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Hanford Nuclear Waste Vitrification Plant "Too Dangerous" 292

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the series-of-explosive-tubes dept.
Noryungi writes "Scientific American reports, in a chilling story, that the Hanford, Washington nuclear waste vitrification treatment plant is off to a bad start. Bad planning, multiple sources of radioactive waste, and leaking containment pools are just the beginning. It's never a good sign when that type of article includes the word 'spontaneous criticality,' if you follow my drift..." It seems the main problem is that the waste has settled in distinct layers, and has to be piped through corroded old tubes, leading to all sorts of exciting problems (e.g. enough plutonium aggregating to start a reaction).
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Hanford Nuclear Waste Vitrification Plant "Too Dangerous"

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  • We glow (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Yeah we glow at night around here...

  • Hopeless (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Antony T Curtis (89990) on Friday May 10, 2013 @05:22AM (#43682985) Homepage Journal

    At some point, it would have been cheaper to pay another country to take it away for reprocessing and vitrification, even after considering the obscene cost of safely transporting one barrel at a time to said foreign country and transporting the glass logs back for long term storage.

    • Re:Hopeless (Score:4, Interesting)

      by sqrt(2) (786011) on Friday May 10, 2013 @05:26AM (#43683003) Journal

      Only Canada would be viable for transport and reprocessing, and they don't have a high demand for nuclear fuel.

    • The problem with that idea isn't cost, but accountability.

      It's much harder to demonstrate that you got all the waste back if it left the facility than if it never left.

      No politician wants the potential scandal of giving "the bad guys" materials to make a dirty bomb.

      • by hairyfeet (841228)

        This is why we need to build reprocessing plants and reuse the fuel, power would only be a secondary benefit the first would be lowering the radiation of the waste to the point it can be dealt with safely and would be worthless to "bad guys".

        Because lets face it, thanks to the NIMBYs making sure all our reactors end up with tons and tons of spent rods just sitting in pools the bad guys wouldn't need to steal the stuff to cause major damage, just attack the pools and spread the shit. Whether we like it or

    • I don't know if you noticed but the US has been kind of bitchy lately about even our allies like Japan reprocessing their own reactor fuel locally for fear they might make weapons of it. I don't think anybody is going to get an export permit for Hanford's waste, which looks to have more uranium and plutonium in it (of the specific actinides) than is in the US arsenal. Even if they did - just pumping the tanks is almost certain death.
    • Re:Hopeless (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Blaskowicz (634489) on Friday May 10, 2013 @06:53AM (#43683209)

      Give that crap to France, that country likes it - the pseudo state company, Areva, styles itself with mastering the whole nuclear fuel cycle, from cradle to grave.

      The crap at hand is terrible though, what's in Hanford is leftover from WW2, when no concern was given. It's the world oldest nuclear waste, up to 70 years old.

      • theres more there than just nuclear waste, it more or less became the government dumping ground for anything highly dangerous they had but didn't want bother to deposing of properly, so there are vats filled with coroded canisters of things like nerve gas. We really need to do something about that place, at this point it would probably be safer and cheaper to build a new complex then keep trying to patch every leak and hanford.

    • by Ash Vince (602485) *

      At some point, it would have been cheaper to pay another country to take it away for reprocessing and vitrification, even after considering the obscene cost of safely transporting one barrel at a time to said foreign country and transporting the glass logs back for long term storage.

      Is that fair though? Just because you can find another government that you can pay to take that shit off your hands does not mean the people in the country actually want the damn stuff.

      Also, what happens if the country in question falls apart and someone decides they want to give it back to you later in the form of a dirty bomb? Even though you shipped that crap abroad you still have to keep an eye on the stuff to stop it falling into the wrong hands.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by newcastlejon (1483695)

        Also, what happens if the country in question falls apart and someone decides they want to give it back to you later in the form of a dirty bomb?

        I don't think there are many vitrification plants in Kreplakistan. It's far more likely the waste would be sent somewhere like France or Canada. Are you really that worried about the Canucks?

        • Re:Hopeless (Score:5, Funny)

          by jd2112 (1535857) on Friday May 10, 2013 @08:13AM (#43683593)

          Also, what happens if the country in question falls apart and someone decides they want to give it back to you later in the form of a dirty bomb?

