Five months after our scathing review of safety at the Hanford Nuclear Site, the debate rages on. Seattle Weekly Author Joshua Frank and Department of Energy's Hanford Site spokesperson Geoff Tyree have had it out in our comment threads before debating the safety of Hanford's storage tanks. Yesterday's story on the lesser-known Hanford facts has (pardon the pun) re-ignited the discussion over storage safety of the site's 56 million gallons of radioactive waste. Enjoy this double-dosage of debate in our Comment(s) of the Day:
What a strange jumping off point for a story. The news last week was the Department added several more tours this year and is allowing middle and high school kids join the tours. That's good for the Pacific Northwest, as more people will be able to visit the site. Instead, the author used it as a jumping off point to repeat allegations and issues that are certainly not a secret. They've been widely reported in the press and on blogs, which is where I assume school-age kids would get their information if they were interested in the issue. Readers beware, there are two major accuracy problems with this story. First, the author extrapolates the allegations and issues on one project to all of the other major projects on the Hanford Site, which simply isn't true. Second, the post also makes an irresponsible statement that the tanks could explode at any time, which isn't true. Regarding the tours, our goal is providing accurate information and an interesting experience for our guests. For some reason, we keep hoping the Seattle Weekly will adopt a similar goal of providing accurate information on Hanford.
Department of Energy
Joshua Frank comments:
Dear Mr. Tyree,
I read your comment with much interest. First, many DOE projects have and have had serious safety incidents. It is certainly not confined to the WTP. For example, have you reviewed the incident in New York at the Separations Process Research Unit (SPRU)? What about the past releases and spills at Hanford? What about the shutdown of the ITP process at Savannah River due to uncontrolled benzene gas generation? The problems are confined to the WTP?!? -- hardly.
Second, if the waste tanks cannot explode, why was there so much concern of the Hanford hydrogen gas burping tank SY-101? Wasn't it burping hydrogen gas? Isn't this gas VERY explosive? Isn't hydrogen gas what exploded at Fukushima? Doesn't all waste in gamma radiation generate hydrogen gas? I'll answer those for you: yes to all.
The safety world requires that a spark source be assumed to be present when the gas in the atmosphere exceeds the explosive limit. Isn't that true? Therefore, for you to say that a tank cannot explode when, in fact, you were deeply concerned about an explosion in SY-101 and when combined with the safety assumptions, clearly implies an explosion is possible.
Your objective should be to take all measures to prevent potential safety incidents, not assume they won't happen.
The increased tours will surely be great fun -- just please have the folks wear safety equipment (and don't smoke).