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View Diary: A Head in the Clouds:   The Genius of 1976 Considered. (119 comments)

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  •  Pretty good (0+ / 0-)

    You've got down the basics of Hanford.

    I would only add that it is probably a good idea that this transfer is taking place. The original storage was not the best, and the situation will be much better after the transfer is complete.

    Of course, accidents happen (anyone familiar with industry, particularly heavy industry, knows this), but this particular example seems to be much ado about nothing.

    •  Not surprised... (2+ / 0-)
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      Plan9, bryfry

      I'm sure you're right that the new packaging will be better than the old.  And I would bet you're also right that

      this particular example seems to be much ado about nothing.

      However, it's hard to know, given that there are no measurements given.  

      I doubt that you could even call the stuff "high level" (quotes from Joy Busey's diary) since at the time it was generated, no one had codified that sort of distinction (high level waste vs. low level waste.)

      Heck, kids were standing for hours under xray machines at shoe stores and watching the bones in their toes wiggle, and no one objected.  Scary nuclear waste was just not a concept then.  It finally reached public consciousness when we began to hear there was strontium 90 in milk due to open air nuclear testing, which would be about 1962 when the following article by Kulp came out.

      In other words, 16 years or more after the Manhattan Project, when the waste in question had already been packaged and disposed of.  (1941 to 1946)

      Then everything went nuts.  By 1969, we were requested to throw Fiestaware dishes into the dump as nuclear waste due to the uranium oxide based colors in the glazes.  Note that no particularly special storage was used for Fiestaware at the dump.(My mother refused to throw out her Fiestaware, which I ate on my entire childhood.)

      So even though people were conscious of risks associated with nuclear waste in 1969, there still was very little consensus about what it was and how it should be confined.  The level of thought was just "get it away from me".

      •  Yeah, Fiestaware (1+ / 0-)
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        and a Geiger counter make for a great class demonstration in radioactivity.

        •  Fiestaware is on display at the Liberty Science (2+ / 0-)
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          LIsoundview, GRLCowan

          Museum in New Jersey's Liberty Park.

          A geiger counter is there along with uranium ore samples.

          It's quite impressive.   I was startled to see that a rational display of nuclear technology exists.

          They also have a radium clock on display.

          They have an excellent display on nuclear energy which is matter of fact and completely honest.   They also discuss all other energy forms in a complete way.

          The Liberty Science Museum - at least the last time I brought the kids about 2 years ago - is one of the few remaining hands on science museums that emphasizes science over flash.   It is an outstanding museum.   It really is.

      •  Oh, I think you can (0+ / 0-)

        I doubt that you could even call the stuff "high level" (quotes from Joy Busey's diary) since at the time it was generated, no one had codified that sort of distinction (high level waste vs. low level waste.)

        The tanks are full of the waste from processing of spent fuel.  They are FAR more radioactive than spent rods from a plant.

        •  Dilution means self-shielding (2+ / 0-)
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          Plan9, bryfry

          Very little electricity was ever generated at Hanford, although, annoyingly, not none. So most of the irradiated uranium there was not spent fuel, and was at relatively low burnup.

          Then there's the fact that it tends to be much older than spent fuel, and have lower concentration of radioactivity for that reason. Spent fuel rods have more. Plus it was dissolved in aqueous or organic solvent and then, much of it, never brought out of solution. So it's dilute.

          I'm having to disagree with everyone. Hanford may have a little subterranean pollution; it is not polluted at the surface, and the amount of radioactivity that could remain, decades after making a few thousand bombs, can't really be a threat to the Columbia river. It is necessarily small compared to the natural radioactivity buried equally shallowly in that large a piece of land. So the suggestion Hanford is an environmental disaster is stupid. Even so, it is much closer to being an environmental disaster than any nuclear power project ever has been or ever is likely to be.

    •  I'm not sure about that (1+ / 0-)
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      The only sure thing is that the way these wastes were stored was a dumb idea.  But that's in the past and can't be changed, what's important is what to do now.  Doing anything represents a risk, since a complicated operation can go wrong and spill waste where it is even less welcome than in failing tanks (as clearly demonstrated, even though the spill was probably a rather minor problem).

      The other and probably more sensible option would be to fill the tanks up with cement and let the contents solidify.  A block of concrete cannot corrode the container and cannot leak; something else has to corrode the container (pretty difficult in the case of stainless steel) and the concrete can only dissolve slowly, even after water leaks in.  IIUC these wastes don't contain transuranics anyway, so safe storage for 300 years is enough.  The real waste (of money, brains and time) is to do anything BUT filling the tanks with cement.

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