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Tunnel Collapse at Hanford Nuclear Dump—Harbinger of the Collapse of the Entire Industry?


Tunnel Collapse at Hanford Nuclear Dump—Harbinger of the Collapse of the Entire Industry?

Harvey Wasserman

The collapse of a tunnel at the massive nuclear waste dump at Hanford,

Washington, 200 miles east of Seattle, has sent shock waves through a nuclear power industry already in the process of a global collapse.


Yes, there are many detailed problems and issues with nuclear energy/weapons, but the main issue is very very simple: once radioactive materials are concentrated sufficiently (or created) to produce some "useful" effect, they can never be undone. Nuclear materials are the longest lasting poisonous materials in existence; and they have to be contained and monitored continuously at sophisticated and expensive levels. We now have thousands of tons of nuclear materials/waste that can never, in the time frames of typical human political stability, be prevented from escaping into the environment. This an almost unreported threat to the living space.


"Nuclear energy faces a seriously clouded future."

...and coal faces a very bright future, it seems. Coal operators in Illinois are celebrating a big boost in Japan coal imports, and a number if idled coal power plants in the US will be restarting soon as well.


"Nuclear energy faces a seriously clouded future" AND a seriously expensive future for taxpayers and utility ratepayers whom K Street lobbyists will make certain continue to pay for nearly all of the costs of storage and disposal.

For years Utah and other states have been seeking gubmit approval to allow businesses to import radioactive waste from abroad to be disposed of in the US. Have they convinced Trump that such a scheme fits right into his promises to improve the balance of trade ?


I have said this for years, the problem with nuclear power is the disposal of the waste, which after 70 some yrs has not been solved. The Yucca mountain site was eventually killed because native americans and others didn't want nuclear waste in their backyard. Thus the problem, no one wants this stuff in their backyards.


by current estimates yucca mountain would cost $96 billion to finish, which would take about 10 years. double both estimates. then guess how long it will take to blow up.


Look I'm a nuclear supporter of sorts. But I do not support the high pressure water design. It's an old designed filled with well deserved safety concerns and an unaddressed waste issue. Thermal/nuclear runaway is a real possibility, hence the elaborate and costly safety measures. And reprocessing of fuel rods is a constant and costly process. And it's byproduct is Plutonium. NOT good. We don't need the Plutonium, period.
I say use nuclear IF you use a inherently safe design. The liquid salt thorium breeder reactor is much safer. It produces much less waste and the "China Syndrome" is a theoretical impossibility. Plutonium is NOT a byproduct.
Thorium is converted to fissionable Uranium in this reactor. There are no rods to be reprocessed. There is only Thorium to be added occasionally. BTW, thorium is available in our beach sand or from the oceans.
A quick note... Countries who want only energy (not Plutonium for bombs) are researching commercial designs for TLSBR's now. China is leading the way. Why aren't we?


The $96 billion cost projection was an inflation-adjusted estimate for a larger fuel load taking the project through sealing in 2133. But the presumed larger fuel load also presumed a larger amount of electricity generated. Amortized over that whole period, the projection was also that the current 0.1 cents per kilowatt hour fuel disposition surcharge on nuclear generated electricity would not need to be adjusted. This projection also assumed there would be no development of fast breeder reactor technology over the next century. The development of such reactors would convert a high proportion of the spent fuel into usable fuel, making it a resource more valuable than gold in terms of revenue per unit mass for the electricity it could generate.


Thorium breeders would produce the same plutonium isotopes produced in today's reactors, but the proportions would be smaller, and the isotopic mix would be skewed heavily towards Pu-238. If you did continuous chemical processing to extract plutonium, you could skew the proportions even further in favor of Pu-238. Pu-238 is a contaminant for bomb fuel, but so too are the isotopes heavier than Pu-239 which are produced in today's reactors. Reactor-grade plutonium makes for an extremely poor bomb fuel, so much so that everyone who makes plutonium bombs uses special production reactors, which are not only produce high purity weapons-grade fuel, but are also much cheaper and easier to use for this purpose than power reactors.

And you don't have to use thorium as the fuel in order to have the melt-down proof advantages of molten salt reactors. My hunch is that molten salt U-235 reactors will come first and thorium breeding will come later, possibly at centralized locations in conjunction with fast breeder reactors, proton accelerators, and/or fusion neutron sources.


When you fission atoms, the fragments become an assortment of lighter isotopes. About 4/5ths of the fission product mass is composed of isotopes which are highly radioactive, but with short half lives and very short decay chains, so these isotopes decay to stable in various timescales up to around 10 years, after which they become perfectly usable elements. So that much can certainly be "undone".

"Nuclear materials are the longest lasting poisonous materials in existence;"

The longer the half-life, the less radioactive the isotope. There are some radioisotopes which have half-lives so long it was difficult to confirm they were radioactive at all. The ones with the longest half-lives also tend to have easily-shielded low-energy decay modes. The longest lasting poisons are the stable, chemically-poisonous elements which never decay away. The most radio-toxic isotopes are the ones that decay away quickly.

"and they have to be contained and monitored continuously at sophisticated and expensive levels."

