Vegetable oil new Hanford cleanup tool

Vegetable oil new Hanford cleanup tool

This story was published Friday August 22nd 2008

By Shannon Dininny, Associated Press Writer

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) – Researchers at the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site last year injected 5,000 gallons of molasses into the soil to try to clean up toxic groundwater near the Pacific Northwest’s largest waterway.

This week, they’re trying their hands at vegetable oil.

Who knew the answers to ridding the Hanford nuclear reservation of wastewater might be in the kitchen? State officials who have long pressured the federal government to clean up Hanford, call the cooking oil a good idea.

“We support these tests, they’re actually pretty inexpensive,” said John Price, project manager of environmental restoration for the Washington Department of Ecology. “We’d like to see them scale up to a full system, beyond just tests, sooner rather than later.”

The federal government created Hanford in the 1940s as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. Plutonium production for the nation’s nuclear weapons program continued there for four decades, leaving a mess of radioactive and hazardous waste.

High on the cleanup list at the south-central Washington site: an estimated 80 square miles of groundwater, contaminated at levels exceeding state and federal drinking water standards.

Federal officials announced earlier this year they would step up groundwater efforts, particularly for a plume of hexavalent chromium that stretches for 1 1/4 miles along the rivershore. A cancer-causing agent that was used as a corrosion inhibitor in nuclear reactors, the contaminant moves easily with water and is particularly dangerous to salmon in the Columbia River.

Very little of the contamination closest to the river exceeds the federal drinking water standard of 100 parts per billion. However, the area closest to the river exceeds the more stringent standard for fresh-water aquatic life – 10 parts per billion.

Workers installed new wells and additional equipment to triple the amount of groundwater that can be treated. An iron barrier installed in the soil about five years ago breaks down the chromium to a nontoxic form, where it is less mobile and less likely to travel in groundwater to the river.

But scientists also have been researching ways to supplement those treatment methods.

In what was believed to be the first such effort at a nuclear site, they injected 5,000 gallons of molasses mixed with 200,000 gallons of water into a test well last September. The goal was to increase the food supply for natural microbes and remove oxygen from the groundwater, thereby enabling the chromium to convert to the nontoxic form.

So far, the results have been good. After 10 months, levels of toxic chromium in the area of the test well have declined, said Mike Truex, senior program manager for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

However, the molasses might have to be injected every couple of years, he said,

whereas vegetable oil could provide the same results over a longer period of time.

“The difference is, we have molasses that degrades very quickly, or oil that dissolves very slowly but provides enough dissolved material to feed the bacteria to do the same job,” he said.

Researchers believe an injection of 1,500 gallons of vegetable oil, mixed with 50,000 gallons of water, could work for up to seven years.

It’s not the first time vegetable oil has been tried. Near Barstow, Calif., workers injected a number of organic materials, including lactate, ethanol and vegetable oil, into the soil at a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. site contaminated with hexavalent chromium. The Hinkley site was the subject of the hit Julia Roberts movie, “Erin Brockovich.”

Early results showed lactate, basically milk sugar, to be most effective, because the vegetable oil wasn’t as mobile, said Chuck Curtis, supervising engineer for the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Board, which oversees the cleanup.

“Using vegetable oil, it was definitely effective, it just didn’t have easy distribution they wanted throughout the aquifer,” he said.

Various organic materials, including sugar waters, and vegetable oil have been used before in commercial cleanup activities, said Mike Thompson, hydrogeologist for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Richland Operations Office. This spring, workers at the Savannah River nuclear site in South Carolina also injected vegetable oil into the ground to treat contaminated groundwater.

At Hanford, researchers want to study their options before implementing a large-scale project, in hopes of getting the best results, he said.

“Our goal is to do this as fast as we can, because we do measure (hexavalent chromium) in the environment, and that’s not acceptable to us,” he said.

http://www.hanfordnews.com/news/2008/story/12012.html

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New air force chiefs promise to raise nuclear standards

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General Norton A. Schwartz
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New air force chiefs promise to raise nuclear standards

WASHINGTON (AFP) —

New air force chiefs promise to raise nuclear standards

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates sacked their predecessors in June after an investigation into the nuclear mishaps found an erosion in standards and a loss of focus in the air force’s handling of nuclear weapons.

The investigation was prompted by two major incidents that shook confidence in the air force’s stewardship of the sensitive nuclear mission.

