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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El Hosel's picture

Send a check to the appropriate authority and all is forgiven. After thorough investigation, yes, we have no mutent fishes.

Spastica Rex's picture

That's my backyard.

Temporalist's picture

As batshit crazy psycho Ann Horseface Coulter would say "Shut up you pussy libertarians!  Nuclear waste if good for you!"


That just made me realize that MDB is very likely Ann Baboonassface Coutler.

booboo's picture

well, ms. Baboonassface can only run her cocksucker, the government has demonstrated her words and that is the real issue here but nice diversion.

CoolBeans's picture

Zombie Apocalypse...only a matter of time.

Michelle's picture

Superfund baby! I think everyone knows by now that stuff can't really be contained.

Washington apples, potatoes, asparagus, been eating for years, direct from the Columbia River Basin. Still feel fine, family's healthy too.




jballz's picture


yes you may feel healthhy but the rest of us recognize your mental retardation from far far away. This, sadly, is the affliction which the afflicted seldom ever recognize.

Don't worry you have a lot of company.

“Rebellion to tyranny is obedience to God.”-ThomasJefferson's picture



I'm more grossed out, outraged, and offended that a woman from the land of the Canuck was decomposing in a LA hotel water tank, and the residents were bathing and drinking this ooze; than I am about some nuclear reactor leaking deadly lethal contaminants into the local atmosphere.  


Why?????  Because those who so regularly lie and mislead me tell me I have nothing to worry about.

Got to get back to cable tv for more useless info.

earleflorida's picture

fyi: every large military site in the united sates is built over, or in close proximity to some of the largest aquifiers in the country

The Second Rule's picture

I was hiking around Mare island a couple weeks ago (also asuperfund site). Built near one of the largest wetlands on the west coast. 

q99x2's picture

Locate the U.S. robotics manufacturing plants there. Everybody happy except downstream. What's downstream?

earleflorida's picture

'The Saint John's River and the Bay of Fundy Tides' flows downstream and upstream?

Ps.  talking about seasonal migrant workers?... they have temporary tent cities on the banks of the Columbia River-- whole families, children and all!? 

phoolish's picture

Who Could've Known.  Corrosive Radioactive Waste Eats Through Steel.



earleflorida's picture

don't eat the 'red delicious'... and, certainly don't mix and match the walla-walla sweet onion with the golden delicious-- this is one illuminating and radiant afternoon snack you should avoid at all cost...

Note:  hanford just buried the nine-gauge lead coated barrels in deep holes and poured concrete, period! subsequently building more nukes over the former sites. example: many hazardous material [toxic dumping?] waste site were left for dead until hard times hit said areas [and how often has that happen in the past... if your counting time by the score?]... then mysteriously large malls, manufacturing facilities, co-generation plants, et.el., are built right over said toxic sites with but a wink, nod, and a whole lot of graft?ing!  


thankyou tyler 

azengrcat's picture

Every time the debt ceiling is breached the senior member of senate and the house gets sent in for clean up duty.

August's picture

Why solve a problem, when you can institutionalise it? 

War of Poverty. War on Drugs. War on Terror....

Re Hanford: seventy-plus years on, and Pearl Harbour is still paying juicy dividends!  FDR was a visionary genius!

earleflorida's picture

it helped FDR... afterall, having a delano genome in his blood made for a perfected and global hardened drug lord, be it gold, silver or the opium of war... plutonium uranium`mania

MedTechEntrepreneur's picture

What is with the Islamist treason.

The Second Rule's picture

I read every comment and ironically not one mention of Helen Caldicott who specifically predicted the fate of Hanford and the environmental catastrophe that would result over 30 years ago. I know, because I was at one of those talks. At the time she was called an alarmist, a hysteric and a host of other unpleasant names. Yet she was dead on right. Not even an honorable mention. Instead everyone just wants to excoriate Obama, who had nothing to do with this monstrous nuclear facility.

jballz's picture


helen is a dumb snatch who makes a big deal out of everything.

The downwinders from hanford are getting more radiation from fukushima than hanford. Obviously it isn't that bad, it isn't like there's people getting cancer around there.

Ok well yeah there are but hey nobody lives forever.

price of free energy, you don't want to have to go back to paying a meter do you??


earleflorida's picture

do you have any idea how much money was allocated for the 'super-fund' toxic cleanup in the late 80's? guess whose name was on top of the list?

MedTechEntrepreneur's picture

Jay Inslee is an idiot.  Truly stupid.  He is going pig-hog crazy in this state trying to prop up the progressive dream.  It is all about getting make-work union jobs. Dont believe the scare. It is about as real as Obama's chicken little act.

mt paul's picture

let Alciada 

clean it up..

BandGap's picture

This is hilarious. I know people who were working on this back when I was in graduate school IN THE 80s.

