Radioactive Waste Is Leaking From Washington's Hanford Nuclear Reservation

Tyler Durden's picture

And now for a quick lesson in government spending: in the 1940s the federal government created the now mostly decommissioned Washington's Hanford Nuclear Reservation as part of the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. 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. Sadly, 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.

The weapons production reactors were decommissioned at the end of the Cold War, but the decades of manufacturing left behind 53 million US gallons of high-level radioactive waste, an additional 25 million cubic feet of solid radioactive waste, 200 square miles of contaminated groundwater beneath the site and occasional discoveries of undocumented contaminations that slow the pace and raise the cost of cleanup. The Hanford site 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 government spends $2 billion each year on Hanford cleanup — one-third of its entire budget for nuclear cleanup nationally. The cleanup is expected to last decades. It turns out that as Krugman would say, the government was not spending nearly enough, and moments ago Governor Jay Inslee said that six underground radioactive waste tanks at the nation's most contaminated nuclear site are leaking.

From AP:

Inslee made the announcement after meeting with federal officials in Washington, D.C. Last week it was revealed that one of the 177 tanks at south-central Washington's Hanford Nuclear Reservation was leaking liquids. Inslee called the latest news "disturbing."


The tanks, which already are long past their intended 20-year life span, hold millions of gallons of a highly radioactive stew left from decades of plutonium production for nuclear weapons.


The U.S. Department of Energy said earlier that liquid levels were decreasing in one of the tanks at the site. Monitoring wells near the tank have not detected higher radiation levels.

And some more lessons on government spending:

Central to cleanup is the construction of a plant to convert millions of gallons of waste into glasslike logs for safe, secure storage. The $12.3 billion plant is billions of dollars over budget and behind schedule.

See: if only the plant was hundreds of billions, or better yet, trillions of dollars over budget, funded entirely by the Fed's monetization of debt issuance of course, all would be well. Sure enough:

Inslee and Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber have championed building additional tanks to ensure safe storage of the waste until the plant is completed. Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said earlier this week that he shares their concerns about the integrity of the tanks, but that he wants more scientific information to determine it's the correct way to spend scarce money.

What is this "scarce money" he is talking about? Does he not know that today total US debt just hit a ridiculous all time high $16,608,318,357,376.54, which is $20 billion more than yesterday, and at this point is an absolutely meaningless number? It's not like anyone holds any hope that the US will repay this debt ever.

Then again, if the Columbia river ends up spawning some cool-looking mutants, and if the Canadians start turning violent over concerns that the US is exporting them a little more radiation than they bargained for, then the resulting civil/Canadian war once the US can no longer funds its trillion+ deficits will be all the more colorful and vibrant.

So let radiation leak: in fact print more money to buy more Made in Fukushima plutonium and bury it under the complex. After all - as with every thought experiment, such as that of the US solvency when debt is now 104% of GDP, it must be taken to its absurd limit to be fully appreciated by all those who fought tooth and nail against our original proposal from a year ago to build a death star. Because the only thing better than a nearly $1 quintillion death star is two nearly $1 quintillion death stars.

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Dewey Cheatum Howe's picture

Why can't they just put this stuff in a rocket and shoot it out into space with its eventual destination being the sun? I bet it will be a lot cheaper over the long run. Just think of the cottage industry and jobs that will pop up making rockets along with giving NASA something to do.

krispkritter's picture

Better idea, move DC en masse to Hanford and plop it down. Let's see how good their health care package REALLY is...

JustObserving's picture

It is incredibly expensive to send even a pound into orbit.  To put a pound into the sun requires much higher velocity and more expense.   It will be on the order of $10,000 to $50,000 a pound and the risk of the launch going wrong.  So little chance of tossing our nuclear waste into the sun with current technology.

akak's picture

The roughly 10% of rockets which explode on the launchpad, or shortly after launch, would tend to complicate such a project as well.

Bunga Bunga's picture

Doesn't matter, it solves the waste problem too.

TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

akak said:

The roughly 10% of rockets which explode on the launchpad, or shortly after launch, would tend to complicate such a project as well.