          I don't think there are many vitrification plants in Kreplakistan. It's far more likely the waste would be sent somewhere like France or Canada. Are you really that worried about the Canucks?

          They sent us Celiene Dion and Justin Beiber. I think that counts as a hostile country.
          And don't get me started on Canadian bacon...

          • Re:Hopeless (Score:4, Informative)

            by Idarubicin (579475) <allsquietNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Friday May 10, 2013 @10:12AM (#43684571) Journal

            They sent us Celiene Dion and Justin Beiber. I think that counts as a hostile country.

            To be fair, they also let you have Michael J. Fox, Alex Trebek, and Eugene Levy.

            On the third hand, you also got William Shatner and Paul Shaffer, so call it a wash?

          • Re:Hopeless (Score:4, Funny)

            by tehcyder (746570) on Friday May 10, 2013 @11:25AM (#43685307) Journal

            They sent us Celiene Dion and Justin Beiber. I think that counts as a hostile country.

            As a non North American can I just point out that the US is responsible for a whole genre of music that makes Celine Dion and Justin Bieber look like Kurt Cobain?

            I refer, of course, to Cuntry & Western.

            • by Genda (560240)

              I won't argue there's a lot of turds floating in the Country & Western pool... but there are also some gems. You just gotta root around a little. I don't know if you consider Blue Grass/New Grass as a part of, an off shoot, its own genre or a part of Folk, but there's some amazing music in Blue Grass. There are country fusions that are more than acceptable. Lyle Lovett has some amazing stuff like for instance Here I am [youtu.be]. Kathy Mattea has a voice like an angel and she sings songs that are deeply touching.

    • Re:Hopeless (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MachineShedFred (621896) on Friday May 10, 2013 @07:39AM (#43683419) Journal

      They can't move it. It's not barrels, it's leaky underground tanks of the nastiest liquid ever created by man - big ones. They can't even figure out how to pump that caustic radioactive shit across the property it's already on, much less move it across a border or three.

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      At some point, it would have been cheaper to pay another country to take it away for reprocessing and vitrification

      At some point it becomes cheaper to get off your ass and build a breeder reactor to eat it all up.

      Plus you get some more electricity...

      • by Sockatume (732728)

        Eat what up, exactly? Hanford's not exactly full of buried left-over fuel rods waiting to be processed.

    • just like it's cheaper to have India dismantle old asbestos boats: because they do it without regard to worker safety. It's pretty clear from just the summary let alone TFA that the problem here is the company that got the contract did everything on the cheap for as much profit as possible. If there's a problem with nuclear power it's that as soon as profit motive and corporations gets involved they first thing they do is slash safety to boost revenue.
      • by tehcyder (746570)

        If there's a problem with nuclear power it's that as soon as profit motive and corporations gets involved they first thing they do is slash safety to boost revenue.

        No, the problem with nuclear power is that it is government funded and backed by unlimited government guarantees and they still let for-profit corporations run the fucking things anyway and take all the short term profits without having to underwrite the long term risks.

  • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo @ w orld3.net> on Friday May 10, 2013 @05:34AM (#43683021) Homepage

    This always happens. Lowest cost + government insurance = safety failure.

    • not always but when it's a government crash weapons program the odds aren't good.

      That some of that crap is left over from the Manhattan project.

  • Greed (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Endimiao (471532)

    And this is why people oppose nuclear power. It's harder to screw things up at such level with renewables. The simpsons greedy bastard running a nuke plant isn't a fiction. It's a damned archetype.

    • Re:Greed (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 10, 2013 @05:57AM (#43683063)

      You are comparing nuclear power to experimenting and create nuclear weapons... Nuclear Power as it is today is very safe, reliable, and cheap if done correctly. People oppose nuclear power because they are scared because of their ignorance.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Sort of. Nuclear Power as it is today is very safe, reliable, and cheap if done correctly. But there is the problem. It is all too often not done correctly. And nuclear power plants have massively destructive consequences when they fail.

        • Re:Greed (Score:4, Insightful)

          by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo @ w orld3.net> on Friday May 10, 2013 @06:55AM (#43683219) Homepage

          There is evidence that even when things were "done correctly" at Fukushima there were completely unexpected failure modes that no-one had predicted. That's the biggest challenge in engineering safety - handling things that are literally unpredictable.

