Legislators Request U.S. Not to Send More Radwaste to NW

May 27, 2011

By Rep. Jules Bailey

[Under the leadership of Rep. Jules Bailey, 17 Oregon representatives and senators from Portland have written Energy Secretary Steven Chu protesting the addition of new radioactive material to the profoundly contaminated Hanford site in southern Washington. Their letter is a ringing indictment of radioactive pollution and the activities that lead to it. Readers are invited to follow Bailey’s lead and send their own messages to Chu about shipping nuclear waste through Oregon to Hanford. – Ed.]

May 23, 2011

Secretary Steven Chu

U.S. Department of Energy

1000 Independence Ave., SW

Washington, DC 20585

Arnold Edelman

GTCC EIS Document Manager

Office of Disposal Operations (EM-43)

U.S. Department of Energy

1000 Independence Ave., SW

Washington, DC 20585

Secretary Chu and Mr. Edelman:

As State Legislators representing Portland, Oregon, we urgently and respectfully ask that the Hanford Nuclear Reservation be removed from the U.S. Department of Energy’s list of candidate sites for national permanent storage of radioactive waste.

While we recognize the need for energy resources and proper storage of waste, Hanford Nuclear Reservation is not a viable option. We believe that there are important unresolved matters that demand further scrutiny before the site is committed to further storage of nuclear waste.

The Dept. of Energy is already engaged in one of the largest and most complex cleanup projects in U.S. history at Hanford. For forty years, millions of cubic feet of solid waste were disposed of improperly, placed in trenches and burial sites.  Because of this operation, Hanford is today the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States.

Currently, more than 50 million gallons of radioactive waste are stored in underground tanks. Approximately 475 billion gallons of less-contaminated liquids have been discharged into the soil, creating an area of groundwater contamination in excess of 100 square miles beneath the site.

Throughout the history of the site, over 65 radioactive elements are known to have been released into the environment. While some have decayed over time, others remain present due to their abundance and persistence. These include strontium- 90, tritium, cesium-137, and cobalt-6.

The operations of the Hanford Site have resulted in more than 43 million cubic yards of radioactive waste, and over 130 million cubic yards of contaminated soil and debris. This represents two-thirds of the nation’s high-level radioactive waste in volume. Although existing efforts have been valuable, there is still significant work needed in order to successfully rehabilitate the area.

Hanford is just across the Columbia River from Oregon and is the most contaminated site in the Western Hemisphere. With over one million people living downriver in Portland, Hood River, The Dalles and other Oregon cities and towns, the contamination also exists within our communities.

The existing situation is perilous enough without adding further waste. Besides the river contamination, those living along the interstate system will be affected much more directly. If Hanford is selected, we will begin to see truckloads of radioactive waste traveling along interstate routes, passing through our cities.

Although not included in recent drafts of the Environmental Impact Statement, a 2008 USDOE study estimated 800 deaths would occur due to ambient radiation from the transport vehicles alone. This does not include the unimaginable number of deaths from a truck accident, earthquake or intentional attack that could happen in or near the centers of our population.

Another study vetted by nuclear scientists in 2004, indicated up to 57 square miles could be rendered uninhabitable, wiping out much of the City of Portland if an accident were to occur at the confluence of I-84 and I-205. While in the past, this was considered an extreme statement, after the events at Fukushima, no one can be so quick to dismiss such a possibility.

We, the undersigned, urge you to immediately remove Hanford from the list of candidate sites.

Respectfully,

Rep. Jules Bailey

Rep. Ben Cannon

Rep. Michael Dembrow

Rep. Margaret Doherty

Rep. Lew Frederick

Rep. Chris Garrett

Rep. Mitch Greenlick

Rep. Mary Nolan

Rep. Tobias Read

Rep. Carolyn Tomei

Sen. Suzanne Bonamici

Sen. Ginny Burdick

Sen. Richard Devlin

Sen. Jackie Dingfelder

Sen. Mark Hass

Sen. Rod Monroe

Sen. Chip Shields Φ

Rep. Jules Bailey (D-Portland) represents District 42 in the State Legislature.

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