Energy Northwest, the operators of the Columbia Generating Station in Hanford, is looking into a plan that would turn dumb old nuclear-weapons material into awesome new electricity. Rejoice! I mean, what's the worst that could happen?
As the Global Security Newswire reports today, Energy Northwest is collaborating with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Energy Department to come up with a "three-phase" plan that would break down weapons-grade plutonium into a mixed oxide fuel that they can feed into the reactor.
Environmental advocacy group Friends of the Earth is not pleased.
The group says it exposed the "secret plan" in a statement put out yesterday on its website:
Department of Energy (DOE) documents released to Friends of the Earth reveal that the public utility Energy Northwest hopes to bring experimental radioactive plutonium fuel into Washington State for use in risky tests in a nuclear reactor not originally designed for that purpose. The documents also reveal that the utility has sought to keep information secret the about the controversial and risky pursuit of use of surplus weapons plutonium as nuclear reactor fuel.
Since then, The Tri-City Herald has talked with Rochelle Olson, spokeswoman for Energy Northwest, who rattles off the typical routine about how they won't do it unless it's super-duper safe.
"Our first priority is safe operations of the Columbia Generating Station," Olson said. "We would never make any changes unless they were well-vetted and licensing was in place, but we will continue to work with the nuclear industry to evaluate all our options."
But given that the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is already known to breed radioactive rabbits, wasps, rats, and God knows what else, there probably aren't many better places to stick a bunch of dangerous nuclear-weapons materials.