Death By Cold Steel Report's picture

The Truth of the Matter is this; That carpet bagger Inslee is looking for cash for the state. They just increased the Tax on Gas AGAIN! Sales tax is 10% like the state is god itself. People are fleeing King County in droves because of the Taxes alone. There selling Match Box 2bed room 900 sqft Condos for 300k on the 200 Block of 25TH AVE right off of Jackson Street; and around the Corner is a high rise all Section 8 next to the Wallgreens. 

Everyday I would wak up and passed down the street and see this scene. The more I looked at it the more I felt like I was living in a Alfred Hitchcock episode.

The Carpet Bagger came into the office knowing my Ex Lord Christine Gregoire had put the state into the very deep debt.

Walt D.'s picture

"The government spends $2 billion each year on Hanford cleanup"

Must be getting old - I can remember when $1 billion was a lot of money. Today, Congress can piss $2 billion away in about 5 hrs.

Joe A's picture

How are the prevailing winds, river flows and underground water flows? In which direction do they blow and flow? If in the direction of Seatle and Vancouver then these two cities can join Fukushima and Chernobyl and become sistercities.

Royal Wulff's picture

Oh for chrissakes. A little radiation never hurt anyone. We wouldn't be here without it.

world_debt_slave's picture

The Fed gov. has spread it's hazardous waste from shore to shore of not only this country but other countries.

No wonder anyone with half a brain hates the Untied States.

Son of Loki's picture

How about an update on Fuki?

JamesBond's picture

funny -

it looks prettier on Google Earth



Crassus's picture

There are radioactive dumps from the Manhattan Project and the cold war all over.

Judge Crater's picture

Storing Nuclear-Bomb Waste in Glass

November 5, 2012, 7:33 p.m. ET

By Andrew Morse, Staff Reporter, Wall Street Journal

In early 2011, John Raymont was hoping his company, Kurion Inc., could break into the business of cleaning up nuclear waste, an industry dominated by large multinationals and mostly off limits to start-ups.

Then in March, an earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, causing its reactors to dangerously overheat. The crisis gave Mr. Raymont an idea.

His company could use its waste-treatment technology to build an ad hoc system to filter radiation from contaminated water and recycle it to cool the power station's reactors.

Within months, the Irvine, Calif., company's system was the backbone of a successful effort to stabilize the crippled plant. "Without Kurion's system," said Dr. Shunichi Suzuki, an executive at plant owner Tokyo Electric Power Co., "we would really be in trouble."

Now, Kurion is hoping to build on its Japanese success by getting a piece of one of the biggest and most difficult nuclear waste problems facing the U.S.: mopping up the radioactive waste at the Hanford Site in southeastern Washington state, where nuclear weapons were made decades ago.

Last month, Kurion took a step toward that goal, opening a testing facility at the site. Earlier this year, the company signed a contract with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, a Department of Energy facility, an important part of getting its technology approved for government work.

The cleanup at Hanford remains a formidable challenge. Roughly 56 million gallons of radioactive and chemical sludge sit in underground tanks at the site, where the government produced plutonium for the first nuclear bomb, as well as other weapons during World War II and the Cold War. Some of those tanks have leaked, raising concerns that radioactive waste could threaten the nearby Columbia River.

The Department of Energy has slowed the pace of construction on key parts of a $12.2 billion waste treatment plant being built by Bechtel National Inc., a unit of Bechtel Group, because of questions about their safety and design, raising concerns of a delay in starting a cleanup that is expected to last about four decades.

One of Kurion's products might be able to help because it filters radioactive particles from liquids such as the waste at Hanford.

The company's substance , which it calls "ion specific media," can target specific atoms. The material has another attractive property: It can easily be melted into glass, a process known as "vitrification" that traps the radioactive particles and minimizes potential leaks.

The company pairs the material with a system for straining radioactive waste. Once filled with radioactive waste, electricity is pulsed through the system's canisters, melting the filters into glass for safe storage.

Kurion isn't the only company with technologies designed to treat nuclear waste. Atlanta-based Perma-Fix Environmental Services Inc., a subcontractor to another project at Hanford, uses different technologies, including a supercompactor, to reduce the volume of contaminated material before encasing it for storage.

But few technologies are as battle-tested as Kurion's.

In January 2011, Kurion opened a research-and-development facility in Rolla, Mo., to test its concepts. Its objectives began to change on March 11, 2011, when a magnitude-9 earthquake killed roughly 16,000 people in northern Japan. The resulting tsunami crippled the pumping systems at Fukushima Daiichi that cooled the plant's reactors, triggering the biggest nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

As Mr. Raymont monitored the unfolding crisis, he began to think Kurion's technology could treat the plant's contaminated water and allow it to be recirculated to cool its overheating reactors.

