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Hanford, the nuclear frontier

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Andrew Blowers

In the second of a series of articles on the local and social legacies of nuclear energy, Andrew Blowers looks at the history of nuclear activity at the Hanford site in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

Up in the Pacific Northwest of the United States in eastern Washington state the mighty Columbia River bends east, then south before turning west for its long journey to the Pacific Ocean. In this middle reach the river passes through a landscape that has been utterly transformed by the nuclear industry over the past three-quarters of a century. For it was here in December 1942 that Lieutenant Franklin T Matthias, flying over the area on a mission for the Manhattan Project, exclaimed: 'This is it!' He commented later that 'the site was so good that there couldn't be a better one in the country. It looked perfect in every respect.'1

It was big country, with few people, and above all isolated – just the place for the secret, war-driven purpose of making plutonium, the deadly fissionable material that, less than three years later, would be used to explode over the skies above Nagasaki. Hanford, in the American West, a frontier land where the Lewis and Clark expedition had passed in 1805, had become, a century and a half later, the American nuclear frontier, the Atomic West.2 This semi-desert region of bare and barren brown and yellow hills and plains of sagebrush interspersed with homesteads of settlers and homelands of Native Americans was transformed into a landscape of risk and ultimately a nuclear wasteland, 'the little-known reservation that is arguably the most polluted place in the western world'.3

Hanford is one of the US Department of Energy's nuclear military reservations, places which have combined to produce the American nuclear arsenal. It is one of the three oldest and key wartime sites, along with Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Los Alamos, New Mexico. Like them, it has the classic characteristics of a 'peripheral community',4 but over the years, as its mission has changed and its economy has developed and diversified, it has become less isolated and more integrated into the mainstream – evidence of the dynamic nature of peripheral characteristics. Nevertheless, Hanford remains, to an extent, a place apart, defined by its history and ongoing nuclear activity, which, in a somewhat perverse way, provides a stability and sustainability that will endure for decades to come. Hanford is a long-established nuclear wasteland that has reached a level of maturity and permanency which illuminates the persistence of nuclear in the era of nuclear's decline. Hanford's history, perhaps, also indicates nuclear's future.

'Peace! Our bomb clinched it!'

It is difficult now to imagine the frenetic activity and scale of the mobilisation of technology, science and human resources that brought about the transformation of Hanford in the wartime years. In these extraordinary circumstances homesteaders were evicted, responding with a passive acceptance of the exigency of war mingled with resentment at the loss of livelihood. Native Americans were banned from fishing and gathering in the area of the Hanford Reach. All that now remains of the pre-war settlements is an abandoned farm warehouse and a crumbling bank and high school marking the site of the tiny settlements of White Bluffs and Hanford.

The Hanford site covers 586 square miles (larger than Bedfordshire and half the size of Rhode Island). The outlying parts of the reservation have been left as wilderness – the protected areas of the Wahluke Slope to the north, the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River, and the Arid Land Ecology Reserve flanking the bare saddleback Rattlesnake Mountain to the west. As Roy Gephart, who has chronicled the nuclear landscape, puts it: 'It contains a portion of the nation's most dangerous waste while preserving some of the most unique desert ecology within the Pacific Northwest.'5

Within these precious and pristine surrounds lies the heart of Hanford. In those frantic few wartime years, Hanford became the largest construction site ever assembled in the USA, with at its peak in 1944 50,000 workers recruited from across the nation and housed in barrack-like segregated accommodation with communal facilities. In these primitive conditions in a harsh climate they fashioned an incredible nuclear complex. They built reactors (then known as 'piles') along the Columbia to produce spent fuel for chemical processing, in long and massive plants called 'canyons' which turned out the small amount of plutonium (13.6pounds, the size of a softball) assembled in the 'Fat Boy' Nagasaki bomb.