          • Re:Greed (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Christian Smith (3497) on Friday May 10, 2013 @07:16AM (#43683309) Homepage

            There is evidence that even when things were "done correctly" at Fukushima there were completely unexpected failure modes that no-one had predicted. That's the biggest challenge in engineering safety - handling things that are literally unpredictable.

            Fukushima was a catalogue of retrospective bad design, cover-ups, mis-management, a huge freaking earthquake and largest tsunami in memory devastating huge swathes of Japanese countryside and killing many thousands of people.

            And still no deaths can be attributed to the nuclear aspect of the regional disaster. Perhaps even the destructive hydrogen explosions could have been avoided (thus preventing much of the fallout) if it had been allowed to vent, but as I understand it, that wasn't allowed due to the fear of "radioactive gases" being vented.

            Three Mile Island and Fukushima show us Nuclear is inherently safe, only Chernobyl has had anything like a devastating effect on anything other than economics scales. And the Chernobyl reactors were a picture of how not to do nuclear power.

            • Re:Greed (Score:5, Insightful)

              by dbIII (701233) on Friday May 10, 2013 @07:43AM (#43683439)
              Actually TMI and Fukushima show us that a lack of attention to detail can come back and bite because both were easily preventable incidents that happened due to shortcuts being taken. If TMI didn't have the strongest containment vessel at the time (due to the risk of a crash from the nearby airport) you'd be writing about a tragedy instead of the wake up call that led to a lot of improvements and a lot of older reactors that couldn't be improved being shut down. It only looks "inherently safe" because the people responsible for nuclear safety do not think the way the above poster does - they don't just trust in God, they tie up their horse as well.
              • Greed is usually the leading cause for "a lack of attention to detail", as in a desire for profits leading to taking shortcuts designed to save money. San Onofre [wikipedia.org], just north of San Diego and Camp Pendleton had a shutdown in 2012 [wikipedia.org] specifically because non-approved and non-tested techniques and modifications to approved plans were used during construction,, most likely to save costs and increase profits so someone could go home with bigger paychecks and bigger bonuses.
                .
                Prior to 2012, plenty of other problems
              • by khallow (566160)

                Actually TMI and Fukushima show us that a lack of attention to detail can come back and bite because both were easily preventable incidents that happened due to shortcuts being taken.

                Fukushima is not like Three Mile Island. It was due to a magnitude 9 earthquake and the subsequent tsunami, not a lack of attention to detail. Seriously, why are you neglecting the most important detail of Fukushima?

                If TMI didn't have the strongest containment vessel at the time (due to the risk of a crash from the nearby airport) you'd be writing about a tragedy

                No, what helped was cooling the reactor down. I see a best, a modest benefit (certainly not the difference between tragedy and not) to the extra structure, if they hadn't been able to cool the core.

                It only looks "inherently safe" because the people responsible for nuclear safety do not think the way the above poster does - they don't just trust in God, they tie up their horse as well.

                I have yet to see a better way to think about the problem. The thing that is missed here is that o

                • Re:Greed (Score:4, Insightful)

                  by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday May 10, 2013 @11:16AM (#43685213) Homepage

                  Fukushima is not like Three Mile Island. It was due to a magnitude 9 earthquake and the subsequent tsunami, not a lack of attention to detail. Seriously, why are you neglecting the most important detail of Fukushima?

                  Fukashima was due to TEPCO cheaping out and not reinforcing the sea wall WHEN IT'S OWN GEOLOGISTS SUGGESTED THEY DO SO GIVEN THE HISTORY OF FAULT LINES AND TSUNAMI PATTERNS IN THE AREA. And made worse by a string of stupid errors whose underlying theme was 'don't shut the systems down, we can fix them, if you really shut down fast we won't be able to restart easily'.

                  Yes, had TEPCO done the right things (upgrade the sea wall, resite the generators) it would likely stand as a testament to nuclear power's ability to weather whatever nature throws at them. Instead ....

                  • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

                    Actually even if they had built the wall up to the recommended height the tsunami would have exceeded it and flooded the pump room. The design of the plant itself was flawed but due to the high cost of building a new one or upgrading it neither TEPCO nor the government were willing to spend the necessary cash.

