Can anyone comment on Plutonium Cities (Richland, WA, USA and Ozersk, Russia) vs Chernobyl, Fukushima, and Three Mile Island?

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    Sep 29, 2013 2:30 PM GMT
    I watched part of a speaker event for the book Plutopia by Kate Brown. It was on Book TV.
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    Sep 29, 2013 2:37 PM GMT
    The Hanford Site is a mostly decommissioned nuclear production complex operated by the United States federal government on the Columbia River in the U.S. state of Washington. The site has been known by many names, including: Hanford Project, Hanford Works, Hanford Engineer Works or HEW and Hanford Nuclear Reservation or HNR. Established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project in the town of Hanford in south-central Washington, the site was home to the B Reactor, the first full-scale plutonium production reactor in the world.[1] Plutonium manufactured at the site was used in the first nuclear bomb, tested at the Trinity site, and in Fat Man, the bomb detonated over Nagasaki, Japan.

    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 more than 60,000 weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal.[2][3] Nuclear technology developed rapidly during this period, and Hanford scientists produced many notable technological achievements. 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, which still threatens the health of residents and ecosystems.[4]
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    Sep 29, 2013 2:43 PM GMT
    This answers the question from one angle:

    In four decades, the Hanford and Maiak plants each issued at least four Chernobyls’ worth of radioactive isotopes—meaning their isolated plutopias concealed disasters that remain highly unstable and threatening today.
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    Sep 29, 2013 2:51 PM GMT
    Oh My GAWD!

    Go on: Just try reading this!

    http://www.damninteresting.com/in-soviet-russia-lake-contaminates-you/
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    Sep 29, 2013 5:01 PM GMT
    Thanks for this.
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    Sep 29, 2013 5:22 PM GMT
    Liberal Democrats, you started it like the US entry into WWII, please fix it.
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    Sep 29, 2013 5:37 PM GMT
    I lived and worked there for 12 years and spent a lot of time driving around the reservation taking samples. It was and remains a very strange place, but nothing at all like the hysterical nonsense that (mostly) left-wing nut cases make up and publish.

    The main effects on the surrounding area took place on December 2-3, 1949, when the infamous "green run" occurred. Basically the plutonium extraction plant was operated for one day in the manner that the corresponding Soviet plant was suspected to operate. The purpose was to determine what could be learned about plant operations by analyzing the smokestack emissions. People who were living directly downwind at the time - especially young people drinking milk from cows in that area - theoretically received a large enough dose of radionuclides to cause health problems. Unfortunately, when the government finally admitted responsibility and offered monetary settlement, every hypochondriac and crooked lawyer in the west jumped on it, and diverted most of the money away from the real victims.
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    Sep 29, 2013 5:37 PM GMT
    I have actually gone out to the B Reactor and taken a tour of it! My sister works out at Handford in a division called PNNL (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory). Here, scientist do medical research for the government.

    It was awesome to see the B Reactor and actually step inside a piece of history. Our tour guide had actually worked in the B Reactor until it was shut down and taken out of commission.

    Here's some pics:

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    The Reactor
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    The pump room that keep the reactor cool with water.
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    Main Control Room that sat behind the reactor
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    Water pressure monitors for each reaction tube (Over 2000!)
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    Sep 29, 2013 5:43 PM GMT
    Actually, PNNL is located near and partially on the Hanford Site, but is not really part of it. It is a totally separate organization.
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    Sep 29, 2013 5:48 PM GMT
    That is true. I know that my brother-in-law's father works at Hanford, but I'm not sure exactly what he does. He is former military and I believe its something with the computer systems. I could be wrong there. I also went to high school with a guy that went to the Air Force and just got a job out there in some sort of security division.
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    Sep 29, 2013 5:58 PM GMT
    Oh, the "Hanford Patrol." Scary retards with uzi's. I can't count how many times I got stopped and had my car or bicycle searched icon_rolleyes.gif In the years that I was there, the only "action" they had was when one of them uzied himself in the foot while practicing quick draw out at the back gate. Now they have a full-scale concrete "town" to practice shoot-outs, fires, hostage situations, and the like. Keeps 'em busy.

    Meanwhile, a bunch of Greenpeace nuts walked in through the main gate with fake security badges that had pictures of Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse on them. icon_rolleyes.gif They made a big deal out of it, but the main gate wasn't very important. (I don't think it's even there any more.)