The Hanford workers had no idea what they were producing until it was revealed that 'It's atomic bombs' on the morrow of the devastating impact on Nagasaki. The revelation was met with a surge of patriotic pride in Hanford's winning the war. As Michelle Gerber, Hanford's historian, commented to me in 2004, 'Nothing can make you that proud ever again.'

Production and pollution

During the ensuing decades of the Cold War, Hanford was at the heart of the United States' military nuclear production. Along the Columbia a further fleet of reactors was built, and inland, at the centre of the site in the so-called '200 area', giant reprocessing and finishing plants took over from the wartime 'canyons' dedicated to the production of plutonium. Elsewhere, as well as hosting these facilities Hanford became the scene of a variety of non-military experimental facilities, such as the Fast Flux Test Facility breeder reactor. On the Columbia River is the Columbia Generating Station, a public nuclear power plant supplying electricity, the only survivor of a grandiose plan for five nuclear power stations in Washington state which failed in the face of financial overreach and environmental opposition.6

Expansion of production was accompanied by rapid urban development as the temporary settlements of wartime Hanford were replaced in the post-war period, and the population settled in towns just to the south of the reservation. Foremost of these was Richland, a veritable company town built and controlled by the government. In its spacious layout and social purpose it had echoes of Garden City and new town principles, as well as the integrated neighbourhood unit concept of Clarence Perry.7 Indeed, in its early years Richland conveyed an egalitarian community ethos, regulated and communal, while also expressing hierarchical values in the so-called alphabet ('ABC') housing of varying size and rent designated for different groups – 'upper echelons' (administrators scientists), mid level (managers, engineers), down to blue-collar smaller homes and single-sex dormitory blocks.

The sense of identity with history of this 'Atomic City' is expressed in such features as 'Bombing Range Road' and its identification as 'Home of the Bombers', with its mushroom cloud, the symbol of its high school football team. Remnants of the early days still survive, although since its incorporation in 1958 Richland, with Kennewick and Pasco, has formed the Tri-Cities, a modern small metropolis with a population of 54,000 in 1962, increasing to around 250,000 today.

With the area's almost single-minded focus on wartime and Cold War productive effort, the negative consequences were grossly neglected. By today's standards the treatment of wastes was casual, neglectful and irresponsible. Low-level liquid wastes were siphoned off into cribs and swamps, while an estimated 56 million gallons of highly active liquid wastes from reprocessing were pumped into 177 tanks (149 single shelled and 28 double shelled), some of which have been leaking for many years, posing a threat to groundwater moving to the Columbia. These tanks constitute the most intractable of Hanford's clean-up problems, requiring intense manipulation and management prior to vitrification – a solution which still seems a long way off.

According to one estimate, there are some 1,700 waste sites and 500 facilities to be decommissioned, most of them along the Columbia or on the central part of the site.8 The inventory includes around 450 billion gallons of liquids discharged to the soil, 5 million cubic yards of contaminated soil, and 80 square miles of contaminated groundwater. The full extent of the contamination of this palpable nuclear wasteland is impossible to gauge with accuracy and, as Roy Gephart argues, 'deciphering this entire inventory is less important than pinpointing, or at least bounding, those portions posing the greatest potential health risk'.9

For years the scale of the accumulating problem was unknown and unregarded. The operations at Hanford were shrouded in secrecy and cover-up as the site's overriding priority was to continue to respond to the country's defensive demands. There were myriad incidents and experiments, paying little heed to human health or environment.

The most serious was the notorious experimental 'Green Run' in 1949, when there was a deliberate release of radionuclides, including iodine-131, casting a plume of radioactivity stretching 200 by 40 miles east and south-west of Hanford and giving readings exceeding the contemporary exposure standards by hundreds of times in the downwind communities. The idea was to develop a monitoring methodology to enable the US to simulate Soviet bomb-making capacity.10 According to historian Jerry Gough, whom I interviewed in 1999, 'The atrocity of the Green Run was not the release itself but the fact they didn't know what its effects might be. This was outrageous.'11

From plutonium culture to environmental culture

The outrages enacted on the Hanford landscape during the Second World War and the Cold War were concealed by a 'plutonium culture' – a combination of patriotism, belief in nuclear technology, and unquestioning trust in expertise that pervaded the communities in what Kate Brown has called Plutopia.12 With the ending of the Cold War there emerged a gradual but ultimately decisive cultural transformation. There was a transitional period of a decade or so up to the early years of this century, during which, reluctantly at first but pragmatically, Hanford was coming to terms with its new role and relationship with the nuclear industry. Three key developments in the change can be perceived.

