KENNEWICK, Wash. — The Hanford nuclear reservation is one of seven sites the Energy Department is considering as a national, long-term storage site for mercury.
The Environmental Protection Agency says the nation could have as much as 11,000 tons of mercury from private sources eligible for storage over 40 years, the Tri-City Herald reports.
The Energy Department is looking for storage sites because mercury exports will be banned beginning in 2013.
Mercury is toxic. It’s used in gold mining and manufacturing chlorine and caustic soda, and it’s reclaimed from recycling and waste recovery operations.
The Energy Department plans a public meeting in Richland on July 28 to determine what should be included in an environmental study. A draft is expected to be issued this fall.
The study will look at available storage buildings, potential public health effects, and the risk of accidents and natural disasters.
Other sites being considered are the Grand Junction Disposal Site in Colorado; the Idaho National Laboratory; Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada; Kansas City Plant in Missouri; the Savannah River Site in South Carolina and Waste Control Specialists in Andrews, Texas.
DOE already stores about 1,300 tons of mercury at the Y-12 National Security complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., but it is not being considered for additional storage. The Defense Department also stores about 4,800 tons of mercury at various locations.
The Mercury Export Ban Act of 2008 prohibits the export of mercury beginning in 2013 and requires the DOE to have facilities ready to manage and store mercury generated in the United States. It is a new responsibility for the DOE Office of Environmental Management, which is responsible for work at Hanford.
Congress found that banning mercury exports could encourage developing countries to switch to mercury alternatives.
The use of mercury is declining in the United States but as many as 10 percent of women of childbearing age have mercury in their blood.