Forever a disgrace

The New York Times has a front-page, above-the-fold story today about the dangerous nuclear waste dump that sits right on the Columbia River, upstream from Portland, in Tri-Cities, Washington. It's where they made nuclear weapons for about 40 years, dumping radioactive sludge into the ground right next to the river and pumping it into tanks that have long since been falling apart.

Some friends and I marched around protesting this disgraceful situation a generation and a half ago, and it's more than a little depressing to see that despite the burning of billions of dollars up there on cleanup, the place still isn't stabilized and probably never will be.  The Hanford "nuclear reservation" is a permanent national sacrifice zone. But hey, look on the bright side, at least it brought us atom bombs.

I like to think that at least we and others stopped them from making it any worse. Reagan was actually still operating the place, behaving as irresponsibly as they had when they first opened the "Manhattan Project" during World War II. Since then, the talk has been all about cleanup, but it sounds as though they're settling for kicking the can down the road for 150 years when the threat to health will be there for 10,000. You windsurfers in Hood River, don't swallow too much of that water.


  1. I don't think we can use today's standards to judge the generation that built the first atomic bomb. A few of those scientists who did help build it did regret it and it haunted Oppenheimer who was quoted as saying "I have become Death the destroyer of worlds" quoting hindu text The Bhagavad-Gita. My guess is if today's Republicans were in charge back then we would have aligned with Germany against England and Russia and we'd all be talking German.

  2. By about 1970, everybody knew how filthy dirty the process was. Many people downwind had died, and the crap in the ground was seeping toward the river. But they kept it going for at least another decade, lying the whole time about the harm. Murderers.

  3. True. What followed the development of The Bomb in the 1940s got out of hand and showed careless disregard for the very citizens they swore to protect.

  4. I thought Stewart Holbrook had exhausted this topic in the early ‘50s.


    The joke in the old USSR was “We pretend to work and they pretend to pay us.”

    The translation at Hanford (aka “The World’s Largest Day Care”) would be something like

    “We pretend we will clean it up and they pretend to care whether it can be cleaned up.”

    Mokita — “The truth everyone knows but agrees not to talk about” rules at Hanford. So long as $1-$2 billion is dropped off annually, the game will go on.


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