                    Even if the tsunami hadn't damaged the plant it emerged about 15 months after the event that in fact the earthquake itself damaged the emergency cooling system. Remember that the plant was only built t

            • by FooAtWFU (699187)
              This is where I point out the amusing factoid that hydroelectric power accidents [wikipedia.org] have killed 2/3 about as many people as nuclear power.... iff you include the atomic bomb in the latter number.

              (One botched dam in China...)

              Seriously, though, radiation's totally overrated.

          • No, things were clearly not done correctly at Fukushima.

            The risk of a hydrogen explosion was not appreciated when the plant was built, but was understood later, and in the USA plants of this type were retrofitted with a means of safely venting the hydrogen. This was not done in Japan.

            There was a similar tsunami about 1000 years ago, yet the plant owners refused to consider the possibility of a recurrence. At another nuclear plant not far from Fukushima, the safety engineer in the 1970s insisted on building

            • by fnj (64210)

              There was a similar tsunami about 1000 years ago, yet the plant owners refused to consider the possibility of a recurrence.

              They gambled that they personally would statistically be very likely dead and buried before such an event occurred. It wasn't a bad gamble. It's just that the consequences of losing the gamble - for the world, not their own sad hides - were enormous.

        • Re:Greed (Score:5, Insightful)

          by serviscope_minor (664417) on Friday May 10, 2013 @07:09AM (#43683283) Journal

          . It is all too often not done correctly. And nuclear power plants have massively destructive consequences when they fail.

          The only nuclear plant that failed with massively destructive consequences (and then far less than many mining disasters) was Chernobyl. It certainly wasn't done correctly: it had a huge positive void coefficient.

          That simply does not exist any more. No one makes new reactors with a positive void coefficient.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by dbIII (701233)

            That simply does not exist any more

            With respect, are you really trying to say there are no reactors remaining of the same design as that one in Chernobyl? If you are, then please stop spouting shit that a quick google search would have shown you is shit and instead comment on a topic that you know more than zero about.

            • Re:Greed (Score:4, Informative)

              by serviscope_minor (664417) on Friday May 10, 2013 @11:21AM (#43685261) Journal

              It should be fairly obvious from the context that "done right now" would clearly not apply to things that have already long since have been done.

              Nevertheless it is good to see your humility:

              please stop spouting shit

              Nonetheless:

              With respect, are you really trying to say there are no reactors remaining of the same design as that one in Chernobyl?

              From the wiki:

              ""After the Chernobyl disaster, all RBMKs in operation underwent significant changes, lowering their void coefficients to +0.7 Î. This new number decreases the possibility of a low-coolant meltdown.""

              So yeah, I am also claiming that there are no reactors with the same design as the Chernobyl one still operating, since all remaining operational RBMKs have been significantly modified to correct that particularly glaring design flaw.

              a quick google search would have shown you is shit

              Touche.

          • by fnj (64210)

            So you don't think Fukushima had massively destructive consequences? Forced long term evacuation doesn't bother you? Contamination of groundwater? Contamination of the ocean food chain? Destruction isn't just junks of conrete and nuclear fuel being blown sky high. There are many forms of destruction.

            • by khallow (566160)

              So you don't think Fukushima had massively destructive consequences?

              No. It's worth noting here the key observations: Fukushima didn't kill a lot of people (it has yet to kill anyone aside from industrial accidents or the initial tsunami flooding of the plant), most of the cost was due to the public reaction not the actual disaster, and the disaster occurred due to then unknown (but which are now known) consequences of a huge disaster.

              Forced long term evacuation doesn't bother you?

              No. Why should it? If we removed the potential for long term evacuation, then we wouldn't be able to support ourselves. Just look at power pro

              • by fnj (64210)

                Heh, you're easy to please. Very forgiving. But since some of these consequences affect a large area and many people, and we are not all that forgiving ...

              • No nuclear accident at a civilian reactor has ever resulted in nuclear fuel being "blown sky high".

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyshtym_disaster [wikipedia.org]

                "a plume containing 2 MCi (80 PBq) of radionuclides spread out over hundreds of kilometers"

                "In the next 10 to 11 hours, the radioactive cloud moved towards the north-east, reaching 300â"350 kilometers from the accident. The fallout of the cloud resulted in a long-term contamination of an area of more than 800 to 20,000 square kilometers, (depending on what contamination level is considered significant,)"

                That sounds rather a lot like nuclear material being b

        • Also bear in mind that the waste we're getting to deal with today - the waste that sets the tone about nuclear safety - is the end product of a really dodgy design process done decades ago. We can make safer, cleaner nuclear reactors now, but that's not going to make the slightest bit of difference to our clean-up operations for quite some time.

