In a Yucca-tomic Pickle
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Last spring I toured Hanford Nuclear Reservation, one of the most polluted sites in the western hemisphere. At the former plutonium production site, located near Richland, Washington, a remediation project that is estimated to take hundreds of years is in progress.
Seeing just a few parts of the colossal endeavor was staggering. A mammoth new complex is being built to stabilize by vitrification 53 million gallons of nuclear and chemical waste. The “vit plant” will meld radioactive waste with glass so it can be stored more safely than in other forms. Viewing the massive struggle to protect the Columbia River and the area from further contamination, I felt despair at the scale and possible futility of the project. For example, pumps run day and night to treat the 80 square miles of contaminated groundwater, yet the radioactivity continues to increase in the groundwater.