First, and most obvious, was that the ending of the Cold War signalled the end of production at Hanford. Indeed, production had been declining since its peak in the mid-1960s as the era of détente and arms limitation set in. It was the closure in 1987 of Hanford's N reactor (described by President Kennedy shortly before his assassination in 1963 as a project that 'symbolises our strength as a nation') that effectively brought Hanford's military role to an end. Thereafter, apart from some experimental and research facilities, Hanford ceased production altogether.

The second development was the shift from secrecy to greater openness, marked especially by the publication in 1986 by the then site manager, Mike Lawrence, of the records revealing the sheer scale of the legacy and the casual attitudes to risk that had prevailed. In an interview with me in 1999 he argued that 'what went on here was good and necessary' but that 'it was very secretive; we know best ... How can people understand if they are not told?'

The end of production and the revelation of the legacy precipitated the third development, a fundamental change in Hanford's mission to a focus on environmental clean-up. The process is durable, unending and intractable, complex, and, in some ways, controversial. The key challenges are: removing high-level wastes from leaking tanks; decommissioning the reactors along the Columbia; and decontaminating and decommissioning the huge reprocessing canyons. Apart from these massive projects there are the myriad problems associated with redundant facilities, waste dumps and other hazards, including the perhaps impossible task of dealing with radioactive plumes beneath the site.

Some progress has been made, notably the removal of spent fuel and progressive cocooning of the redundant reactors in interim storage, engineering the secure storage of plutonium, decommissioning redundant facilities, and cleaning up contaminated sites. But the most difficult and costly challenge is the clean-up and remediation of the tanks and the vitrification of the high-level wastes in the Waste Treatment Plant (WTP), the construction of which has been plagued by delays, technical problems and cost escalation. The ultimate aim of cleaning up the Columbia Corridor and concentrating the most problematic and hazardous activities in an inner core of 10 square miles at the centre of the site seems some way off.

The management of the clean-up process has been criticised for its institutional inertia, reliance on big contractors with short-term contracts, changing strategies, and low productivity. Bill Dixon, an engineer with experience of working at Hanford, told me in 2013: 'The approach has been for the gold standard, which makes WTP expensive and long term.' Rather than an open-ended commitment, the US Department of Energy, the ultimate paymaster, presses for an accelerated programme based on a risk-based approach to make sure less money is spent in a shorter timescale for a lower standard of remediation.

In the end 'clean-up is a conditional, negotiated state',13 and a collaborative approach called the Tri-Party Agreement has been in force since 1998, involving the Department of Energy, the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and the state of Washington's Department of Ecology. This provides for a consensual approach on priorities, milestones, and actions. An element of public participation in clean-up is provided through the Hanford Advisory Board, with a broad stakeholder membership advising on major policy issues. Among the continuing controversies are questions such as: should all buildings be demolished; should all tank wastes be vitrified; should all reactors be moved to the central area; which areas should become available for unrestricted use – and when; and, the overarching question, how clean is clean enough? That question, given the uncertainties and different opinions, is a matter of both scientific and value judgement.

Stability and sustainability

Hanford has entered a mature and relatively stable stage in the relationship between its communities and the nuclear industry. The peripheral characteristics that were its raison d'être have evolved, and Hanford has undergone a profound change from isolation to integration – a community still marked by its nuclear history but no longer entirely defined by it.

