Hanford Nuclear Waste Site and The Columbia Generating Station in Richland, WA

Hanford and CGS (Columbia Generating Station) are both located in Richland, WA on a beautiful piece of land called The Hanford Reserve. It is located alongside the magnificent Columbia River which stretches from the Canadian Rockies and ends 1,243 miles later in the Pacific Ocean. The Hanford Reserve sits atop 12 geological fault-lines. It is now a fact that when the 9.0 earthquake which is overdue to hit off the coast of OR/WA arrives, it will affect the fault lines East of the Cascade mountains and directly affect the Hanford Reserve. Both Hanford and CGS will affect each other. If the dams along the river come into play, the flooding of the river will certainly be a major component in potential cooling failure to the fuel pool at CGS. This is potential for much more than a trifecta; this is a perfect storm in the making for a nuclear disaster. (https://www.radcast.org/new-seismic-study-assessment-of-cgs/)

Paul Gunter explains:

The Hanford Nuclear Waste Site is the largest nuclear dump in the entire Northern Hemisphere.

With over 56 million gallons of highly radioactive waste going directly today into the Columbia River. 177 tanks were put in. Many of them are leaking and the others should begin any time as the containment is passed its prime. 20 double-shelled tanks were put in and the first of those is already leaking, 20 years ahead of schedule. If one underground plume which is in the Columbia was one too many, think again; there is another underground plume of radiation moving its way to the Columbia River right now.  Clean up has been a gargantuan problem for decades; as you know, it is impossible to contain plutonium for thousands of years let alone 40, let alone 20, as the case at Hanford has proved with its double-shelled tanks, the failed first solution to the 40 year problem of the single shell tank leaks. Yes, this problem doubles back on itself like a snake showing the sign for infinity by eating itself.


There have been some positive steps in the cleanup at Hanford. Some areas of waste sites have been cleaned. And bravo for that! Really. Nothing is easy at Hanford. We are talking about nuclear waste clean-up. I for one am grateful for any accomplishments at Hanford but the reality is very bad as is the outlook and people are currently getting very very sick in the cleanup areas near the tanks and struggling to survive.

The issues with the radioactivity in the Columbia also affect the outcome of sickness in the area due to irrigation waters for farmland and vineyards.

Yes, the wine we like to drink from the NW is irrigated by these very waters. Cancer clusters are found in Richland, in the Tri-Cities, in Yakima. Cancer clusters can be found in Idaho as well. Is it all from Hanford? Maybe yes, maybe no. Radiation does not carry a visible nametag. If we could see Cesium and Strontium in the tissue and muscles and bones of those who have cancer, we would certainly have our proof but we have none. What we know is that Hanford’s radioactive plume is in the Columbia and that the Columbia is used for irrigating fields and vineyards. We know the groundwater is polluted by the plume. Knowing this leads us to an ability to conjecture which would lead us easily in critical thinking that Hanford plays a crucial role in the cancer clusters in the area.

But is Hanford all there is?




The aftermath of the shocking Fukushima Dai-ichi multiple nuclear plant catastrophe, brought on by March, 2011’s massive Japanese earthquake and tsunami, has refocused many US nuclear critics’ attention on our own commercial fleet of 100 operating nuclear power plants. Here in the Pacific Northwest, with Trojan shuttered since 1993, there is one remaining nuclear power plant still operating – the Columbia Generating Station (CGS).

Located on the Columbia River within Washington’s Hanford nuclear reservation, the CGS nuclear plant is now thirty years old. It was formerly known as Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS) Nuclear Plant #2 – the only nuclear plant completed by Washington public power utilities out of five under construction, leading to what was at the time the largest municipal bond default in US history. WPPSS (pronounced “whoops”) has since changed its name to Energy Northwest.

Almost completely unnoticed during the last three decades of political fights over ending Hanford’s Cold War era bomb-making capability and developing the proper methods of cleaning up that heavily contaminated radioactive waste site, this lone nuclear power plant has been quietly churning away. After Fukushima, a number of individuals and groups in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia took a closer look at the CGS – a plant so shy it took the word “nuclear” out of its name. Ten years in advance of its license expiration, the plant went before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and extended its license until 2043, a full twenty years beyond its designed life.

The CGS nuclear plant is an aging hazard to our river and the entire Pacific Northwest.

Here are a few pertinent facts about the plant:

  • The reactor is poorly designed, vulnerable to catastrophic radiation releases.  It is a GE Mark II Boiling Water Reactor similar to the four Fukushima Dai-ichi plants that experienced catastrophic accidents in Japan last year. It has an elevated spent fuel pool, inadequately reinforced, identical to one which nearly collapsed at Dai-ichi #4, and still threatens Japan and the North Pacific with another massive release of radioactive material.
  • The reactor has the potential to suffer hydrogen explosions.  The CGS nuclear plant also shares the potential problem of improper venting that caused hydrogen explosions at three of the Fukushima reactors when they lost their coolant.
  • The local earthquake danger is greater than the plant was designed to withstand.  The CGS nuclear plant is threatened by additional documented earthquake faulting in the Yakima Fold and Thrust belt (see http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2022173243_nukequakesxml.html), putting the nuclear site at greater risk of seismic activity at a ground motion twice the maximum that the plant was designed to withstand.
  • We don’t need the power.  According to State of Washington figures, this plant has produced less than 4% of the electricity Pacific Northwest residents consumed over the past decade – and in 2012, due to an extended six month shut down for repairs, it produced even less.  Energy conservation alone could make up the 4% difference, and wind and solar energy are also viable substitutes.
  • Shutting it down will save money.  Respected utility economist Robert McCullough estimates that Northwest ratepayers could save $1.7 billion over the next 17 years if the plant is shut down (see http://www.wweek.com/portland/article-21636-costly_to_the_core.html).

Many of us who have looked closely at nuclear power issues believe continuing to operate this aging nuclear plant simply makes no sense. If the true costs are included, the energy produced is extremely expensive and the toxic wastes produced pose an unacceptable health risk.

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