"We're a start-up," Mr. Raymont said in an interview. "Our business concept is changing."

On April 4, 2011, a Kurion team arrived in Japan and described a system that ran contaminated water through a system customized to the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Kurion's filter would strain out radioactive cesium but let clean water pass through to be redirected to the plant's dangerously hot reactors.

By late April, Tepco had signed a contract for Kurion to assist in the cleanup project, placing the little company shoulder-to-shoulder with huge companies such as Japan's Hitachi Ltd. and Toshiba Corp., and France's Areva SA. Kurion received its initial funding from venture capital firms New York-based Lux Capital and Palo Alto, Calif.-based Firelake Capital Management.

Shortly after, Kurion sent Gaëtan Bonhomme, a French materials scientist who had earned an M.B.A. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to oversee the installation of the water decontamination system. The Kurion team also trained local employees to operate the system.

As the Fukushima Daiichi project quiets down, Kurion is turning its attention to the U.S. The process is long; getting a contract to work at a U.S. government site can take years and new technology requires extensive testing.

The company plans to use its new facility at the Hanford Site to demonstrate the techniques it used in Japan will also work in environments such as Hanford. It will also try processing some of the low-level radioactive waste stored at the site to prove it works.

Kurion is also expanding the types of waste it can treat. Earlier this year the company bought a business that converts soil, debris and other material contaminated by radioactivity or hazardous chemicals into glass. The business, called GeoMelt, also gives Kurion another shot at government work; it is already being considered for use at Hanford.


rsnoble's picture

Attention illegals: For a free slave card grab a shovel and go clean this mess up.

Lord Of Finance's picture

So now I see what the problem is with the people in that state! There really is something leaking into the drinking water!


 That leads to the next obvious question:


    How many of these "decommisioned" sights are in the state of California?

MacAttack2's picture

I'm sure what's leaking into the aquifer from Hanford is much safer than the fracking water environmentalists are hystirical over...

Lord Of Finance's picture

Did you mean to say more dangerous?

ArmyofOne's picture

Bury it all under Bernake bucks.  Problem solved. 

steelrules's picture

I sure as hell wouldn't want to live south of Hanford getting my water from the Columbia, or eat any of the crops irrigated with water from it.

BTW. the Columbia river is pristine when it leaves Canada just 170 miles north, as the crow flies.

robertocarlos's picture

Somehow the Earth will turn that leaking waste into oil.

Lord Of Finance's picture

Yes. Creation will always repair itself. Many people may die and suffer before hand, but it will repair.


To quote George Carlin:


" The planet isn't going anywhere! WE are!!"

S.N.A.F.U.'s picture

From the article:

It's not like anyone holds any hope that the US will repay this debt ever.

I thought the same, at least of ZHers, until I had this exchange:


I'm not even sure how one would conveniently reference what everyone calls US government debt without using the word "debt".  But it's not real debt, not when everyone involved knows it will never be repaid (in aggregate that is, individual bonds of course do get paid -- though only in nominal terms, and that's just a "pay as you go" transfer from new arrivals to those cashing out, aka a ponzi scheme).  Whether it's a few "trillion dollar" platinum coins, massive inflation, switching to issuing bills of credit, or some other mechanism, the US debt will be defaulted on (once again).


As for it isn't debt if we are going to default, well, that is a very big assumption.


No, the very big assumption would be assuming we are going to pay back the debt.


Yes it would be a big assumption, but that doesn't make your assumption any better and mine has been legislated and built into the Bill of Rights.


So, politicians lied to you, and you (apparently) believe the lies, and that makes you "more right"?  Nice argument.  [...]  The math says there is no way that debt and those promises will be honored.  Math trumps the lies of politicians by a long shot.

That said, I have to disagree with the given paragraph from the article on a more important matter.  That paragraph is being willfully stupid/narrow -- the true scarcity, which that paragraph ignores, of course being resources rather than FRNs in computer bits form.  And any unnecessary, overly inefficient, or misused resources spent on any project (including this one) will cause some degree of real pain, regardless of what the current measure of those resources is in FRNs.

fiddy pence haff pound's picture

just think. I'm glad the US can still throw 2 Bills at that mess, per year. If the US goes tits up,

that will be one of the first things that will be abandoned.

WHen the banksters bomb us back to the Iron Age, nobody will know what to do with

the nuke sites and then everybody dies.

Happy Better Life Through Technology Day.

ken's picture

Flows right around and through Portland, doesn't it? I wonder if there is a cancer cluster there.


monad's picture

This isn't news. They first said Hanford was leaking when sick Willy was selling us down the river. I didn't trust them then and I don't believe them now. The only difference is now more people have come to realize that they lie about everything.