Exactly. It would just be a massive multiplayer game of Russian Roulette unless and until rockets can be launched into space with a 100 percent success rate.

That's not likely to happen anytime soon:

Pseudo Anonym's picture


It is incredibly expensive to send even a pound into orbit.

how difficult could it be to type 1's and 0's on the fed's keyboard?  get to work mr. chairman...

El Crusty's picture

10-50 grand a pound is probably WAY cheaper than what they've spent on the whole mess so far.

10% failure rate on rockets really isnt much worse than over a million gallons of untreated high level waste leaking into the ground water if you think about it. i think there is 200 tanks total at hanford, we've got 6 of them that we know of leaking, probably several more, so 10 percent failure rate on the launch pad or 10% of the tanks leaking. either way you look at it, 10% is 10% and at least we would actually be getting rid of the stuff instead of just moving it around.

Blano's picture

Can you imagine what the fallout (get it?) would be if the rocket blew up after takeoff like the Challenger did???

Anusocracy's picture

Pile it on he White House lawn.

S5936's picture

DC & How, been say'in it for 20 yrs! Load up the bitch and fire it into one of them black holes & forget about it, ya know what I'm say'in.

Seasmoke's picture

too bad it is not Washington DC !

NoDebt's picture

Washington, DC already spews more radioactive waste across the country and the world than this little glow-worm site could ever dream to.


SmittyinLA's picture

Having it leak into our primary fresh water supply is much better than dumping it into the Marianas Trench where it will be buried for 2 million years, think of how much money we can borrow building new tanks and cleaning up old tanks every 20 years, we can push the deficit to a trillion-trillion

LongSoupLine's picture

Just another fucking government leak...

Plug it up with fresh fucking printed Bernanke fiat...better yet stuff that fucking asshole in the leak and pumpcram his fucking ass full of fresh printed dollars until his shit stinking bank sucking ass swells to fill the hole. Fucker.

Wile-E-Coyote's picture

Openheimer believed that a nuclear war happened thousands of years ago in Asia. Might expalin the slitty eyed bastards, therefore the Japs might be pretty immune that's why they aren't bothered about Fukushima.

Arrrr so that's why weeee fucking looking mutants.

Dapper Dan's picture

of note:

Researchers Describe How Natural Nuclear Reactor Worked In Gabon

In 1952, the late Paul Kuroda predicted that if the right conditions existed, a natural nuclear reactor system could go critical. Twenty years later, noticing that uranium ore from the Oklo mine was depleted in 235 Uranium , it was discovered that the site had once been a natural nuclear reaction system.

it's been known for 30 years that Mother Nature once did nuclear chain reactions by her lonesome. Now, Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have analyzed the isotopic structure of noble gases produced in fission in a sample from the only known natural nuclear chain reaction site in the world in Gabon, West Africa, and have found how she does the trick. Picture Old Faithful.

 it was known that the natural nuclear reactor operated two billion years ago for 150 million years at an average power of 100 kilowatts. The Washington University team solved the mystery of how the reactor worked and why it didn't blow up.

secret_sam's picture

It was South Asia, though.  India.  The Upanishads contain an interesting verse about fires in the sky used in war that caused the skin to continue to burn. 

It makes a lot of sense if you were never compelled by the modern operating definition of time, which is basically just as a placeholder between events.

krispkritter's picture

And the notion that they will be producing 'glasslike logs' for safe and sound storage sounds fishy.  I suspect Duraflame logs will be marketed with an 'extra special glow' in the coming years...bonus!

Drunken Monkey's picture

Up until a few days ago I could have produced all the "glasslike logs" they could use, but adding some bran to my oatmeal has pretty well solved that issue.

Sparkey's picture

A1! Monkey, that is funny!

edb5s's picture

Regarding Canada:  has anyone else read Infinite Jest?  Fiction becoming fact once again?

(For those who haven't, the US essentially expropriates a large amount of land from Canada and turns it into a giant waste dump)


akak's picture


(For those who haven't, the US essentially expropriates a large amount of land from Canada and turns it into a giant waste dump)

The obvious solution to the inevitable anti-American reactions among the Canadian population to such a project is quite simple: merely carve the landfills into the shape of a maple leaf and paint them red, and the Canadians will embrace them as their own.