          Nuclear power really screwed itself.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ionix5891 (1228718)

      Except your windmills and solar panels need all sorts of exotic arare earth materials which cause huge amounts of environmental damage when mining and processing in places such as China, out of sight out of mind eh?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        These same rare earths are needed for nuclear power plants (neodymium magnets, copper wires and suchlike). Indeed they are needed for all power plants.

        But once they were used in nuclear power plants, radioactive contamination makes them impossible to recycle.

        • Just as an aside, it's interesting that you refer to Copper as a "rare earth"...
        • Re:Greed (Score:4, Informative)

          by Christian Smith (3497) on Friday May 10, 2013 @08:22AM (#43683647) Homepage

          These same rare earths are needed for nuclear power plants (neodymium magnets, copper wires and suchlike). Indeed they are needed for all power plants.

          But once they were used in nuclear power plants, radioactive contamination makes them impossible to recycle.

          That's just pure FUD. Anything on the clean side of the reactor (basically anything this side of the primary heat exchanger is just like any other power plant. I can asure you anything copper is no where near the "dirty" side of the reactor, it just isn't a suitable material. And I'm not sure why you'd need neodymium magnets anywhere. I'd imagine any generator or motor magnets would be eletromagnets.

          Even for materials exposed to nuclear waste, things like metals can be cleaned then recycled, the cleanup waste then being considered nuclear waste. Most metals can be recycled. Concrete that's been exposed to nuclear waste (like water from cooling ponds) can be tricky, but metal cladding is used for such ponds, that can be stripped and cleaned, leaving the underlying concrete clean of nuclear contaminants.

      • Slashdot: Where no energy source can be allowed to pass unmolested.

    • Re:Greed (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 10, 2013 @06:45AM (#43683187)

      Hanford is not a civilian site. This is the waste from the plutonium production used for weapons.

      Spent fuel from the civilian industry usually has the form of ceramic uranium oxide inside tubes made from a zirconium alloy.
      You can vitrify that too ( England does) , but there is no absolute need for it. The geological disposal planned by Finland and Sweden
      does not rely on it as example, and in the US reprocessing civilian nuclear fuel is currently illegal.

      What you're doing is a little bit like pointing to aviation deaths in the air force and trying to claim it proves you should not travel with Airbus. It isn't very rational.

      • IANANP (you can work it out), but can't weapons-grade fissile material be used in a power plant? It is my understanding that the difference between power plant fuel and weapons payload is the quality of the material. Surely dismantled warheads can be reverse-refined (poisoned?) into something useable?
        • You can use it after you blend it down. But from what I understand Hanford does not store nuclear weapons warheads. It stores the waste from producing those warheads in the first place. The only way to burn that would be with a fast reactor. Which AFAIK at this moment only Russia, Japan, India and China have prototypes. The US closed is own prototype back when Clinton was President. The French closed their prototype after an enviro-wacko slammed an RPG round in the building.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This got a +5 Mod? Dear God.

      Hanford is the site of the US nuclear weapons development during WW 2 and the Cold War. Basically the idea was to do everything possible to make nuclear weapons. And they did so with gusto. They build plutonium production reactors, tore them apart, used chemical treatment systems that were modified as they were designed, and scraped up tiny bits of plutonium for the weapons. It had nothing to do with nuclear power, nor is a lesson on nuclear power. Hanford is only a lesson on how

    • Except that the waste at Hanford is waste from nuclear weapon production. It's reactor waste, where the fuel was under-utilized so that it would maximize the amount of Pu-239 created, then dissolved in caustic and nasty chemicals in order to extract that Pu-239 from all the other nasty shit. Then, as people did in the 1960s, they put it in tanks in the ground, because what could possibly go wrong with putting radioactive acid in the ground, within walking distance of the second largest river in North Amer

    • And this is why people oppose nuclear power. It's harder to screw things up at such level with renewables. The simpsons greedy bastard running a nuke plant isn't a fiction. It's a damned archetype.

