U-B’s ‘Nuke blast’ headline misleading


Regarding the headline in the April 3 edition that read, “Nuke blast risk cited.” I believe you owe your readers an apology. This is a scare headline and misleads the casual reader.

There is no risk of a nuclear blast (i.e., “nuke blast” or uncontrolled nuclear reaction). It is just not possible under current tank farm conditions.

As stated in the article by an Associated Press writer, the concern is over a build up of potentially explosive hydrogen gas in a number of the 177 underground tanks at the Hanford site. The hydrogen is generated naturally by radioactive decay. And as the article pointed out, it is not a newly discovered issue. The tanks have ventilators to remove the hydrogen.

A hydrogen explosion of sufficient strength may breach the containment of an underground tank, and release hazardous radioactive and chemical wastes into the environment.

The filtered ventilators are constantly pulling outside fresh air through the tanks, diluting and removing the hydrogen without contaminating the atmosphere. The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, a federal oversight agency, is recommending more active ventilation and monitoring.

I suggest your readers look up the article in the Tri-City Herald by Annette Cary titled, “Wyden’s concerns renewed over Hanford tank waste explosions.” Cary, unlike so many others, usually gets the Hanford story essentially right.

There is an immense difference between a hydrogen explosion, such as people worry about in landfills, and a “nuke blast.”

Robert Frank

Walla Walla


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