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The Hanford Site is a decommissioned nuclear production complex on the Columbia River in the U.S. state of Washington, operated by the United States federal government. The site has been known by many names, including Hanford Works, Hanford Engineer Works, Hanford Nuclear Reservation or HNR, and the Hanford Project. 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. 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 massive plutonium processing complexes, which produced plutonium for most of the 60,000 weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Nuclear technology developed rapidly during this period, and Hanford scientists produced many notable technological achievements. However, many of the early safety procedures and waste disposal practices were inadequate. Government documents have since confirmed that Hanford's operations released significant amounts of radioactive materials into the air and the Columbia River, which threatened the health of residents and ecosystems.
manufacturing process left behind 53 million U.S. gallons (204,000 m³) of high-level radioactive waste that remains at the site. This represents two-thirds of the nation's high-level radioactive waste by volume. Today, Hanford is the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States and is the focus of the nation's largest environmental cleanup. While most of the current activity at the site is related to the cleanup project, Hanford also hosts a commercial nuclear power plant, the Columbia Generating Station, and various centers for scientific research and development, such as the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the LIGO Hanford Observatory.
A swarm of small earthquakes -- more than 280 of them since the first of the year -- is tickling an area near eastern Washington's Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
The quakes are too small to disturb the radioactive material stored at Hanford or to interfere with cleanup operations there, said Alan Rohay, senior scientist and seismologist with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which operates at Hanford.
The plant processed plutonium for nuclear weapons during World War II and the Cold War.
The quakes have caused some minor problems at the LIGO laboratory at Hanford, however, knocking sensitive equipment off-line for a few minutes at a time. The sprawling facility -- LIGO stands for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory -- was built to measure ripples in the fabric of space and time. Cosmic gravitational waves are produced by such things as the collision of black holes or shockwaves from supernova explosions.
There have been no damage reports elsewhere, and only a couple of the quakes were even felt by people, but researchers at the University of Washington's Pacific Northwest Seismic Network took notice anyway.
"It certainly has gotten our attention," said seismologist Bill Steele, who called them "wonderful, interesting."
The quakes are centered near Wooded Island on the Columbia River, about eight miles north of Richland. The largest was magnitude 2.9 and most were smaller than 1.0. Because they are small and occurring relatively close to the surface, less than two miles deep, researchers believe the quakes are happening within the Columbia River basalt layers rather than a deeper and more dangerous fault zone, Steele said. As a result, a large earthquake is considered unlikely.
Scientists are eager to learn the cause of the quakes, he said. Swarms were first noticed in the area after groundwater irrigation projects began on surrounding farmland in the 1960s. The basalt layers may be sensitive to changes in the water table or water pressure, Steele said.
Meanwhile, a much larger earthquake was detected west of Grants Pass on Feb. 26. It measured 4.1 and surprised scientists because a deep, strong quake was not expected in that area, Steele said.
"All in all it's been an interesting week for earthquakes," he said.
Seismic activity in the Hanford Site area is low compared to other regions of the Pacific Northwest. In 1936, the largest known earthquake (a Richter magnitude of 5.75) in the Columbia Plateau occurred near Milton-Freewater, Oregon (Cushing 1994). Other earthquakes with a Richter magnitude of 5.0 or larger have occurred near Lake Chelan, Washington to the northwest, along the boundary of the Columbia Plateau and the Cascade Mountain Range, west and north of the Hanford Site, and east of the Hanford Site in Washington State and northern Idaho. In addition, earthquake swarms of small magnitudes that are not associated with mapped faults occur on and around the Hanford Site. An earthquake swarm is a series of earthquakes closely related in terms of time and location.
Four earthquake sources are considered relevant for the purpose of seismic design of TWRS sites: the Rattlesnake-Wallula alignment, Gable Mountain, an earthquake anywhere in the tectonic province, and the swarm area. For the Rattlesnake-Wallula alignment, which passes along the southwest boundary of the Hanford Site, a maximum Richter magnitude of 6.5 has been estimated. For Gable Mountain, an east-west structure that passes through the northern portion of the Hanford Site a maximum Richter magnitude of 5.0 has been estimated. The earthquake for the tectonic province was developed from the Milton-Freewater earthquake, with a Richter magnitude of 5.75. A Richter magnitude 4.0 event is considered the maximum swarm earthquake, based on the maximum swarm earthquake in 1973 (Cushing 1994). The Hanford Site current design basis for new facilities is for facilities to withstand a 0.2 gravity earthquake (Richter magnitude of approximately 6.4) with a reoccurrence frequency of 2.0E-04.
