From the January 2001 Idaho Observer:

Hanford tritium may reach Columbia in three years

Federal land management policies seeping into our future

By The Idaho Observer

Nearly every state in the country and many countries across the world boast the presence of a military base or research facility. Most of them have been producing and dumping materials so toxic that these places will never be safe again. Federally managed timberlands across the nation are infested with bugs and noxious weeds. Federally managed fisheries and game populations are declining. With the exception of a few corporations (commonly operating under close federal scrutiny), it is not out of line to label the federal government as the most irresponsible steward of the land in our nation's history. We have been reporting the on-going federal land grab agenda. The federal government sells its agenda on the promise that our national treasures, our forests, wetlands, rivers, lakes, mountains, valleys, prairies and deserts will be safer under its control. The story below should cause even the most militant of environmentalists to question the intelligence of allowing the federal government to control anything.

RICHLAND, Wash. -- Routine testing in 1999 revealed that radioactive tritium from spent fuel buried at the Hanford nuclear reservation near here in the 60s was found in a nearby well at concentrations 90 times federal Clean Water Act safety standards, Seattle Times Staff Reporter Kim Murphy recently reported. Hanford officials admit that the contamination could reach the Columbia River in as little as three years.

Tritium is a potent carcinogen that is known to cause birth defects.

According to Murphy, “tritium is one of the fastest-moving radionuclides.” and may be the harbinger of other even more deadly nuclear wastes to come from the same leak.

Strontium-90, thorium and chromium have already been detected in plant life on the shores of Columbia River near Hanford. Federal officials claim that the levels of these extremely toxic metals pose no danger to the public.

The Columbia river is the greatest river in the west. It irrigates over a million acres of farmland in Oregon and Washington and provides habitat for at least 80 percent of the fall chinook salmon harvested in Alaska and British Columbia each year.

The Hanford reservation, which has been producing weapons-grade plutonium since the 1940s, has been identified as the most contaminated place in North America. It is also an EPA SuperFund Cleanup Site where $billions have already been spent in an alleged attempt to contain some 2,100 metric tons of high level nuclear waste and 54 million gallons of “radioactive soup” that has been leaching into groundwater from deteriorating underground tanks.

“Nowhere has the Cold War's legacy lingered so poisonously as it has at the 560-square-mile Hanford reservation, operated by the federal government for more than 40 years to produce plutonium for nuclear bombs,” commented Murphy.

A similar story can be told for most, if not all of the federal government's military and top secret research installations all over the world. Except for the possibility of the Cold War-era Russian government, the U.S. federal government is arguably the most irresponsible landlord in world history.

Activists, with some help from politicians, have urged the federal government to increase cleanup efforts because failure to do so could spell disaster for the Columbia River Basin and its human, animal and plant inhabitants.

U.S. Department of Energy officials do not seem to comprehend the gravity of the situation. It is on record as stating that 10 percent of the leaky radioactive soup tanks may be completed by 2018. Murphy reported that the tons of highly radioactive waste may be moved in another 40-50 years and that there are no plans at all to remove the tanks themselves.

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