Chosen for its remoteness to undertake a national strategic and secret operation, Hanford, although far from major centres, is far more accessible nowadays. The Tri-Cities is a fully connected and fast growing sub-regional centre. Its economic dependence on the nuclear industry, although still considerable, is much diminished. Fears of a steep post-production decline in the nuclear industry have been eased by the federal appropriation routinely provided to Hanford to the tune of $2 billion per year – around a third of the national nuclear clean-up budget. At the same time, the economy of the Tri-Cities has developed, with research laboratories (originally a spin-off from the nuclear activities) but also health services, food processing and wineries, high-tech industries, and regional retail and distribution services. Hanford's, or rather the Tri-Cities', economy is now neither dependent nor monocultural, but diversified and sustainable.

Hanford, created and supported by the state throughout its heyday, continues to exert political leverage. Politically speaking, Hanford is not just an environmental issue; it is a moral issue, which accounts for the obligation towards its clean-up mission felt by federal, state and local governments. There is still a residual sense of embattlement in a Republican pro-nuclear community within a Democratic state with pronounced anti-nuclear sentiments in the big cities to the west beyond the Cascade Corridor. But the mutual hostility of the years of nuclear production has abated, and mutual interest in clean-up has fructified. In short, a modernist discourse associated with the nuclear industry has shifted to a postmodern discourse of consensus and co-operation, reflecting the more complex economy and diverse society that constitutes the Tri-Cities area today.

A continuing legacy

Hanford's is a landscape traumatised by its wartime and post-war existence at the heart of the American nuclear-industrial complex. In this vast area are the remnants of a plutonium economy that has left a polluted landscape which will persist down the generations. 'Hanford represents one of the most daunting environmental catastrophes the world has ever known',14 comparable in scale and contamination to the contemporary Russian Cold War complex of Mayak near Chelyabinsk.15 The problems arising from an ageing infrastructure are difficult to contain. Major recent incidents include the collapse of a rail tunnel storing waste from plutonium production, further incidents of tank leakage, and risks to workers from demolition work.

It is intended to release most of the land to non-nuclear purposes. Already much is protected or conserved, and the stretch of the Columbia that runs through the site is under conservation as the Hanford Reach National Monument, a wildlife, fishing and recreational area, with the historic reactors dotted along its southern bank. In 2015 some of the historic nuclear structures, including the B reactor, were incorporated in the Manhattan Project National Historic Park, along with similar features at Los Alamos, New Mexico and Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the other main wartime nuclear projects.

It will take time, resources and effort to achieve clean-up and to provide adequate, safe and secure interim storage for the Hanford wastes. The overall costs are estimated at over $100 billion, with a deadline for clean-up of 2060 – both likely to be exceeded. The WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant) deep disposal facility in New Mexico, the destination for the military transuranic wastes buried at Hanford, has been suspended since 2014 owing to brine seepage. With the suspension of the national repository project at Yucca Mountain in 2008, a new process for finding a suitable site has begun. The slow progress with the vitrification plant and the lack of a national repository make a final solution for the disposal of vitrified high-level wastes a distant and uncertain prospect.

Hanford, the Atomic City of the West, was once at the nuclear frontier, creating weapons of devastating destructive power that left a nuclear wasteland. Today it is at the frontier of a massive clean-up project, described as 'the largest civil works project in world history'.16 The nuclear pioneers engaged in the defence of the nation appropriated a landscape truly awesome in scale, a sparsely settled wilderness in the mid-Columbia plateau, and transformed it into a scattered industrial complex in the sagebrush desert. Their successors have been left with the legacy of those years – a task of retrieval, containment, remediation and improvement to restore the landscape where possible and to withdraw those parts which are irremediable.

For the foreseeable future Hanford will remain a nuclear wasteland, where risk from wastes not fully comprehended or characterised lurk on and beneath its surface with no final solution yet in sight. It is a place where the impacts from a frenzied period of destructive impulse will linger indefinitely; a place where, in the words often attributed to Native American Chief Seattle, it may truly be said: 'We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.'


