The Herald of Everett, Washington
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up  Green editions icon Green editions

Calendar


HeraldNet Headlines
HeraldNet Newsletter Delivered to your inbox each week.


Published: Monday, February 18, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
In Our View: Hanford Nuclear Reservation


The canary in the reactor

Government is versed in euphemistic gems.
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a "decrease of liquid level" in a single-shell tank at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. A liquid decrease is promising news for people taking diuretics or attempting to lose weight. Radioactive sludge leaking into the ground at a rate of 150 to 300 gallons per year (or "rate of loss of liquids" in Energy-speak) is not-so-good news.
The underground tank in question, T-111, classified as an "assumed leaker" in 1979, was built between 1943 and 1944. These massive receptacles were engineered to last approximately 20 years, which means the leaking tank's structural integrity became questionable around the time of the Apollo 11 moon landing. In 1995, something called interim stabilization (In English, a short-term fix) was completed. The process involves the removal of pumpable liquids.
The T-111's storage capacity is 530,000 gallons. There are 117 similar tanks at Hanford, the Energy Department reports.
Gov. Jay Inslee, a committed environmentalist, framed the issue as if it concerned drug trafficking. "Let me be clear: Washington State has a zero tolerance policy on radioactive leakage," Inslee said in a statement. Radioactive sludge, alas, yields to material science, not political science. And construction of the $12.3 billion facility to transform and stabilize the radioactive waste is several years behind schedule.
Inslee, building on the work of his predecessors dating back to Gov. Booth Gardner, is devoted to federal efforts to cleanup the nation's most contaminated nuclear site. He announced he is traveling to Washington this week to underscore his point. The T-111 incident should serve as the canary in the reactor, galvanizing Washingtonians and intensifying the call to get a move on.
Friday's news also spills light on the 586 square-mile Hanford Nuclear Reservation and its central role in the social, political and military history of the Pacific Northwest. The most original analysis is "Atomic Frontier Days, Hanford and the American West," by the UW's John Findlay and Bruce Hevly. Hanford transcends the overworked lesson of a distant federal government remaking the West. Findlay and Hevly offer an integrated narrative that weaves together community, culture, economics and ecology.
The Tri-Cities aren't Love Canal. They're urban centers with diversifying economies and a growing wine industry. At Hanford, the engineers and brainiacs who produced plutonium have given way to third-generation engineers and brainiacs charged with cleaning up five decades of waste.
Hanford is not an "over there" abstraction. Its future and the future of the American West are one.

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus
digital subscription promo

Subscribe now

Unlimited digital access starting at 99 cents, or included with any print subscription.

loading...

Herald Editorial Board

Jon Bauer, Opinion Editor: jbauer@heraldnet.com

Carol MacPherson, Editorial Writer: cmacpherson@heraldnet.com

Neal Pattison, Executive Editor: npattison@heraldnet.com

Josh O'Connor, Publisher: joconnor@heraldnet.com

Have your say

Feel strongly about something? Share it with the community by writing a letter to the editor. Send letters by e-mail to letters@heraldnet.com, by fax to 425-339-3458 or mail to The Herald - Letters, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We'll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 250 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it. If your letter is published, please wait 30 days before submitting another. Have a question about letters? Contact Carol MacPherson at cmacpherson@heraldnet.com or 425-339-3472.

HeraldNet highlights

To Russia and back
To Russia and back: Learn all about snow goose adventures at festival
No 'green rush'
No 'green rush': It's a tough market for budding marijuana businesses
Looking for a friend?
Looking for a friend?: Animals up for adoption at the Everett shelter (8 new photos)
For a day or a lifetime
For a day or a lifetime: Bothell is a great place to visit at anytime
SnoCoSocial