Originally posted by questioningall
The govt. has obviously, not taken good care of the largest nuclear waste site in the U.S.
So first, how have they gotten away with letting it go as it is........ and second the concern of quakes in that area... could damage the waste in containers (since they haven't been completely secured) if bigger ones begin hitting.
Originally posted by NateNute
Couldnt we just send it into the sun?
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the DOE also researched several methods of disposal in space. Possibilities included launching waste containers into the sun or putting them on the moon.
Space disposal offers the attraction of permanent separation of waste from the human environment.
However, the disadvantages of space disposal are great.
The possibility of an accident during launch and the potential for radioactive waste to be scattered by such an accident make this an unacceptable option.
In addition, space disposal is impractical because of the number of launches that would be required.
Establishing international agreements on how such a program would be operated and regulated would also be difficult
MAG UTC DATE-TIME
y/m/d h:m:s LAT
MAP 2.1 2009/03/15 17:58:05 46.392 -119.279 0.0 12 km ( 8 mi) N of Richland, WA
MAP 1.9 2009/03/15 16:38:13 46.397 -119.278 0.0 13 km ( 8 mi) N of Richland, WA
MAP 2.3 2009/03/15 15:54:05 46.393 -119.271 0.0 13 km ( 8 mi) N of Richland, WA
MAP 1.9 2009/03/15 11:08:48 46.409 -119.277 1.0 14 km ( 9 mi) NNE of West Richland, WA
MAP 2.0 2009/03/15 10:50:13 46.401 -119.269 1.1 13 km ( 8 mi) N of Richland, WA
MAP 1.8 2009/03/15 04:24:28 46.398 -119.279 0.0 13 km ( 8 mi) NNE of West Richland, WA
MAP 1.3 2009/03/15 03:33:30 48.529 -122.185 13.2 5 km ( 3 mi) NE of Sedro-Woolley, WA
MAP 1.9 2009/03/15 03:21:12 46.402 -119.273 0.0 14 km ( 8 mi) N of Richland, WA
MAP 1.0 2009/03/15 00:07:23 46.410 -119.295 0.9 14 km ( 9 mi) NNE of West Richland, WA
MAG DATE LOCAL-TIME LAT LON DEPTH LOCATION
y/m/d h:m:s deg deg km
2.7 2009/03/16 00:31:19 46.396N 119.279W 0.9 13 km ( 8 mi) NNE of West Richland, WA
1.8 2009/03/16 00:24:35 46.396N 119.283W 0.8 13 km ( 8 mi) NNE of West Richland, WA
2.1 2009/03/15 22:42:32 46.400N 119.281W 1.0 13 km ( 8 mi) NNE of West Richland, WA
The Government Accountability Project (GAP) and Boston Chemical Data Corporation issued a study that includes the first reports of plutonium in clams and fish in the Columbia River.
The report includes evidence that radiation levels in mulberry trees are higher than previously reported, and that strontium-90 has entered the ecosystem in high levels.
"This is hard evidence that points to past Department of Energy reports as being inadequate to protect the people of southwest Washington and northern Oregon," said Tom Carpenter, GAP Nuclear Oversight Campaign Director
In addition to plutonium being found for the first time in fish, increased levels of strontium, mercury, beryllium, uranium, and cesium were detected in aquatic creatures. Short and long term effects of this exposure remain unknown, the report states.
It was also found that mulberry leaves from the shoreline of the Columbia River at the Hanford perimeter are toxic, indicating that the mulberries themselves may be contaminated.
Strontium 90 levels in mulberry leaves in the area tested "are 875 times higher than levels found near Richland," the report states. "At this level ingestion of 0.05 ounces per day of similarly-contaminated food would exceed EPA's maximum allowable risk level of 4 mRem [millirem] per year."
While the mulberry contamination shows "increased environmental risk via transfer of groundwater hazards into the biosphere," Kaltofen writes that the uptake of strontium 90 by mulberry plants may offer a potential method of remediation for groundwater cleanup in the root zone of mulberry plants.
Rodent scats from the test area showed greater than 13-fold elevated levels of strontium 90 compared to downstream areas, "showing that the material has entered the food chain for higher organisms," according to the report.
Possible windblown contamination was also measured in attic dust collected from homes in Richland. One sample showed levels of radiation six times higher than samples taken from attics in houses in other parts of the country.