Tainted tumbleweeds concern Hanford (Re: HT: Hemp eats Chernobyl waste, offers hope for Hanford)
byoung at pacifier.com
Mon Jan 4 06:12:13 CET 1999
Here is a recent article from the Tri-City Herald, Dec 27, 1998. They're
talking about disposal costs and/or about using pesticides to prevent
thistle growth and subsequent contamination from the get go. But that seems
rash, considering that the lack of vegetation would make the topsoil loose.
I suppose you could replace the thistle with one that wouldn't reach so far
down (15 ft). I think hemp only reaches 6 to 8 feet. At any rate, I'm sure
hemp fits in here somewhere. At least you could use hemp to kill the
thistles instead of pesticides.
Tainted tumbleweeds concern Hanford
By John Stang
Herald staff writer
Think of them as a sour note from Hanford for the late singing
cowboy Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers.
I'll keep rollin' along.
Deep in my heart is a song.
Here on the range I belong.
Driftin' along with the tumblin' tumbleweeds.
They are tumbleweeds in central Hanford, out there sucking up
contaminated ground water before tumbling about in the wind
and scattering radioactivity here and there.
And a November Department of Energy report notes that more
radioactive tumbleweeds have been showing up.
The numbers tell part of the tale: Eleven contaminated
tumbleweeds were found in 1995, 19 in 1996, 39 in 1997, and
20 in the first six months of 1998.
Hanford officials say the increase is mostly linked to increased
efforts to find radioactive tumbleweeds and expanding the
monitored areas from 8,786 acres in 1995 to 11,376 acres in
Of Hanford's roughly 1,100 documented findings of
contaminated vegetation in the past 50 years, more than 80
percent were tumbleweeds.
Almost all the contaminated tumbleweeds bounce around central
Hanford's 200 Area, where the ground underneath is
crisscrossed by numerous plumes of radioactive contaminants.
The weeds - more formally known as Russian thistle - have roots
that can stretch 15 feet deep in search of water, which at
Hanford is likely to be contaminated.
Radioactive strontium 90 is common in tumbleweeds, which
absorb the radionuclides into their tissue.
The plants usually grow to 3 or 4 feet tall before they break off to
scatter seeds as the wind blows them around.
At Hanford, they also scatter bits and pieces of radioactive
The radioactivity in each piece is slight, but the pieces are a
symptom of an ongoing Hanford problem: controlling myriad
ways that nature conspires to spread radioactivity.
Add mice and various bugs to the list.
They track through Hanford's contaminated nooks and crannies,
then walk or fly off, spreading radioactivity.
Those specks can be picked up on workers' shoes and tracked
off-site. In September, that led to contaminated socks showing
up in a worker's laundry hamper at home.
In 1996, a contaminated mouse made it to the Tri-Cities Food
Bank in north Richland.
And this past fall, a couple dozen contaminated fruit flies
scattered radioactive specks around the 200 Area.
Then contaminated trash showed up in the Richland landfill, and
the city temporarily closed the landfill to Hanford. Trash was
hauled back to Hanford, while new procedures were hammered
out between Hanford and the city.
So Atomic Age tumbleweeds are taken seriously at Hanford.
In fact, the November DOE report calculated Fluor's
seven-company team spent $1.68 million in fiscal 1998 to control
vegetation like tumbleweeds and various critters ranging from
mice to bugs.
The report said that figure includes some unnecessarily high
overhead costs that could be reduced if the program was better
coordinated within Fluor's team and with another prime
contractor, Bechtel Hanford Inc.
Bechtel spent another $451,000 on herbicide spraying in 1998,
the report said.
Efforts to improve planning and coordination are under way, said
Fluor and DynCorp Tri-Cities Services officials.
The November report was prompted by a pair of employee
complaints that the tumbleweeds were not being tackled in a
So Hanford workers are now systematically surveying Hanford,
including checking tumbleweeds.
"There might be 50 tumbleweeds, and we'll find one with some
radioactivity," said Greg Perkins, Fluor Daniel Hanford's director
of radiation protection.
Contaminated tumbleweeds are stuffed into bags, then crushed
and buried in central Hanford's low-level waste trenches.
But such cleanup is expensive. Strict radioactivity handling
requirements bump up the costs of gathering and burying
contaminated tumbleweeds - which can run $27,000 to
$160,000 per acre, depending on the degree of infestation.
