Is Hanford back in the bomb business?

  With the Cold War over and plutonium production halted at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state, the federal facility seemed destined only for intensive and expensive cleanup (HCN, 1/22/96). No longer.


Outgoing Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary has announced that Hanford's research nuclear reactor, named the Fast Flux Test Facility, will remain on standby for two more years while the agency studies its suitability for making tritium, a hydrogen isotope used to boost the power of nuclear weapons.


If DOE officials choose Hanford over building a proposed linear accelerator in Georgia, the reactor would produce tritium for the next 10 or 15 years. Then, after the military has stockpiled enough of the bomb booster, medical researchers could use the facility to develop new isotopes for the treatment of cancer. DOE officials say starting up the Hanford reactor would be both cheaper and quicker than other options.


Anti-nuclear activists are appalled. Lynne Stembridge, director of the Hanford Education Action League, worries that the money now going for cleanup will be diverted for weapon making. "It puts Hanford back in the bomb business," says Stembridge, adding that the project is also a matter of local pork. "The boosters for the medical isotope mission believe that if they can do this, the world will beat a path to their door."


Sam Volpentest, vice president of Tridec, a local business group, says his organization is pleased that federal Energy Department is finding new uses for the reactor. The Fast Flux Test Facility "is the best reactor we have. It has an enviable safety record." But Volpentest also warns that the project still faces plenty of hurdles. "We've just been given a reprieve. There's no reason to celebrate yet."





" Elizabeth Manning





High Country News Classifieds
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.
  • FEATURES DIRECTOR - HIGH COUNTRY NEWS
    High Country News, an award-winning news organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Features Director to join our editorial...
  • GENERAL MANAGER
    The Board of UYWCD seeks a new GM to manage operations & to implement our robust strategic plan. Details at www.upperyampawater.com. EOE
  • IN TUCSON, FOR SALE: A BEAUTIFUL, CLASSIC MID-CENTURY MODERN HOME
    designed by architect David Swanson in 1966. Located a block from Saguaro National Forest, yet minutes to Downtown and the UofA campus, 3706 sqft, 6...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Friends of the San Juans is seeking a new leader guide our efforts to protect and restore the San Juan Islands and the Salish...
  • 80 ACRES
    straddles North Platte Fishery, Wyoming. Legal access 2 miles off 1-80. Call 720-440-7633.
  • DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT AND MARKETING
    High Country News seeks a Director of Product and Marketing to join our senior team during an exciting chapter of innovation and growth. This individual...
  • IMPROVED LOT
    Private road, hillside, views. Well, pad, septic, 99 sq.ft. hut. Dryland permaculture orchard. Wildlife. San Diego--long growing season
  • UNIQUE INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY
    Profitable off-the-grid business located 2 miles from Glacier National Park. Owner has 6 years operating experience. Seeking investor or partner for business expansion and enhancement....
  • REMOTE SITKA ALASKA FLOAT HOUSE VACATION RENTAL
    Vacation rental located in calm protected waters 8 miles from Sitka, AK via boat with opportunities to fish and view wildlife. Skiff rental also available.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Colorado Plateau Natural & Human History Field Seminars. Lodge, river, hiking options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • OJO CALIENTE COMMERCIAL VENTURE
    Outstanding location near the world famous Ojo Caliente Mineral Spring Resort. Classic adobe Mercantile complete w/living quarters, separate 6 unit B&B, metal building and spacious...