Tom Carpenter is the Executive Director of the Hanford Challenge, an organization that defends whistleblowers and works with unions working on Hanford's projected century-long multi-billion dollar clean up. Bechtel Corp, runs the operation for the Department of Energy, a $30-billion per year cabinet-level organization responsible for the design, development and construction of nuclear weapons.
Despite the department's title little of DOE's work is related to energy production. Instead DOE hands off the finished weapons it builds to the Defense Department which has direct control of the bomb's storage and use. The separate Nuclear Regulatory Commission oversees commercial and civilian owned nuclear reactors and isn't related to national defense.
"Hanford," Carpenter said, "is scheduled to send a lot of plutonium contaminated waste to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico."
Adding that close to 80,000 barrels of deadly Hanford waste are supposed to go to WIPP. That waste, containing plutonium mixed with a vast array of deadly chemicals is currently leaking into the ground water and eventually the Columbia River upstream of several large cities.
The waste from Hanford eventually has to go somewhere, but activists in New Mexico don't want it there. However, John Valetta of the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce thinks otherwise, he said after the reopening of WIPP that "we think its the next step in developing our nuclear corridor." A series of nuclear related businesses that have been relocating to the deserts of New Mexico and Texas.
While activists fear these nuclear waste sites will permanently scar the land and environment wherever they're built the residents in localities that want these sites are looking at the money they may bring to these relatively depressed areas. Don Hancock in New Mexico points to the ever increasing budget for the DOE under both Democrat and Republican administrations and President Obama's proposal of a $1-trillion refurbishment of the National Nuclear Weapons Complex that's run by the DOE.
Tom Carpenter of Hanford Challenge calls the clean-up there "an ATM in the desert" absorbing nearly $20 billion. Meanwhile the federal government recently pushed forward the date of the facility aimed to stabilize the 50 million gallons of liquid waste at Hanford to 2036. The projected completion date when the the facility was begun had been 2011.
Some local residents have said they believe that Hanford will never be cleaned and according to Carpenter the DOE could throw up its hands and declare the site a dump for nuclear waste from throughout the country.
Teacher and freelance writer PAUL DeRIENZO won a grant from the George Polk Awards to write about his father's experiences as a nuclear engineer in the 1960s. He wrote this article exclusively for ThisCantBeHappening.net
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