The November report also stressed preventing the tumbleweeds
from sucking up contaminants in the first place.
That means spraying herbicides to stop the growth of
umbleweeds - for about $343 per acre.
Perkins explained the work isn't as simple as it sounds. "You
can't go out and blanket an area with spray. Certain (rare and
sensitive) plants have to be protected, and you can't arbitrarily
kill those off," he said.
Contaminated areas also have to be checked and sprayed
repeatedly because roaming tumbleweeds - each capable of
spreading 200,000 seeds - repopulate themselves very fast, said
Tom Harper, Fluor Daniel Hanford's director of infrastructure.
>Newshawk: Curt Wagoner <cwagoner at bendnet.com>
>Source: Central Oregon Green Pages <cogp at empnet.com>
>Mail: 557 NE Quimby, Bend, Oregon 97701
>Pubdate: Winter 1998-99
>Author: Elaine Charkowski
>Section: Enlightened Living
>Newshawk note: Central Oregon Green Pages is a community service, quarterly
>magazine whose purpose is to encourage ecological and holistic
>lifestyle,business and consumer choices through education. Circulation: 10,000
> Hemp " eats " Chernobyl waste, offers hope for Hanford
> An explosion at a nuclear reactor on April 26th, 1986 in Chernobyl, Ukraine
>created the world's worst nuclear disaster - so far.
> The blast heavily contaminated agricultural lands in a 30 km radius around
>the reactor. The few people still living there must monitor their food and
>for radiation. However the combination of a new technology (
>and an old crop ( industrial hemp ) may offer the Ukraine a way to
>it's radioactive soil.
> In 1998, Consolidated Growers and Processors ( CGP ), PHYTOTECH, and the
>Ukraine's Institute of Bast Crops began what may be one of the most important
>projects in history - the planting of industrial hemp for the removal of
>contaminants in the soil near Chernobyl.
> CGP is an ecologically-minded multinational corporation which finances the
>growing and processing of sustainable industrial crops such as flax, kenaf,
>industrial hemp. CGP operates in North America, Europe and the Ukraine.
> PHYTOTECH ( see webpage: www.phytotech.com/index.html ) specializes in
>phytoremediation, the general term for using phyto ( plants ) to remediate
>(clean up ) polluted sites. Phytoremediation can be used to remove radioactive
>elements from soil and water at former weapons producing facilaties. It can
>be used to clean up metals, pesticides, solvents, explosives, crude oil,
>polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and toxins leaching from landfills.
> Plants break down or degrade organic pollutants and stabilize metal
>contaminants by acting as filters or traps. PHYTOTECH is conducting feild
>to improve the phytoextraction of lead, uranium, cesium-137, and strontium-90
>from soils and also from water.
> Founded in 1931, the Institute of Bast Crops is now the leading research
>institution in the Ukraine working on seed-breeding, seed-growing,
>harvesting and processing hemp and flax.
> The Bast Institute has a genetic bank including 400 varieties of hemp from
>various regions of the world.
> " Hemp is proving to be one of the best phyto-remediative plants we have
>able to find, " said Slavik Dushenkov, a research scienst with PHYTOTECH. Test
>results have been promising and CGP, PHYOTECH and the Bast Institute plan full
>scale trials in the Chernobyl region in the spring of 1999.
> Industrial hemp is not a drug. Unlike its cousin marijuana, industrial
>has only trace amounts of THC - the chemical that produces the high. In 1973,
>the Department of the Interior and Department of Health and Agriculture of the
>former USSR issued an ultimatim to the Institute of Bast Crops - either create
>non-psycoactive varities of hemp or stop cultivating hemp. So, scientists
>institute created an industrial hemp plant containing only minute traces of
>Modern testing in Canada confirmed the low THC content of the Bast Institute's
> New technologies in hemp harvesting and processing are also being
>at the Institute whose library contains more than 55,000 volumes mainly on
>hemp-growing and flax-growing.
> Chernobyl may seem distant, but the EPA estimates that there are more than
>30,000 sites requiring hazardous waste treatment throughout the U.S. including
>Hanford and Three Mile Island.
> Phytoremediation with industrial hemp could be used at many of these
>Unfortunantly, the U.S. government refuses to legalize the cultivation of
>industrial hemp and clings to the obsolete myth that it is a drug.
> ( www.congrowpro.com )
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