Six tanks at the Hanford nuclear site in Washington State are leaking their toxic contents, says the headline with only slightly muffled horror. (One version here: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57570857/6-tanks-at-hanford-nuclear-site-in-wash-leaking/). As if you did not expect it, the cleanup will cost billions of tax payer dollars.
The article says Washington governor Jay Inslee has assured the public the leaking material poses no immediate risk to public safety or the environment because it will take a while, perhaps years, to reach groundwater. But then again, perhaps sooner.
According to the article, this news is on top of the previous week’s news that just one of the reservation’s 177 underground tanks were leaking 150 to 300 gallons a year. The article reports that nearby monitoring wells have not detected higher radioactivity levels. (Not higher than what?) Hanford’s tanks hold some 53 million gallons of “highly radioactive waste.”
If nuclear proponents were not so happy to slap around the wind industry, I would not comment on this. Nuclear engineering is a complex discipline that few fully understand. I would assume that tanks in question are fabricated of stainless steel with thoroughly inspected welds (I’m just guessing) and coated with an almost inert ceramic on the inside. And yet, they leak. Now if toxic sludge gets through that to threaten drinking water and aquatic life in nearby rivers, you have to wonder what in the world we are screwing around with.
You can bet North Korea and Iran are not taking such precautions which makes you wonder how soon they will poison their people.
In an unrelated story, Southern Company recently announced that it is optimistic that it will close on an $8.33 billion Energy Department loan guarantee for its Vogtle nuclear plant expansion (about 1,200 MW if other reports are correct) sometime in the middle of the year. If wind power costs about $2 million/MW, the $8.33 billion of tax-payer dollars could build 4,165 MW of wind power.
In light of the leaking tanks, swapping out an aging nuclear plant with one powered by natural gas supplemented by wind seems the obvious thing to do. Together, the two sources (wind and natural gas) can produce the lowest cost and cleanest power. What is the argument against that?
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