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Man-made hell on earth Part I.

One of my daughters lives in Olympia, Washington. Perhaps that’s why I am especially aware of what lies buried not many miles from her at Hanford. About a year ago, February 2013, the Energy Department acknowledged that six of the site's 177 steel tanks containing 56 gallons of nuclear and toxic waste were leaking. For more than two decades government has coughed up billions to dispose of what’s buried there. Twelve years ago the Department of Energy (DOE) started building a factory close to the Columbia River, a regional source of drinking water. It’s purpose was to make glass container to encase the nuclear leftovers for long-term storage, but that is only two-thirds finished. Washington state’s congressional representatives don’t want some 56 million dollars cut from its budget that continues to soak up billions. Contractors and the Department of Energy dispute its safety and if nuclear waste has already leaked into ground water. The head of the contracting company took early retirement without explanation. A Nation Geographic article contains a photo with the caption: “A tank farm at Hanford, Washington, built in the 1940s, uses only single-wall tanks to store radioactive sludge from plutonium processing. Many of the tanks have leaked, tainting groundwater.”

That article, titled Half Life—The Lethal Legacy of America's Nuclear Waste, also provides a history lesson about the wake of our nuclear build up: “By the mid-1960s, the height of the Cold War, the U.S. had stockpiled around 32,000 nuclear warheads, as well as mountains of radioactive garbage from the production of plutonium for these weapons. Just one kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, of plutonium required around a thousand tons (907 metric tons) of uranium ore. Generated from uranium bombarded by neutrons in a nuclear reactor, the plutonium was later separated from the uranium in hellish baths of acids and solvents still awaiting disposal.”

I didn’t realize, nor does the general public, that Hansford is just one of many such sites and their horrendous territory: “A long-deferred cleanup is now under way at 114 of the nation's nuclear facilities, which encompass an acreage equivalent to Rhode Island and Delaware combined. Many smaller sites, the easy ones, have been cleansed, but the big challenges remain. What's to be done with 52,000 tons (47,174 metric tons) of dangerously radioactive spent fuel from commercial and defense nuclear reactors? With 91 million gallons (344.5 million liters) of high-level waste left over from plutonium processing, scores of tons of plutonium, more than half a million tons (453,592 metric tons) of depleted uranium, millions of cubic feet of contaminated tools, metal scraps, clothing, oils, solvents, and other waste? And with some 265 million tons (240 million metric tons) of tailings from milling uranium ore—less than half stabilized—littering landscapes?

“For an idea of scale: Load those tailings into railroad hopper cars, then pour the 91 million gallons (344.5 million liters) of waste into tank cars, and you would have a mythical train that would reach around the Equator and then some.”

We now have nine other countries producing nuclear weapons and their own graveyards of nuclear waste, and nine other countries have been armed with nuclear weapons; only four of these have been disarmed of them, according to Wikipedia. Those of us with faith and/or doubt have a common problem of hell on earth now. We don’t have to wait for it hereafter.

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