Fri., May 1, 2009
“When I talk to other environmental activists who’ve been in fights like this, they often tell me they never know when to celebrate their victories, because victories are reversible, and you don’t want to get complacent. I don’t even remember what I did in 1988 when I heard about Under Secretary of Energy Joseph Salgado’s decision to keep the reactor closed permanently. I probably lifted a pint of Hales Ale at the Onion but, if so, I’m sure I did it warily.
When we arrived at N Reactor last Thursday morning, the power plant that used to generate 860 megawatts of electricity from the reactor’s waste heat was already gone. I asked the guide what happened to the turbine that was inside. It was right there, he said, pointing to a vast rubble field behind what was left of the reactor building. The reactor building itself was in the last stages of being eaten by backhoes and cranes, carefully eaten I should add, because the closer the demolition got to the guts of the unplugged reactor, the more intense the residual radiation field is.
It seemed that all that was missing was a large vulture to pick at the carcass of the thing. And then it dawned on me, that it really is over. Except, of course, for the cleanup.”
Journalist extraordinaire Connor, who now is the Communications Director for Center For Justice, took a tour of Hanford last week with a council for finding alternative dispute resolutions between workers and cleanup contractors at the site. In a post HERE, he recalls the nuclear weapons versus nuclear safety debate twenty years ago of which Hanford’s largest plutonium reactor was a focal point.
(Note on the photo: Taken outside a laboratory, a toy wagon is used to carry radioactive material at Hanford in 1955. Photo by Nat Farbman, from the worthwhile LIFE/Google archive. Check it out.)