1. Quoted in J. Findlay and B. Hevly: Atomic Frontier Days: Hanford and the American West. University of Washington Press, 2011, pp.18-19

2. B. Hevly and J. Findlay: The Atomic West. University of Washington Press, 1998

3. M D'Antonio: Atomic Harvest: Hanford and the Lethal Toll of America's Nuclear Arsenal. Crown Publishers, 1993

4. The concept and characteristics of 'peripheral communities' were explored in the first article in this series ('Landscapes of the legacy of nuclear power'). In brief the characteristics are: remoteness, marginality, powerlessness, cultural resignation and resilience, and environmental risk. It may be noted here that the characteristics are dynamic, responding to changing power relations. For a more detailed analysis of the concepts of peripherality and peripheralization, see: A Blowers: The Legacy of Nuclear Power. Earthscan from Routledge, 2017

5. R. Gephart: Hanford, a Conversation about Nuclear Waste and Cleanup. Battelle Press, 2003, p.v

6. The Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS) planned to build five large nuclear plants during the 1970s to serve Washington state. The project was a disaster, suffering cost overruns and delays, leading to one of the biggest defaults in history, with two stations never built, two halted during construction, and only one, that on the Hanford site, eventually completed. The scandal became popularised as WHOOPS!

7. C. Perry: 'The neighborhood unit, a scheme of arrangement for the family-life community'. In The Regional Survey of New York and its Environs, 1929, Vol. 7, 22-140

8. An estimate prepared by United Kingdom Nirex Limited for my visit in 2004

9. Hanford, a Conversation about Nuclear Waste and Cleanup (see note 5), p.5.3

10. The Green Run was a release in December 1949 of radioactive iodine-131 from 'green' (less-cooled) uranium fuel, apparently to test instrumentation for detecting Soviet bomb-making capability. It was not revealed until the 1980s, becoming notorious for the harm it may have caused in downwind communities

11. For a downwinder account of the unknown threats from Hanford, see T. Hein: Atomic Farmgirl. Mariner Books, 2003. She points out that the Green Run was only one of many deliberate and accidental post-war releases from the site. The Green Run released 8,000 curies in an estimated total of 740,000 during 1944-72 (p.xi)

12. K. Brown: Plutopia. Oxford University Press, 2013

13. Hanford, a Conversation about Nuclear Waste and Cleanup (see note 5), p.8.6

14. S. Shulman: The Threat at Home: Confronting the Toxic Legacy of the US Military. Beacon Press, 1992, p.94

15. D. Bradley: Behind the Nuclear Curtain: Radioactive Waste Management in the Former Soviet Union. Battelle Press, 1998

16. G. Zorpette: 'Hanford's nuclear wasteland'. Scientific American, 1996, Vol. 274 (5), 88-97

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Argentina reactivates enrichment plant.
Argentina has formally reactivated its gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment plant at Pilcaniyeu over two decades after production there halted. The plant is expected to become operational in September 2011. Plans to recommission the Pilcanyeu plant, which operated from 1983 to 1989, were announced in 2006 and form part of Argentina's ambition to build a self-sufficient nuclear fuel cycle. Work has been underway to refurbish and upgrade the plant, which uses gaseous diffusion, using Argentina's own technology. The first stage of the refurbishment has involved the construction of an advanced prototype of 20 diffusers, and the plant is expected to be able to produce its first enriched uranium for nuclear fuel use by September 2011 according to the CNEA. President Fernandez said that in reactivating the plant, Argentina was recovering lost time. She described uranium enrichment as "a right that we should never have resigned." The project was "a source of great pride" for the country, she said. The original Pilcaniyeu plant had a modest enrichment capacity of 20,000 SWU per year, although plans call for the upgraded plant ultimately to reach a capacity of some 3 million SWU.
Source: World Nuclear News, 26 October 2010

