The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Hanford Nuclear Consequences

Jun 5, 2017

In early May, a 20-foot-long portion of one of the two tunnels used to store contaminated radioactive material at the Department of Energy’s Hanford nuclear site in Washington State collapsed.

These two tunnels, one of which is reinforced only with timber, have “the potential for significant on-site consequences” and contain “various pieces of dangerous debris and equipment containing or contaminated with dangerous/mixed waste,” according to a 2015 report by Vanderbilt University. The Union of Concerned Scientists explained, “It appears that this is a potentially serious event. Collapse of the earth covering the tunnels could lead to a considerable radiological release.”

Hanford was established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project. Its first nuclear reactor was used to produce plutonium to manufacture the nuclear bombs that were detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing hundreds of thousands of people. During the Cold War, the site was expanded to nine nuclear reactors and five large plutonium processing complexes. Hanford was used to build more than 60,000 nuclear weapons.

The nine nuclear reactors used for nuclear weapons production were decommissioned at the end of the Cold War. But decades of this manufacturing also produced 56 million gallons of high-level radioactive water moved into 177 underground storage tanks, 25 million cubic feet of solid radioactive waste kept at the site, and 200 square miles of contaminated groundwater beneath Hanford. The two tunnels stored a lot of equipment used for plutonium manufacturing that had become heavily contaminated due to exposure to nuclear radiation, including the rail cars that were used to push the equipment into the tunnels.

This nuclear site is massive, covering more than 580 square miles of land in the State of Washington. The Columbia River flows along the Hanford nuclear site for approximately 50 miles.

Using the river’s water for reactor cooling contaminated the river with radioactive isotopes every day for decades. The storage tanks leaked. The Department of Energy found that water was intruding into at least 14 tanks, and that one of them had been leaking about 640 gallons per year into the ground since about 2010. Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced in 2013 that six tanks were leaking radioactive waste, at a rate of 150 to 300 gallons per year.

The Hanford nuclear site is about 200 miles from Seattle. The Columbia River passes through many large and small cities, including Portland, Oregon, before it pours into the Pacific Ocean.

So, the Hanford nuclear site contaminates vast areas in the U.S. and the largest ocean in the world with radioactivity, through the Columbia River.

The U.S. government created this disaster to create bombs to dominate this world for the rich. And the whole world suffers the consequences.