., Pasco.
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