The main problem is that today's solid fuel reactors have very poor fuel utilization, and the spent fuel is a complex jumble of isotopes. With good fuel utilization, the only inevitable output from fission is fission products, and if the fission products were chemically separated into discrete streams, most of it would go into short-term sequester. The remainder would be so small (on the order of 20 ounces per gigawatt-day) that it could go into deep borehole sequester where it wouldn't pose any threat to life for the few hundred years it would take to drop to the radioactivity level of the surrounding rock.


Trog… Thanks for the correction. I obviously am not a Nuclear Engineer. We need the facts to be FACTS, not here-say. Thanks again, glad you joined the conversation.


These things are all true, but you didn't consider this essential consideration " ....in the time frames of typical human political stability, be prevented from escaping into the environment." I am not saying that life on earth is endangered. I am saying that the most common and dangerous "short" half-life radioactive elements (several tens to hundreds and thousands of years) exist in a world of political instability (with no political life times longer than a few hundred years), instabilities that would challenge the kinds of infrastructure support required for maintaining 'safe' storage. The release of radioactive materials on a scale several times greater and more distributed than historical releases would be devastating to the present ecological arrangements upon which what we think of as human organization depends.


Go Harvey! We love that you dog the nuke boys day and night! The bankster boys are SOLELY responsible for planet-wide radiological, genetic mutations that continue to spread among our species (and all species) for thousands of generations, hence! Thank you Mr. Wasserman. We need more people like you and Helen and Durnford's work in B.C., and more and more leakers of vital contamination information. No more radionuclide emissions or accidents. Where is the Press on this? They are complicit in their silence.


The most common and most radioactive fission products do have short half-lives, but the short half lives are mostly under 65 days (one at 285 days and one at a year).

The intermediate fission products go from around 2 years half-life (Cs-134) to 55 years (Sn-121m), with one low-yield (fraction of a percent) outlier at 89 years half life (Sm-151). These would take a few hundred years to decay below background levels.

There are seven long-lived fission products which don't exist in nature in significant amounts, and their half-lives range from 20,000 years to 15.7 million years. Four of them have a low yield, and two of the remainder could actually be used in metallurgy in radioactive applications. The long half-lives mean these all have low levels of radioactivity. They also emit low energy or no gamma radiation, and their dominant decay mode is beta, which is very easy to shield, so these are at the least dangerous of the radioactive fission products. The ones we can't find a use for we could drop down a borehole and forget about them.

"The release of radioactive materials on a scale several times greater and more distributed than historical releases would be devastating to the present ecological arrangements upon which what we think of as human organization depends."

What would cause such a release?


I guess if the Right can have their quacks and frauds who disregard or disparage science and evidence, it's only fair that people on the Left should be allowed to have some of their own too. It kind of undercuts any criticism of the Right on this count, though.


Quite simply we are leading the way. This week a Japanese court decreed that the state of Japan and the corporation TEPCO a subsidiary od Geberal Electric were both guilty of poisoning the Pacific Ocean. Thank you stupid nuclear industry.

Not only did Fukushima give everyone on earth a chest x-ray it poison the worlds largest ocean. What swims in that sea is no longer safe to eat. Starfish melt, Brown Pelicans hatch no eggs, salmon with pussy lesions with millions not returning.

You and Trog are stupid assholes who work for the nuclear industry that has done this to the world and you come here to discuss and masturbate over new forms of radiation to add to the mess you "boys" have already created.

Read the news about Hanford this week? On going from a day one in the nuclear industry you have FUp on top of FUp. You can not get anything right. We are still being exposed to the very first of your industries waste. You can not contain any of it.

You and Idiot Trog can go to hell and buzz off.

Too cheap to meter! Safe within its containment! Every word your industry has put out is Bullshit. You are discussing human beings. If I was the king you would eat fish from the Pacific at every meal until you turned green with cancer and turn into a liquid pool on the floor.

Do yourself a favor and go away. I will be happy to point out your obvious human defects like lack of any compassion of others you would radiate and kill.

jwschull love your ignorance. You are such a troll


Blah Blah Blah Blah. Bullshit your industry is over. Dead. You have polluted the worlds largest ocean while claiming that everything was roses. Cats out of the bag. You people are dip shits for a buck. Your arguments fail by our experience of your failure. Everything about the use of radiation for anything is to stupid to imagine. You people as a group are seriously damaged people. Perhaps by work in your industry.


Thorium breeder reactors will never happen.

Would end up with Hanford. We are dealing with it and will forever. We actually paid people to pick up rabbit shit because it was to radioactive to leave laying around.

Absolute bullshit. Do you think we are stupid. P-238 half life 87.5 would make a rather nice dirty bomb then it decays to U-234 with half life of 246,000 years. I guess you are stupid too. You fail to understand that release of radiation is a dirty bomb and you and the industry you work for releases that shit all the time.

Yet that one time that one atom splits you can get cancer and die from it.


Wow sorry not any facts from Trog. Works in the industry. Makes money off radiating citizens. He likes to follow up and watch the birth of deformed children and parents dying of cancer.

How about you.


The main problem is that reactor do not have reliable containment. Never have never will.

And by the way I really love what you did with Cassini. We will shortly have an example of a planet that we have radiated so that any life there will not exist long before genetic mutations kill it or change it.