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


Sheryl Crow — who was joking, people — recently suggested that folks use “only one square [of toilet paper] per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required.”

A nice, but impractical, proposal — much like the Department of Energy’s imprudent pitch to “recycle” nuclear waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state.

That “r” word implies that we can just stick those thousands of gallons of radioactive sludge by the side of the road and some Richland, Wash., garbage person in a big green truck will take it away to Neverland.

Well, let’s not go sprinkling any pixie dust just yet.

The Bush administration says it wants to recycle used commercial nuclear fuel to produce more electricity, while destroying waste that would otherwise be disposed of at a national repository like Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, the long-term performance and capacity of which are in serious question.

Under the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), Hanford is one of 11 sites across the nation proposed for a recycling center and a reactor to use the recycled fuel. Together, they’ll create up to 8,000 new jobs. Apparently, the notion of added employment opportunities has outweighed rationality.

Hanford is the most contaminated site in the Western Hemisphere. Nearly 18 years into cleanup, we are still more than a decade away from having the capability to begin immobilizing Hanford’s 53 million gallons of high-level waste. Yet, all the while, Hanford’s underground storage tanks continue to age and deteriorate, posing a grave threat to the Columbia River, the surrounding community, and future generations of Pacific Northwest citizens.

And that word “recycle”? Don’t be fooled by this malicious synonym for reprocessing, which is what created the 55 million gallons of nuclear waste sitting in leaky tanks.

Yes, GNEP makes some amazing claims in terms of its potential to reduce waste volumes. But it’s kind of like ordering one of those greasy, fast-food bean burritos. They look and smell incredible coming out of the drive-through window and into the palm of your hand. But 20 minutes later, you’re in the bathroom with indigestion, wishing you’d stuck with that 99-cent side salad.

Well, if Hanford is chosen as a facility to reprocess spent nuclear fuel, we’re all going to need a large bottle of antacids. Importing or producing large volumes of new waste at Hanford, when the site still has a long way to go before it resolves its current waste problems, is lunacy. We cannot mask the current problems at Hanford by creating more jobs and adding more waste to a site that already poses colossal environmental problems for generations to come.

I’ve wondered if DOE’s just trying to pull our leg with this whole “Hanford as a GNEP facility” stunt. I’m half expecting to get a press release in my inbox with “Psych!” as the subject line.

Until then, say “no” to GNEP at Hanford. Tell Captain Hook and his pirates to retract their harebrained plot to further contaminate Hanford and the Columbia River. Send an email to Mr. Timothy A. Frazier, GNEP PEIS Document Manager.

Let’s clean up our existing mess so our grandchildren don’t have to.