Thoughts of a Catholic convert

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Location: United States

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

When will we ever learn?

- Nuclear reactors line the riverbank at the Hanford Site along the Columbia River in January 1960. The N Reactor is in the foreground, with the twin KE and KW Reactors in the immediate background. The historic B Reactor, the world's first plutonium production reactor, is visible in the distance.

Today my sister and I were talking about the Japanese nuclear plant problem and she mentioned a friend of hers who had cancer, a friend who wondered if it had been caused by living near the Hanford Site. I'd never heard of the place and was amazed to learn of it. Here's just Wikipedia's intro to their extensive page on it ...

"[...] Established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project in the town of Hanford in south-central Washington, the site was home to the B Reactor, the first full-scale plutonium production reactor in the world. Plutonium manufactured at the site was used in the first nuclear bomb, tested at the Trinity site, and in Fat Man, the bomb detonated over Nagasaki, Japan.

- Spent nuclear fuel stored underwater and uncapped in Hanford's K-East Basin

During the Cold War, the project was expanded to include nine nuclear reactors and five large plutonium processing complexes, which produced plutonium for most of the 60,000 weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Nuclear technology developed rapidly during this period, and Hanford scientists produced many notable technological achievements. Many of the early safety procedures and waste disposal practices were inadequate, and government documents have since confirmed that Hanford's operations released significant amounts of radioactive materials into the air and the Columbia River, which threatened the health of residents and ecosystems.

- Hanford scientists feeding radioactive food to sheep

The weapons production reactors were decommissioned at the end of the Cold War, but the manufacturing process left behind 53 million U.S. gallons (204,000 m³) of high-level radioactive waste that remains at the site. This represents two-thirds of the nation's high-level radioactive waste by volume. Today, Hanford is the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States and is the focus of the nation's largest environmental cleanup ......"

- The Hanford Reach of the Columbia River, where radioactivity was released from 1944 to 1971

Holy mackerel! :(


Blogger Jeff said...

Said the late great Dan, over 30 years ago - Face the Fire

3:28 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Thanks, Jeff. I hadn't heard that song of his before.

6:48 PM  
Blogger Denny said...

Hanford and its history is well known to most of us Washingtonians. It'll never be cleaned up.

11:54 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


Strange I never heard of it, not even when I lived closer in Portland. One always thinks of the great northwest as being so environmentally pure.

1:44 PM  
Blogger cowboyangel said...

The legacy of our flirtation with nuclear energy won't really be known for another hundred years. Then, I fear that people will look upn us as we we look at those in the Middle Ages who didn't seem to understand germs.

4:05 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Saying that there will anyone left but mutants by then :(

5:01 PM  

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