Warning – I am going to get normative here – politics should be solving nuclear waste storage issues not impeding it despite budget constraints. The clean up of liquid highly radioactive waste is not just a burden on future generations. The whole earth suffers. Here is an excerpt from the NYT about the delays in cleanup of this highly liquid nuclear bomb waste at the Savannah nuke plant, in the lowlands of SC. Implication for storage of Hanford’s similar waste is also effected. The waste is left over from the cold war race to make nuclear bombs. Does Iran and other power seeking nations understand the problems and complexity that go along with producing weapons grade plutonium for bombs? Here is an excerpt from the NYT:
“At Savannah, the Energy Department did succeed in building the world’s largest factory for stabilizing the liquid bomb waste, done by mixing it with molten glass and pouring it into stainless steel canisters, 10 feet high by two feet across. The stabilized waste should then last for millenniums.
The department has also perfected a technique for separating nearly all of the troublesome radioactive materials from salts in the underground tanks to reduce the volume that must be mixed with the molten glass. The rest of the radioactive material is mixed with cement that will bind it up for centuries. Last year the factory began the business of making the canisters and produced 325 of them — a respectable fraction of the 7,824 department officials say will be needed.
Over the years, production at the factory has become smoother as machines run more hours of the year and parts that were expected to last for only four or five years have been used successfully for 10. Such longevity is an important factor at a place where the radiation fields are so intense that all the work has to be done by remote control.
But because of the budget constraints, the factory intends to produce only another 125 canisters for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.
Employment at the waste site, which once ensured stronger political support for the Energy Department in this conservative state, has dropped to 1,800 workers who manage the tanks and processed the liquid wastes, from 2,200. Another vast construction project here — a factory to turn weapons plutonium into reactor fuel — is faltering because of technical issues and budget problems, which may be another reason that state officials feel free to challenge the Department of Energy.
The tanks, which hold 750,000 to 1.3 million gallons each, sit under artificial hills, and above them is a forest of industrial equipment, some a half-century old. The equipment is used to carry off the heat the waste generates from radioactive decay. The equipment also vents and scrubs the explosive gases the waste produces. Steam is used to heat air, which is then pumped around the tanks to keep the tanks dry and inhibit rust.”
South Carolona is seeking millions of $ for the failure of Federal government to meet cleanup goals. Short-sighted GOP congressmen have committed a very serious and expensive problem with sequestration and military spending cap here. Saving money in the short term has increased costs for the future by jeopardizing health of people and surrounding environment and wildlife for generations and eons to come. If this is not a priority here in the USA then imagine this problem in the former Soviet republics and other states with nuclear capabilities. Warning – I am going all normative here again -Iranian people and their leaders should think about these issues before continuing to develop nuclear grade plutonium for bombs, God forbid, they will never use.