The Second Rule's picture

Uh...I think the Cannuks beat us to it.  It's called the TAR SANDS. Toxic waste pits visible from space.

conspicio's picture

What would Thierry Poutrincourt do in the Year of the Depends Adult Undergarment?

DangerClams's picture

Get his forehead stuck to an ice-cold window and have half his face torn off?

I dunno.

DangerClams's picture

If DFW were still alive, he'd be marveling that the Great Concavity/Great Convexity might actually be coming to fruition, but in the Western US, not the Eastern.

I guess the Enfield Tennis Academy is safe.  For now.

secret_sam's picture

Why don't they privatize this?  Auction off the site on E-Bay and be done with it.

Rustysilver's picture

Meanwhile in China: same stuff.

"China's environment ministry appears to have acknowledged the existence of so-called "cancer villages" after years of public speculation about the impact of pollution in certain areas."

rhinoblitzing's picture

Cheap Chinese Communist Concrete (and lack of rebar) may be the downfall of China.

Just wait until those "Built Overnight" dams, bridges, and nuke plants crumble just like thier schools that they put thier "future" children in.

Haste Makes Radioactive Waste

rhinoblitzing's picture

Time for a Concert - "No Nukes" Reunion - get me Jackson Brown and James Taylor on the line.

tom a taxpayer's picture

Concert finale hold-hands-and-sway song: "All we are saying is give plutonium decay 50,000 years a chance to reduce radioactivity levels."


Ineverslice's picture


Now wait a minute....How many is ONE Quintillion, dammit?

Hanford was always some bad shit and now the genie is out.


conspicio's picture

CH2M-Hill's $5.6B cash cow + ARRA $$$ + union corruption + environmental activist extortion = monkey fucking a football. And as usual, the harder CH2M-Hill fucks that football, the more work the feds throw their way. All your nuclear remediation are mine, bitchez...

buzzsaw99's picture

If they had stuffed those tanks full of $100 bills it would have been cheaper.

carpman's picture

No, you definitely want to leave this kind of thing to the private sector! If you want to be really safe.

booboo's picture

Too bad the Government is immune from prosecution and legal recourse, it is good to be the ultimate monopoly, even if their was legal options the judges are paid by the very entity that you are suing. Even the Kings and lords didn't burn their own forest and fields down. "Democracy, the god that failed" Hans Hermann Hoppe

Black Markets's picture


$2bn per annum? Your old plutonium factories are very stable.

Check out the UK's old sites...

That's $100bn to clean up a 50 acre site. What the fuck did they do there??

(Well it was $100bn last week, it's $90bn this week. Fuck you Moody's, we're winning!!!)

scaleindependent's picture

The unintended consequences of military superiority and the MIC.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

The military does all kinds of polluting.  Anywhere there is a base, there is a problem.  Avoiding pollution is not part of the mission.

jimmyjames's picture

Then again, if the Columbia river ends up spawning some cool-looking mutants, and if the Canadians start turning violent over concerns that the US is exporting them a little more radiation than they bargained for, then the resulting civil/Canadian war once the US can no longer funds its trillion+ deficits will be all the more colorful and vibrant.


Sounds like we're even on that score card-the only casualty so far has been the river-


Canadian mining giant Teck Resources Ltd. has admitted in a U.S. court that effluent from its smelter in southeast British Columbia has polluted the Columbia River in Washington for more than a century.

akak's picture

Well, I am sure that the Canadians only engaged in their egregious pollution of the Columbia River after lengthy consultations with all involved First Nations Aboriginal Noble Savage Alcoholically Challenged "Give me my annual federal subsidies dammit, you stupid guilty white assholes!" Peoples.

jimmyjames's picture

The first nations hadn't arrived here yet..a century ago--

Setarcos's picture

I see that you are enlightened and so realize that anthropology, history and all other understandings of the human condition are BS.

What a truly Noble and Erudite example of the Superior White Race you are.

The Unenlightened Savage, Chief Seattle, predicted that White Men would end up shitting in their own nest.

Go figure.