INES 20 years old.
Jointly developed by the IAEA and the Nuclear Energy Agency (of the OECD) in 1990, in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident, the International Nuclear and radiological Event Scale (INES) helps nuclear and radiation safety authorities and the nuclear industry worldwide to rate nuclear and radiological events and to communicate their safety significance to the general public, the media and the technical community. INES was initially used to classify events at nuclear power plants only, but since 2008, INES has been extended to any event associated with the transport, storage and use of radioactive material and radiation sources, from those occurring at nuclear facilities to those associated with industrial use. INES has mainly become a crucial nuclear communications tool. Over the years, national nuclear safety authorities have made growing use of INES, while the public and the media have become "more familiar with the scale and its significance". According to the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency "this is where the true success of INES stands, having helped to foster transparency and to provide a better understanding of nuclear-related events and activities".
Source: Nuclear Engineering International, 22 October 2010

International Uranium Film Festival 2011 in Brazil.
For the first time in history Brazilians will be able to see international independent Nuclear-Energy and Uranium-Documentaries in cinema. The film and video festival Uranio em Movi(e)mento - 1st International Uranium Film Festival 2011 will help to bring the Uranium- and Nuclear question into the national and international public. The deadline  for entries is January 20, 2011. The Uranium Film Festival wants to inform especially the Brazilian and Latin American societies and stimulate the production of independent documentaries and movies about the whole nuclear fuel cycle, about the dangers of radioactivity and especially about the environmental and health risks of uranium exploration, mining and processing. The Uranium Film Festival will be held from May 21 to 28, 2011 in the city of Rio de Janeiro and from June 2 to 9 in the city of Sao Paulo.

Until today most of the documentaries about uranium and the nuclear risks are mainly in English, German or French - but not in Portuguese. So the second advantage of our Uranium Film Festival is to subtitle the films to create the so called Yellow Archives. Yellow is the color of Uranium and for that a symbol for the whole nuclear industry.

The Yellow Archives will be the first-ever film library in Brazil and Latin America dedicated to films about the whole nuclear fuel chain organized by the Uranio em Movi(e)mento Festival. Believing that awareness is the first step in making positive changes to better our environment, the Yellow Archives hopes to increase public awareness especially in Brazil and in other Portuguese speaking countries like Portugal or Angola and Mozambique. The DVDs will be used for non-profit, educational and research purposes. Especially schools, universities, environmental groups and other grass root movements will have access to the Yellow Archives.
Contact  and source: / Website:

India: antinuclear activists arrested.
On October 6, eleven activists of "Paramanu Bidyut Birodhi Prachar Andolan" (Campaign against Nuclear Power) were forcefully seized by the local police while distributing leaflets opposing the proposed Haripur nuclear power plant, in the vicinity of Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics in Kolkata, where Dr. Srikumar Banerjee, the Atomic Energy Commission Chairman, had arrived to preach the merits of setting up of a 'nuclear park' at Haripur. The handful of activists present had not even entered the institute campus and were distributing leaflets on the road outside. First one activist was forced into a police jeep and hauled away to the local police station. The rest were pushed away from the immediate vicinity of the Saha Institute. But when the activists continued distributing their leaflets, a police van was brought in, the police suddenly pounced, herded the activists into a police-van and taken to the local station. The activists were held for over 6 hours in the name of interrogation. However, no actual interrogation was conducted. For the real reason for detention, which the officers divulged off-the-record, was to keep the activists away from the site (where the vast benefits of nuclearisation was being preached). That, in their minds, was the ideal way of handling critics and criticism.
Source:, 7 October 2010

