The following is a guest post from Natalie Troyer, publications and volunteer coordinator at Heart of America Northwest.


Let’s shake a Magic 8-Ball and ask it a probing question.

Nuclear waste sign.“Is it a good idea to dump more nuclear waste into a site that’s already listed as the most contaminated spot in the Western Hemisphere?”

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“My sources say no,” the 8-Ball replies.

In fact, I think if the 8-Ball had vocal chords, it’d say something like, “Oh yeah, that’s a genius idea. Ranks right up there with Britney Spears facing her baby the wrong way in a car seat. Or the invention of fake dog testicles.”

Utterly nonsensical.

Yet that’s exactly what the Department of Energy wants to do — haul a heap of radioactive waste across our roadways and dump it off at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Eastern Washington.

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Since it was established in 1943, Hanford has evolved from producing plutonium and uranium for the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal to a Superfund cleanup site dealing with the radioactive and toxic wastes generated by those operations. Don’t be deceived by the word “cleanup,” though. Hanford still looks like the remnants of a kindergarten classroom after acrylic paint day — one big eyesore.

More than 450 billion gallons of contaminated waste have been dumped into unlined soil trenches at Hanford. More than a third of the 177 underground storage tanks have leaked, resulting in more than a million gallons of liquid high-level nuclear waste contaminating groundwater near the Columbia River. There’s even talk of restarting a nuclear reactor at Hanford and reprocessing spent fuel.

The real kicker, though, is the meager amount of Benjamins allotted to get the job done effectively and efficiently. The DOE’s recent request for fiscal year 2008 cuts cleanup funding nationwide by $173 million, after cutting it $760 million in 2007. The president’s 2008 budget request for Hanford cleanup is $1.84 billion. If Hanford cleanup was held “level” with 2005 funding, the cleanup request for 2008, adjusted for inflation, would be $2.288 billion.

The president and energy secretary are breaking prior promises to increase cleanup funding at Hanford, the most contaminated site in the western hemisphere, and other nuclear waste sites across the nation. As it stands, the existing cleanup budget will delay the design of facilities to vitrify the second half of the high-level nuclear wastes in Hanford’s leaky tanks, and will further postpone cleanup of soil and groundwater. It’s asinine.

I say, let’s grab the Magic 8-Ball and ask it several additional questions: “Should the federal government spend more to meet its cleanup obligations at Hanford? And should the DOE focus its energy on cleaning up the existing mess at Hanford before trying to add more?”

Shake, shake, shake. “All signs point to yes.”

You know, the DOE is starting to sound a bit like those recurring contestants on American Idol, the ones who come in for their 12th audition, sing a bad karaoke rendition of the Pussycat Dolls, then throw a temper tantrum when told by the panel of judges they’re not “Idol material.”

Well, in struts the DOE, singing the same old off-key tune about how hauling more nuclear waste to Hanford and slashing the cleanup budget are positive things.

If I had the opportunity, I would tell them, “Excuse me. I don’t mean to be rude, but whatever just came out of your mouth was excruciatingly horrendous. And, by the way, you look like one of those creatures that live in the jungle with the massive eyes. What are they called? Bush baby.”

In my best Simon Cowell accent, of course.