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Message Subject *** Fukushima *** and other nuclear-----updates and links
Poster Handle Waterbug
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Which friggin' egghead determined this policy...?
Construction before design completion..?
Make it up as you go along..?
Great for a child's treehouse.. not so great in the nuclear industry.



Study Slams Nuclear Waste Practices at Hanford
[link to green.blogs.nytimes.com]

[snip]

In 1989, the Department of Energy assumed responsibility for safely disposing of this waste, which threatens to leak into the bordering Columbia River and affect downstream industry, habitat and human health.

After attempting and abandoning three cleanup plans, the Energy Department in 2000 awarded a management contract to Bechtel National. The core of the project is a waste treatment and immobilization plant consisting of three buildings: a single pretreatment facility to sort high-radioactivity waste from the low-radioactivity kind and separate vitrification plants for each stream in which the waste will be combined with molten glass and then cooled for stable storage.

Plant operations under Bechtel were initially scheduled to begin by 2011 with total projected costs of $4.3 billion. The budget has since swollen to an estimated $13.4 billion, and the plant’s opening has been delayed until 2019. Many see this revised timeline as hopelessly, even recklessly, optimistic.

Of particular concern has been the use of a “design-build” protocol, in which construction is carried out as the design unfolds. Whereas standard nuclear guidelines call for designs to be at least 90 percent complete before breaking ground, Hanford’s construction is 55 percent complete with only 80 percent of the facility designed.

This approach has “led to significant cost increases and schedule delays” while also threatening the plant’s ability to operate safely once completed, the report said.

In his resignation letter last week, the Secretary of Energy, Stephen Chu, described Hanford as “the most complex and largest nuclear project in history.”

One problem identified in the latest audit is that over 40 years of plutonium production involving many different processes, little priority was given to keeping a detailed waste inventory. As a result, engineers now face a severe dearth of information about the waste contained in each of the 177 underground tanks – knowledge essential to separation of the waste streams.

Nor is sampling the waste a straightforward operation. Most tanks contains many waste products that tend to separate as oil and water do, meaning that a sample from one part of a tank indicates little about its overall contents.

What is more, the pretreatment plant requires “black cell” technologies, so called because once the plant is put into operation the high levels of radioactivity will preclude maintenance from taking place. These must operate continuously and flawlessly for up to 40 years.
 
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