I became involved in Hanford after the 2011 nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi while doing research for my novel, Nuclear Snakes.
Watching the accident unfold in Japan, it became clear to me that scientists had made no significant progress in 25 years in storing high-level nuclear waste. That’s why the stricken Japanese nuclear plants kept spent fuel rods inside the reactor buildings. Since their plants were constructed in the early 1970s, they had since found no other place to put the spent rods, no good means of disposing nuclear waste. No one else knows what to do with all the spent nuclear rods making plutonium-239 daily all around planet earth. That by itself makes me want to help, to explain to others about high-level nuclear waste.
I see Hanford and Fukushima as opportunities to share and provide better awareness about the horrific long-term problems relating to nuclear waste. While recently touring Hanford, and standing inside the B-Reactor, America’s first large-scale nuclear reactor, I came to appreciate the times during the 1940s through the 1960s . America was at war and in a race with other nations to make nuclear bombs. Waste was not a big priority, and we knew nothing then about how radioactivity damages genes at the molecular level.
I like explaining complex topics in science in such a way that makes them understandable. Toxic nuclear waste from Hanford and nuclear reactors worldwide is a primary concern to me. I want to share and help others to know about what it can do to genes, and why that’s important.
I’m pleased to help inform others about Hanford in any ways I can, whether that be to share in discussions on how genes can get mutated by Hanford’s radioactivity, to how plutonium-239 can take on certain chemical properties that allow it to move underground in water.
In the spirit of helping, I also plan on assisting with more questions about what we really know- and don’t know- about storing nuclear waste. For example, how will glass vitrification work in the long-term? Right now, Hanford’s vitrification of plutonium-239 into glass logs does not prevent hydrogen gas production. Hydrogen gas is what blew up the reactor buildings at Fukushima. Nothing is known about long-term storage of nuclear waste in glass, and whether hydrogen gas may break the glass over centuries, allowing the possible escape of plutonium-239. We do not know about glass vitrification of plutonium-239: because it’s only a theory with very little science behind it.