Yesterday I had just begun to sketch out my blog entry when my iPhone sounded an alert. It was very bad news indeed. The headline read: “Catastrophic Event at Hanford prompts emergency response.”
The Hanford Nuclear Reservation not only lies about 100 miles from my home but plays a major part in Margaret and my soon-to-be-released historical mystery, “Letters From A Wary Watcher”.
A leak detector at the Hanford Site had sounded on Sunday morning. An inner storage tank had been breached and over eight inches of radioactive and chemically treated waste had leaked into the two-foot space between the inner tank and the outer container. Tank AY-102 is one of 28 double shell tanks that hold the nuclear waste resulting from the production of plutonium for the bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan in 1945. These 28 tanks are among the 177 underground tanks at Hanford holding the deadliest substance on earth.
The top-secret site in the middle of the State of Washington was the best place in the U.S. to build nuclear reactors because it was far from major population centers and on the banks of the Columbia River, which was used to cool the reactors. Before darkness fell yesterday officials were trying to desperately downplay the seriousness of the spill.
Expecting to see a screaming headline about Hanford this morning I ran 30 feet to pick up The Spokesman-Review from where it landed and ripped open the plastic bag that protected it from rain and our sprinkler system. The headline was not there. The front page featured more U.S. troops heading to Iraq and students honored for ambition to learn. A small article at the bottom of page 5 announced “Cleanup contractor finds small erratic leak at Hanford: Nuclear waste contained between tanks double walls.” Washington State DOE says Monday that the leak does not present a public risk.
There have been worries since the plant was built and each time they have been put to rest by officials. Many studies indicate otherwise.
In our book written in the form of letters, Cousin Margaret who is a physician, constantly worries about the possible effects of Hanford emissions, not only on those who worked at Hanford but also on those who live downwind of the plant. She also worried about the Columbia River whose waters were used to cool the reactors at 30,000 gallons per minute. She warns her cousin Moira not to move there. But Moira disregards her concerns and moves to Richland, the town where the Hanford employees live. The post World War II setting of the book reveals espionage, counter espionage and Communist spies in post WWII America and England.