Nuclear Waste Disposal Leaks in North Carolina

Couldn’t help but notice an article in the NY Times National section on Friday the day after Thanksgiving about nuclear waste clean up.  Seems South Carolina’s Savannah River Site which was created during the cold war to enrich and process uranium and plutonium (just what the US and others want to keep Iran from doing) is not being cleaned up on schedule and the state wants to fine the feds for being behind.

Energy officials now say the work will not be done until well into the 2040s, when the aging underground tanks that hold the bomb waste in the South Carolina lowlands will be 90 years old.

“I don’t know what the tanks’ design life was intended to be, but it’s not for infinity,” the state’s chief environmental official, Catherine B. Templeton, said in an interview.

A couple of thoughts:

When the state was happy to eminent domain the land and see the labor force jump during the construction in the ’50s did anyone think to build in shut-down costs?

Since 1,400 workers were furloughed during the recent government shut-down, and advisory board meetings cancelled,  have any of the state politicians or the citizens who elected them questioned the wisdom of the GOP in forcing it to happen?

Since the slowness in clean up is said by the Energy Department to be partially due to the shut-down, as well as budget slashing, have these same pols re-thought their activities in congress?

Does anyone wonder, given the similar problems in Savannah and Fukishima, that resistance to nuclear power remains so high?  Claims that it is a CO2 free energy source are counterbalanced by the waste that is still not cleanable by any swift, sure methods.

Six empty stainless steel canisters are stored in the Defense Waste Processing Facility at the Savannah River Site. NYT

Six empty stainless steel canisters are stored in the Defense Waste Processing Facility at the Savannah River Site. NYT

Mixing liquid bomb waste with molten glass and pouring it into stainless steel containers does not seem easy, cheap or fool proof.

…the state’s chief environmental official, Catherine B. Templeton, … said the tanks, which are near the Savannah River, already have leaks and are buried in soil below the water table, meaning that underground water flows around them.

“We have to get that waste out of the tanks so it’s not Fukushima, so you don’t have the groundwater interacting with the waste and running off,” she said, referring to the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, where natural flows of subterranean water pick up contamination from the reactors and flow into the sea.

 

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