Although the media spotlight is rarely shined upon America’s aging nuclear infrastructure, U.S. nuclear power plants are decaying rapidly, precipitating numerous nuclear environmental disasters across the country.
The Free Thought Project recently reported on three nuclear disasters playing out across the country -- now a fourth major nuclear disaster is unfolding in Washington state at what is known as the Hanford nuclear site. There have been reports that the Hanford has been leaking massive amounts of radioactive material for over two weeks.
Only a week after 19 workers were sent for medical evaluation after waste tank they were moving was found to be leaking, 3 more workers have reportedly been injured at the site. The workers reportedly inhaled radioactive fumes – the same issue facing the 19 previously hospitalized workers, according to RT, bringing the total number of workers injured at the site up to 22.
The aging Hanford nuclear site is one of the oldest nuclear facilities in the United States, having been part of the original Manhattan Project. Although the site was decommissioned after the Cold War, it has become a de facto nuclear waste storage facility, with almost two-thirds of all radioactive material in the U.S. is stored at the facility -- making it one of the largest nuclear waste repositories in the world.
The nuclear waste containment tanks, which were built as early as 1940 and as late as 1970, contain 56 million gallons of radioactive chemicals. This revelation is jarring, as Washington State Representative Gerry Pollet says the tanks were originally only expected to last for 20 years.
“Twenty years was a dream in the first place. And, as you know, some of them didn’t last 20 years – and we had a small explosion on the 1950s. That hot waste boiled; created a steam explosion under the tank, and we were lucky that we didn’t have half of eastern Washington having to be permanently evacuated,” said Pollet.
To give you an idea of the scope of the crisis facing America’s aging nuclear infrastructure, a startling investigation by the Associated Press found radioactive tritium leaking from three-quarters of all commercial nuclear power sites in the United States.
In addition to the Hanford site disaster, in recent months, a fire at the Bridgeton Landfill is closing in on a nuclear waste dump, according to a Missouri emergency plan recently distributed by St. Louis County officials. The landfill fire has been burning for over five years, and they have been unable to contain it thus far.
There are clouds of smoke that have been billowing from the site, making the air in parts of St. Louis heavily contaminated. In 2013, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster sued Republic Services, the company responsible for the landfill, charging the company with neglecting the site and harming the local environment.
Last year, city officials became concerned that the fire may reach the nearby Lake Landfill, which is littered with decades worth of nuclear waste from government projects and weapons manufacturing. Remnants from the Manhattan Project and the Cold War have been stuffed there for generations. The site has been under the control of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) since 1990, but they failed to make any significant effort to clean up the waste.
In December of last year, the EPA announced that it would install a physical barrier in an effort to isolate the nuclear waste. But the timeline given by the EPA said it could take up to a year to complete. Residents aren’t comforted by that timetable, and think the government, despite years of warning, has done too little to stave off a possible environmental disaster. They are right.
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To add to the legitimacy of the residents’ worries about the government’s timeline, the ground has yet to be broken, the fire is still smoldering, and the EPA just finalized, on Thursday, an Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order on Consent (Settlement) requiring Bridgeton Landﬁll, LLC to start work on the isolation barrier system at the West Lake Landﬁll Superfund Site.
Aside from the threat of the U.S. military’s decades-old nuclear waste erupting into flames in the near future, there are also two nuclear reactors inside the United States, which have been leaking for months.
In Florida, a recent study commissioned by Miami-Dade County concluded that the area’s four-decades-old nuclear power plants at Turkey Point are leaking polluted water into Biscayne Bay.
This has raised alarm among county officials and environmentalists that the plant, which sits on the coastline, is polluting the bay’s surface waters and its fragile ecosystem, reports the NY Times. In the past two years, bay waters near the plant have had a large saltwater plume that is slowly moving toward wells several miles away that supply drinking water to millions of residents in Miami and the Florida Keys.
Samples taken during the study show everything from the deadly radioactive isotope, tritium, to elevated levels of salt, ammonia, and phosphorous. So far, according to the scientists conducting the study, the levels of tritium are too low to harm people. However, in December, and January, the levels were far higher than they should be in nearby ocean water which is a telling sign of a much larger underlying problem.
“We now know exactly where the pollution is coming from, and we have a tracer that shows it’s in the national park,” said Laura Reynolds. Reynolds is an environmental consultant who is working with the Tropical Audubon Society and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which intend to file the lawsuit, according to the Times. “We are worried about the marine life there and the future of Biscayne Bay.”
Fifteen hundred miles north of the leaking reactors in Florida is the Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York. Since the beginning of this year, there’s been an uncontrollable radioactive flow from the Indian Point nuclear power plant that continues leaking into groundwater, which leads to the Hudson River, raising the specter of a Fukushima-like disaster only 25 miles from New York City.
The Indian Point nuclear plant is located on the Hudson River and serves the electrical needs of an estimated 2 million people. In January, while preparing a reactor for refueling, workers accidentally spilled some contaminated water, containing the radioactive hydrogen isotope tritium, causing a massive radiation spike in groundwater monitoring wells, with one well’s radioactivity increasing by as much as 65,000 percent.
The tritium leak is the ninth in just the past year, four of which were severe enough to shut down the reactors. But the most recent leak, however, according to an assessment by the New York Department of State as part of its Coastal Zone Management Assessment, contains a variety of radioactive elements such as strontium-90, cesium-137, cobalt-60, and nickel-63, and isn’t limited to tritium contamination.
As the utility companies and government agencies continue to downplay the severity of these situations, the residents who live the closest to these spots are already feeling the effects.
According to a report by RT, Radiation and Public Health Project researchers compared the state and national cancer data from 1988-92 with three other five-year periods (1993-97, 1998-02, and 2003-07). The results, published in 2009, show the cancer rates going from 11 percent below the national average to 7 percent above in that timespan. Unexpected increases were detected in 19 out of 20 major types of cancer. Thyroid cancer registered the biggest increase, going from 13 percent below the national average to 51 percent above.
While the U.S. war machine spends hundreds of billions of dollars per year waging war against humanity, Americans at home are dying from a crumbling nuclear infrastructure. The realization that multiple nuclear disasters are currently unfolding across the country, while the mainstream media remains silent, speaks to the fact that most media is owned by the same benefactors that have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.