Because of growing concern about the effects of global climate change, nuclear energy seems to be gaining a new lease on life. Of particular note: some enviros have switched sides and now support, at least in principle, moving toward more nuclear power. (See Alan Durning’s most recent remarks on the viability of nuclear power here).

Today’s news from Hanford provides some counterpoint. The Seattle P-I reports on a new study (pdf) from the Seattle-based Government Accountability Project (GAP). Here’s the gist:

Radioactive dust in a Tri-Cities attic and plutonium-tainted clams in the Columbia River are red flags signaling that contamination from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is in the environment and moving into the food chain….


Government officials know that radioactive groundwater is still flowing to the river tainted with radiation. It’s still in the soil at the 586-square-mile reservation and has been detected in tumbleweeds that roll across the desert site.

What concerns [GAP] is the presence of the radioactive and other dangerous chemicals moving from the soil and water and into plants and animals offsite that can spread the contamination, increasing the risk of exposure for people.

But perhaps the most astonishing revelation of the article is this:

DOE officials and their contractors said the watchdog group’s results were not surprising….

Oh well, then. Now I feel much better!

Even though technology has come a long way since the wild west days during which most of the damage was done at Hanford, this news should trouble us, given nuclear energy’s new allure, for two reasons: first, the problem of waste storage apparently has still not been solved (see, for example, "Areas Requiring Attention" from this report (pdf) from the U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board); and second, we would be depending on the same "officials and their contractors" to assure our safety that have been doing such a wonderful job at Hanford.

For a broader critique of nuclear power, see Jim Harding and Denis Hayes’ excellent op-ed in yesterday’s P-I.