Vermont Yankee tritium leaks into aquifer.
The leaking radioactive tritium from Vermont Yankee has now leaked into the aquifer that drinking water is pulled from in and around the town of Vernon, Vermont. Entergy Louisiana, the corporate owners of Vermont Yankee, could do more to contain the contamination but are refusing. The Vermont Department of Health and the Agency of Natural Resources are doing nothing to require Entergy to increase the cleanup effort. More is needed to pressure the state agencies into action. When the Oyster Creek Nuclear Reactor in New Jersey contaminated the ground water with radioactive tritium the NJ Department of Environmental Protection took enforcement action. When the Braidwood Station Nuclear reactor in Illinois contaminated the ground water and then the drinking water aquifer of the local community the Illinois EPA took enforcement action. Entergy Vermont Yankee, likely leaked radioactive materials into our state's ground water for two or three years and now it is clear that at least some of that contamination has also gotten into the local drinking water aquifer. Continued pumping, at deeper depths, should be able to keep hundreds of thousands if not millions of gallons of contaminated water from migrating further into the aquifer and yet there has been no talk from your agencies about requiring even this simple step.  Instead Entergy Vermont Yankee is planning on ending all of their pumping in December. Ultimately, the contaminated soil needs to be removed and that can't happen until the plant is retired and cleaned up.

Vermont Yankee is scheduled to close in March of 2012. It is one of the oldest reactors in the country but its owners, Entergy Corporation, want to run it for 20 years past its expiration date. Poor management and old age have lead to a string of accidents and safety concerns.
Entergy has refused to add money to the reactor's clean-up fund, potentially leaving Vermonters with most of a $1 billion dollar clean-up bill in addition to the nuclear waste that is being stored on the banks of the Connecticut River.
On February 23, 2010, and by a margin of 26 to 4 the Senate voted to retire the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant as scheduled. This historic vote marks the first time a state legislature has been able to deny a nuclear plant a 20-year life extension. In March, fifteen towns voted on town meeting to close Vermont Yankee as scheduled. That combined with the 36 towns that voted in 2009, a total of 51 towns, have spoken -- they want Vermont Yankee to close as scheduled.

The public sentiment expressed by the town meeting votes this year and last show overwhelming opposition to continued operation of Vermont Yankee after 2012 and very strong support for requiring Entergy to fully fund the cleanup and for safe, clean and renewable sources of electricity.

The resolution calls for the plant's closure in 2012 and for Entergy-- the owner of Vermont Yankee-- pay for the full cost of decommissioning the plant. A vast majority of Vermonters know Entergy cannot be trusted.

U.S.A.: Hanford cleanup; new deadlines.
Washington state and federal officials have agreed on a new schedule for the cleanup of the Hanford nuclear reservation. The good news is that the federal government could no longer ignore cleanup deadlines with impunity. The bad news is that the agreement would push the deadlines forward by more than two decades. Under the new cleanup schedule, 53 millions gallons of radioactive waste stored in 177 underground tanks near the Columbia River would not have to be emptied until 2052. That's a 24-year delay from the existing timetable. (see more on the Hanford tanks, Nuclear Monitor 696, October 23, 2009). Thirty-five of those tanks are double-walled and considered 'reliably safe'.  All of the 142 single-walled tanks would have to be emptied by 2047 under this new schedule. And the tanks of most concern — the 67 single-walled tanks known to be leaking — would be emptied by 2014. It's estimated that more than 1 million gallons (1 US gallon is 3.787 liter) of radioactive waste already have leaked. Some of that waste has made it into the groundwater and is slowly moving toward the nearby Columbia River.

The state has long sought to make Hanford cleanup deadlines enforceable in court. Until now, the federal government has steadfastly refused to do so and now the government finally agreed to the court-enforceable deadlines. This accountability has become critical. Without it, there can be little confidence that the government would adhere to any cleanup schedule. The federal government has failed to meet numerous deadlines established in the 1989 Tri-Party Agreement signed by the Energy Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Washington. It's not as though the state has refused to be flexible. Washington has agreed to more than 400 changes in the Tri-Party Agreement. Yet as recently as last year, the government missed 23 project deadlines.
Source: The Daily News Online (, 19 October 2010

South Africa: six reactors up and running in 2023.
On October 7, The department of Energy of South Africa published an ambitious plan to reduce SA reliance on coal by almost half by 2030 and to more than double the use of nuclear energy The proposals, which are part of the department's draft integrated electricity resource plan (IRP), show the government's preferred energy mix for the next 20 years. They provide prospective investors with an indication of the shape of South African future energy industry. The integrated resource plan is a 20-year electricity capacity plan that gives an outcome of projected future electricity demand, how the demand would be met and at what cost.