      First, you're conflating weapons production (The Hanford mess) with electrical power generation. I imagine that's purposeful on your part, because you wouldn't have as much to talk about if you focused on electrical power production.

      Now, I'd like to point out that this mess was created when the science involved was new, and there were a million unknown factors about the entire nuclear business- weapons and power production- that were completely unknown at the time. The science and processes became known t

    • And this is why people oppose nuclear power

      Let's assume this is true for a moment. We have an existing stockpile of high-level nuclear waste that's going to be radioactive for the next 300,000 years. We can see that burying it in the ground fails after 50 years or less, yet that's what many propose we continue to do.

      In the meantime, we have the technology [pbs.org] to convert it into 600-year low-level waste and generate all the world's power needs for the next century without emitting any new CO2 beyond the constr

  • TFA says the waste has settled into layers, solids at the bottom, and the system they have will mix it all and pump out the sludge.

    Wouldn't it be smarter to pump the liquids out first, and worry about the solid part later? They say the most urgent problem is that some tanks are leaking, and solids don't leak.

    • by radja (58949)

      solids can leak too. think bucket of sand with a hole in the bottom.

    • by megla (859600)
      The problem with that proposal is that you need the liquids to enable the solids to be moved - if you don't have any liquids, those solids are stuck there. Then you have a tank full of toxic, strongly radioactive salt and crud. What you gonna do now, son?
    • by symbolset (646467) *
      It really doesn't matter anyway. The nuclear waste that's travelling through the groundwater on its way to the Columbia River left the tanks decades ago. There is no way to stop it from reaching the river now.
  • by Stolpskott (2422670) on Friday May 10, 2013 @07:13AM (#43683299)

    In 2000, the DoE and Bechtel National, Inc. (the contractor retained to build the Vitrification plant at Hanford) began construction of the plant before the design of the critical elements of the plant had been completed - in fact, before the design of many of those elements had even been started. The goal, to save time and money.
    Trying to build a house? No problem... our construction team have built a few of those so they know what to do based on early architectural sketches and teamwork. But this is not a house, it is a vitrification plant for 50+ million gallons of the worst nuclear waste in the world with a total radioactive potential of around 170-180 million curies (Cernobyl released about half that). Oh, and that shit is not only hot radioactively, it is hot temperature-wise too.
    Today, 60 of 177 storage tanks are leaking with the rest at a high risk of leaking, and if all goes well the complex to house the worst of the waste after vitrification will be built by 2048, with the whole vitrification process completed by 2062. Unless there are delays... after all, this is a government project, they are good at hitting project deadlines, right?
    Each tank is layered, with a relatively solid layer at the bottom, a salt cake above that, then sludge followed by liquid and a gas layer. Sounds a bit like my toilet after a bad Chinese meal... only more of it. Most of the radioactivity is in the solids and sludge whereas most of the volume is in the liquids and the salt cake - you need the liquid to transfer the rest through the crappy piping and filters from the storage tanks to the vitrification plant, and it all has to flow fast enough to keep the solids moving without causing any blockages or radioactive buildups.
    To top it all off, the glass mixture used in the vitrification process has to be tailoered to the mixture in the tank, and given the diversity of radioactive processes, materials and production methods in use on site, there will be at least 10 compounts required, with no way of knowing what is in what tank short of analysing the contents and getting a representative sample of everything in the tank.

    Simple :-S

    To my layman's mind, two things come to mind - 1. The whole thing is a complete clusterfuck, and it will be a miracle if the whole lot does not end very badly. 2, Top priority is to contain the leak in the immediate vicinity, but short of digging some massive trenches and excavating a huge foundation then filling the whole lot with some kind of radioactive-resistant concrete, and doing it in such a way that you can inspect the result for leaks, I cannot see how they are going to manage that.
    Time to call in Bruce Willis and get him to start drilling, I guess.