    Places that contained actual dangerous stuff were surrounded with "kill zones." Anyone in there was shot first and questioned later. Of course, to get in there, you'd have to scale two electrified fences with dogs patrolling in between. I used to walk along one of them to get to the library.

    All gone now.
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    Sep 29, 2013 6:10 PM GMT
    Hahahaha. I can't imagine the kinds of stories you have after working there. I'm not sure if he's in that kind of security. I think he's in a more administrative capacity. He's fluent in a couple of languages (Russian and German) and I think he deals with security on a bigger scale than just the immediate threat of people hopping fences. Again, I could be wrong.
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    Sep 29, 2013 6:21 PM GMT
    Ah, dunno. One of the major divisions of Battelle used to be some sort of security think-tank. But it shut down at the end of the cold war (or so they said). They had a nice campus in Geneva.
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    Sep 29, 2013 7:00 PM GMT
    OK, for the record, the only thing at Hanford these days that is actually worth worrying about is all of the liquid waste from the plutonium and uranium extraction process. There is something like 56 million gallons of it, stored in huge underground tanks.

    B203-204.jpg

    The stuff is extremely corrosive and extremely radioactive. Nobody knows quite what to do with it, but they keep building (then abandoning) plants to treat it. Because activists and senators demand that they do something. We spend something like two billion dollars a year for those guys to run around in circles and accomplish nothing.

    After about 20 years or so, all of those old single-walled tanks rusted through and started leaking, so some of the waste is now in the sand outside the tanks. There is really no danger of the tank waste getting off the site - this is many miles from the river or any town. But the longer they wait, the bigger and deeper the volume of contaminated sand is getting.

    The plan, back in the 60's was to build new double-walled tanks.

    20130223_tanksHanford.jpg

    While pumping the stuff from the single-wall to the double-wall tanks, they ran it through evaporators to get rid of water and reduce the volume, so the stuff in the double-walled tanks was sort of a sludge. A highly concentrated, highly radioactive, highly corrosive sludge. That promptly started boiling from the heat of decay. And emitting hydrogen gas from - well, from all new kinds of chemistry, it was later discovered. Nobody knew exactly what was in it. For years, they just had the army guards kick a garden hose in there to prevent it from evaporating to the point of possible criticality. Nobody even knew what it looked like in there because it is so radioactive that the lenses of cameras turn opaque in seconds.

    If "snapple" is "the Best Stuff on Earth," or even if it isn't, the sludge at Hanford is The Worst Stuff on Earth.

    Eventually, it was decided to start stirring the stuff, to prevent it from "burping" explosive concentrations of hydrogen gas. I guess that worked... but most of us found convenient vacation days on the other side of the mountains the week that started.

    Obviously, terrorists could have a lot of fun with this stuff, but really there's no way they could get any. If they somehow dipped a bucket in there and pulled it up... it would kill them before they could carry it away. In fact, last time I was out there, there was only a simple fence around the tank farms. This is what the top of a tank looks like now:
    IMG_0377_1_fit_300x300.JPG I used to drive right past there with no security checks or anything. I guess that if you actually stopped there, a patrol would come by to check you out.

    The current plan is to pump out the sludge, mix it with cement to form solid ingots, melt those into a glass, then encase them in steel. And then... do something with them.

    Eventually. Meanwhile, well, you can have a lot of fun with two billion dollars a year that never seems to dry up.
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    Sep 29, 2013 7:15 PM GMT
    JoelRyn,

    Thank you for your time posting those pictures. They add to the history lesson.

    Steve
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    Sep 29, 2013 8:21 PM GMT
    Well, it is a rainy, rainy day here. So here are some more fun things that you can find at Hanford, through the miracle of Google Earth. It's kind of spread out in the desert, but lots of cool stuff out there. It's amazing how much has been torn down in the last few years!

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    These are the reactor compartments from decommissioned nuclear submarines. They are cut out of the subs at shipyards, loaded on barges, and carried up the Columbia River to Richland, where they are transferred on to an enormous transporter and trucked out into the desert. The entire process is open to the sky so that it can be verified by Russian satellites, as part of the arms reduction treaties. The scale of this pit is outrageous, if you drive out into it. (It is just down the road from the double-walled tank farm.) There must be an identical site somewhere in Russia, but I don't know where to look.