In the draft IRP, the department is proposing that coal contribute 48% to the energy mix by 2030, followed by renewable energy (16%), nuclear (14%), peaking open cycle gas turbine (9%), peaking pump storage (6%), mid-merit gas (5%) and baseload import hydro (2%).  Coal currently accounts for over 90% of electricity generation. Eskom's two nuclear reactors at the Koeberg power station supply 1800MW or 6% of SA's electricity needs. The renewable energy industry is yet to take off in SA. The draft plan envisages average gross domestic growth of 4,6% on over the next 20 years, which would require 52 248 MW of new power generation capacity to be brought on line. The government plans to build six new nuclear power stations which are expected to be up and running by 2023. Only  a few months ago, the government stopped the PBMR-nuclear project after it poured billions in it over the last decades.
Source: Eastcoast radio, 8 October 2010 / Engineering News (SA), 8 October 2010

CEZ delays Temelin reactors.
CEZ AS, the Czech Republic's largest power producer, will delay the construction of two  additional reactors at its Temelin nuclear power plant, Hospodarske Noviny reports, citing Industry and Trade Minister Martin Kocourek. The construction could be delayed by as much as several years, the newspaper said,citing an unidentified person from the company. The main reason is uncertain demand for electricity after 2020, according to the report. CEZ selected Westinghouse Electric Co., Areva SA and a Russian-Czech consortium led by ZAO Atomstroyexport as the three bidders for the contract.

This is good news for the whole CEE region. Until recently, CEZ has been agresivelly pushing construction of 5 new reactors in the region (2 in Czech Republic, 1 in Slovakia,  other 2 to be determined). But now the plans are put to ice, citing less demand and lower  prices on electricity markets, as well as less optimistic rating outlook of the utility. But there are more interesting details in original Hospodarske Noviny article: Quoting for example an internal CEZ document: "The expansion plans were based on increasing of our [CEZ] debt. But we are not anymore sweetheart of the markets, we are not considered as a stable and growing corporation, we are getting first signals from rating agencies..."

Similarly to EdF, CEZ already had to reduce its investment program by 2015 from 425 to 333 billion CZK [ca 13 billion EUR], and this is not enough - it admits the cuts will have to be deeper.
Source: Email: Greenpeace International, 13 October 2010

New press for reactor pressure vessels.
A major new facility has been commissioned in Germany for the production of large reactor components. The 12,000 ton press installed at Völklingen by Saarschmiede GmbH Freiformschmiede can handle ingots of up to 370 tons - enough to make all but the largest reactor pressure vessels. The time for construction was only two years. Due to its geometrical dimensions," the company said, the press is "able to deal with all parts of the AP1000." It estimated that some four to six sets of heavy forgings for AP1000s could be made annually at the facility, given certain other expansions. Westinghouse has sourced forgings from South Korea's Doosan Heavy Industries for the four AP1000s under construction in China as well as the four forthcoming units at Vogtle and Summer in the USA.
Source: World Nuclear News, 14 October 2010

Chernobyl 1986-2011
Next year April marks the 25th anniversary of the disaster in the Chernobyl nuclear power station, in the Ukraine. For sure there will be many commemorative activities taking place all over the globe. WISE will, starting next issue, try to cover relevant developments and news on Chernobyl in the Nuclear Monitor, and we would like to start listing as much as possible activities, publications, actions, official reports, meetings and conferences on this issue.

With several other NGO’s in different parts of the world we are preparing a joint call for action. You will hear from us soon, we hope to hear from you aswell; please send in anything you have heard about activities on the coming Chernobyl Day. In the meantime; join the Virtual March on Washinton, for April 26, as part of an International Radioactive Waste Action Day. Go to