    • The biggest problem with things like this is that budgets and schedules are based on work that has been done before. Since no one has built a facility like this before, it's pretty much impossible to budget and schedule the construction of one. Also, it's not like you can go buy vitrification parts off a shelf somewhere, so the technology and equipment will have to be invented, hand-built, tested, and installed.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 10, 2013 @01:22PM (#43686789)

        I spent three years out on the construction of this plant. I got to experience first-hand the ridiculousness that is Bechtels capability of managing a large project such as this.
          No budgeting mastermind could account for the constant shoehorning of new "safety" requirements being implemented each week. They have teams out there whose sole purpose is to wander the site and find ways to do things "safer" and identify potential safety concerns. What really happens is they end up creating copious amounts of make-work by identifying the most assinine of "safety issues" and turning a simple job that should take 5 minutes to complete into a 6-month affair of analysis and approvals before finally deploying 6 people to complete a 5 minute job that only needs 1 person (and which only one of the six people actually does anything, the rest are there to watch.... for safety....)

        Tap a steel beam with a scissor lift? That half of the building where it occurred is shutdown for "investigation"

        Pinch your hand between a steel beam and your Boom lift? half-day safety "lockdown" for whole site. All lifts banned. Scaffolding now mandatory for all work requiring elevation off the ground (Hint: almost all of it). Side-note: there is only enough scaffolding and the personnel to build it to service 1/6th of the site. You now have to request 2 months in advance for scaffolding to complete a job that could be done today in 2 hours with a scissor lift.

        Two cranes tap eachother? Site shutdown. (granted this was a fairly serious issue, but a whole site shutdown?) followed by half-day sitewide "safety lockdown" the next day

        A little wind? Or a little ice? site shutdown. send everyone home. Even if they will be working inside a covered building.

        Someone bumped a port-o-potty with a golf cart? half day "safety lockdown" for the whole site. golf-cart use severly restricted. (its a big site, golf-carts are used extensively for traveling between all the facilities)

        Considering there can be roughly a thousand workers out there working on this plant for 40 hrs each week, there were lots of opportunities for little accidents. Problem is, each tiny accident is treated with such an elevated response that it stops hundreds of people from working, if not the whole site. Then each accident gets "prevented" in the future by disallowing use of whatever tool was being used when it happened. Doesnt matter if that means it will take ten times longer to get the same job done, or if it will create far more opportunities for new accidents to occur.

        I'm all for getting things done safely, but theres a difference between safety, and milking a contract for every penny with artificial delays and "unexpected costs"

        Safety aside, someone already touched on the other big cause for delay and increased costs: they are actually engineering the site while its being built. Normally you would have all your plans ready and have worked out any major kinks in the design before you start construction, but they've thrown caution to the wind and began well before many of the workings of the facility were more than just concepts. They've had to go back and re-design entire buildings to add almost twice as much structural steel simply because they didnt expect the components going inside the building to be "so heavy"

        Pretty much anyone you speak to out there would have a damn good laugh if you were to state you beleived Bechtel was competent at anything aside from finding creative ways to make money at the expense of everyone else.

  • by msobkow (48369)

    Thorium molten salt reactors are much safer in the short and long term.

    • Except that this is waste from nuclear weapons production, dating back to the 1940s.

      Please explain how LFTR solves a problem that's already existed for 70 years?

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Yes, a thorium molten salt reactor, that's just what the nuclear weapons program needed. A reactor that can't be used to produce plutonium.

  • by dbIII (701233) on Friday May 10, 2013 @07:31AM (#43683379)
    Synroc was invented in 1978 and is a much better idea than vitrification.
  • ...when ANY article includes the phrase "spontaneous criticality." Seriously, that's up there with "Honey, something's been bothering me" as a phrase you never, ever want to hear in any context.
  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Friday May 10, 2013 @09:14AM (#43684041)

    In case anyone wants to use this incident to bash nuclear power, it's worth noting that Hanford was not a civilian nuclear power plant. It was a U.S. Government owned and operated site that produced plutonium for nuclear warheads. The military wasn't required to follow any kind of environmental or safety standards for most of the site's lifetime, and they didn't.

    • This is an important point. Any report like this that talks about Hanford and pretends that it applies as an argument against civilian nuclear power is "No nukes" agenda driven propaganda.

      Scientific American used to be a respectable publication. Now... not so much. Every couple of years or so, I pick up a copy, and find it's (at best) the same lowest common denominator pop-sci crap that caused me to drop my subscription ages ago.

      Scientific American simultaneously beats the "No Nukes" drum and the "No C

How many NASA managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? "That's a known problem... don't worry about it."

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