2010 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lennysiegel@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, 2 Dec 2010 18:21:11 -0800 (PST)
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] RADIATION: Energy Department management, with a focus on Hanford (WA)

By Katherine McIntire Peters
Government Executive
December 1, 2010

Decades of poor management at the Energy Department threatens public health and national security.

Last summer, a former Energy Department executive conducted an independent analysis of plutonium waste at five former U.S. nuclear weapons production facilities and reached a startling conclusion: During the past 45 years, about 12.7 metric tons of plutonium were discarded at the sites, more than three times the department's last official estimate, which was in 1996. The findings suggest Energy faces a far bigger job in cleaning up the radioactive waste generated through decades of nuclear weapons production than previously believed.

The dramatic increase, wrote Robert Alvarez, senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, which published the findings in July, is likely due to three factors: the reclassification of some production residue as waste, previous underestimates of material lost through the production process, and improvements in the way data is characterized.

Nobody really knows how much plutonium the United States produced and buried in the wake of World War II because of significant record-keeping gaps during the first 25 years of weapons production, says Alvarez, who was deputy assistant secretary for national security and the environment during the Clinton administration. The implications of his analysis are most profound at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeastern Washington state, where government engineers and scientists built the first industrial-size nuclear reactor and a plant to extract plutonium from the resulting fuel rods, an effort that produced the Fat Man bomb detonated over Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945. During a 40-year period, nine reactors at the 586-square-mile reservation on the Columbia River produced nearly one-third of the nation's plutonium - more than any other site. Today, Hanford is the largest nuclear waste dump in the Western Hemisphere and poses a long-term environmental threat to the region.


For the entire article, see


Lenny Siegel
Executive Director, Center for Public Environmental Oversight
a project of the Pacific Studies Center
278-A Hope St., Mountain View, CA 94041
Voice: 650/961-8918 or 650/969-1545
Fax: 650/961-8918

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