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    Site of the original town of Hanford. Nothing left but the outlines of streets and trees that used to be in people's yards. (Mature trees can survive there because the groundwater is shallow, but it is too dry for any new seeds to sprout.) It was an army camp for a while, after they kicked out the civilians. The only thing left standing is the old high school - actually just the walls. I find this very spooky, because it is (was) exactly the same design as the school in my town. One time when I was out there taking samples, I accidentally got into the middle of a herd of white-tailed deer, and since it was mating season, a couple of big bucks came after me! I had to run for my truck!

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    The Laser Interferometer Gravity-Wave Observatory (LIGO). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LIGO Each arm of the experiment is 4 km long.

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    The Hanford Patrol training area. Geez, looks like they've even got a race track to drive on now! Looks like fun!

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    Sep 29, 2013 9:44 PM GMT
    StephenOABC saidJoelRyn,

    Thank you for your time posting those pictures. They add to the history lesson.

    Steve


    You're welcome Steve! Like I said, it was fun to actually step foot there after hearing about it all the time, and learning about it when studying WWII in history classes.
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    Sep 29, 2013 10:35 PM GMT
    mindgarden saidAfter about 20 years or so, all of those old single-walled tanks rusted through and started leaking, so some of the waste is now in the sand outside the tanks. There is really no danger of the tank waste getting off the site - this is many miles from the river or any town. But the longer they wait, the bigger and deeper the volume of contaminated sand is getting.

    The plan, back in the 60's was to build new double-walled tanks.
    B203-204.jpg

    20130223_tanksHanford.jpg

    I had a summer job at the Hanford Reservation between junior and senior year. There was "an emergency" at that time which created the most exciting project I had had to that point and saved me from working with a boorish geology professor who contracted work in the summers.

    The tanks were rapidly constructed in preparation for the Manhattan Project. Unfortunately, several were dropped during construction/placement. The concrete patches meant to cover the ruptures in 1945 had been "eaten" by the corrosive liquids by 1973. Consequently a fair amount of radioactive liquid entered the sediments below the tanks. The sediments immediately below the tanks consisted of sands/gravels alternating with layers of clay. The sands and gravels were quite permeable and offered little resistance to downward migration. On the other hand, the clays and silts offered minimal to moderate resistance. The saving grace of the situation was that the ground water was below an impermeable calcified rock layer similar to limestone that proved to be an effective retardant to the liquids and chemically reacted with the liquid to precipitate "immobile solids". While still not eradicating the radioisotopes the migration of the radioisotopes was partially frozen.

    My summer project was wearing an effing "Moon Suit" while collecting soil samples from drill holes. The locations and concentrations of the liquid were determined from measurements of the radioactivity in samples. A physical model of the migration was the result of the project. The ground water was protected by the impermeable caliche and the solidification of the liquid waste. The Columbia River was protected by its distance from the tank farm and also by the solidification of the waste. However, there will be "hot" soils for millennia to come.

    Looking back, the project was a godsend for personal development and I'm fortunate not to have experienced any adverse effects from radiation exposure. Thanks for starting the post. I hadn't thought about that summer 40 years ago for a long time.
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    Sep 29, 2013 11:53 PM GMT
    Cool. I logged my share of cores too, but we mostly ran them through glove boxes. I only had to put on a moon suit once a year to renew my hazwoper card. icon_smile.gif

    (Deleted, TMI about groundwater.)
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    Sep 30, 2013 2:56 AM GMT
    Kate Brown's talk is available on the archives.

    One of her images in her slide show is a deformed child.

    She also speaks of a father dying of thyroid cancer after his wife died of thyroid cancer lying to his daughter who is also sick and 2 of three children have died.

    Mustard gas was the first chemotherapy.

    http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/Plutop
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    Sep 30, 2013 4:35 AM GMT
    I am always impressed by the breadth of knowledge and experience of RJers.
    Thanks for your posts, mindgarden, nabob7729 and joelryn.

    Oh, for 2 years I lived about 1/4 mile away from a nuclear reactor.
    Does that explain anything or everything? (:
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    Sep 30, 2013 7:57 AM GMT
    We have two "hot" sites in San Francisco. Treasure island and Hunters point navy yard.