In September 2007, nuclear armed cruise missiles were inadvertently loaded onto the wing of a B-52 bomber at Minot Air Force Base, in North Dakota, and flown to Barksdale Air Force Base, in Louisiana.

In March, the air force discovered that four fuses for nuclear weapons and nose cone assemblies for ballistic missiles were mistakenly shipped to Taiwan as helicopter batteries in August 2006, an error that went undetected for 18 months.

Donley said a review into the accountability of generals and colonels singled out in an investigation of the Taiwan mis-shipment was expected to be completed in a couple of weeks.

A separate study of the military’s management of nuclear weapons by a task force led by former defense secretary James Schlesinger is nearing completion, he said.

“What I can promise you is that we’re taking a comprehensive look at this issue, so this is not onesies and twosies and a handful of fixes,” he said.

The air force chiefs said they also would be giving high priority to the service’s acquisitions programs, which have been plagued by spiralling costs.

The Pentagon was forced to reopen bidding for a 35 billion dollar contract for a new generation of air refueling tanker after government auditors criticized an award given to Northrop Grumman and its European partner EADS.

Schwartz also said he will focus on delivering more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to US forces.

Gates had complained publicly that getting the military services to provide more unmanned surveillance aircraft was “like pulling teeth.

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Iran and EU in new nuclear contact but no change

TEHRAN/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Iran’s chief atomic negotiator and the man representing six world powers discussed Tehran’s nuclear program in telephone talks on Monday but an EU official said there was no change in the dispute.

Iran’s National Security Council said negotiator Saeed Jalili and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana agreed to continue their talks.

“In this telephone conversation they voiced their satisfaction at the constructive trend of negotiations in Geneva and in subsequent contact. They described the trend of these negotiations as constructive,” the council said in a statement faxed to Reuters.

However, an official in Solana’s office gave a more downbeat account of the conversation, saying: “Nothing has changed. We stick to the two-track approach. The channels of communication remain open.”

Asked what he meant by a two-track approach, the EU official said: “On the one side, pressure for sanctions in the United Nations Security Council, but also the offer of dialogue, for the Iranians to come to the table to discuss the package (of incentives) which has been proposed to them.”

Iran’s government spokesman said on Sunday the country would not change its nuclear stance in the face of new sanctions.

Tehran has rejected repeated U.N. Security Council demands that it suspend uranium enrichment, which the West suspects is intended to make bombs, and has also refused to freeze further expansion of the program in a pre-negotiating phase.

Iran, the world’s fourth largest oil producer, insists its atomic effort is purely to generate electricity.

The United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany presented a new package of incentives to Tehran last month, offering a freeze-for-freeze proposal in which they would hold off on further sanctions if Iran froze expansion of its nuclear work.

Western diplomats have acknowledged that it will take months of patient diplomatic effort to build consensus for a fourth round of U.N. sanctions after it took six months to negotiate the latest measures passed by the Security Council in March.

However, they said the United States and the European Union might move ahead with fresh measures to target the Iranian central bank and clamp down on investment in and exports to the oil and gas sector in the meantime.

(Reporting by Zahra Hosseinian in Tehran and Ingrid Melander in Brussels; Writing by Paul Taylor; Editing by Giles Elgood)

Iran and EU in new nuclear contact but no change

TEHRAN/BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Iran’s chief atomic negotiator and the man representing six world powers discussed Tehran’s nuclear program in telephone talks on Monday but an EU official said there was no change in the dispute.

Iran’s National Security Council said negotiator Saeed Jalili and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana agreed to continue their talks.

“In this telephone conversation they voiced their satisfaction at the constructive trend of negotiations in Geneva and in subsequent contact. They described the trend of these negotiations as constructive,” the council said in a statement faxed to Reuters.

However, an official in Solana’s office gave a more downbeat account of the conversation, saying: “Nothing has changed. We stick to the two-track approach. The channels of communication remain open.”

Asked what he meant by a two-track approach, the EU official said: “On the one side, pressure for sanctions in the United Nations Security Council, but also the offer of dialogue, for the Iranians to come to the table to discuss the package (of incentives) which has been proposed to them.”

Iran’s government spokesman said on Sunday the country would not change its nuclear stance in the face of new sanctions.

Tehran has rejected repeated U.N. Security Council demands that it suspend uranium enrichment, which the West suspects is intended to make bombs, and has also refused to freeze further expansion of the program in a pre-negotiating phase.

Iran, the world’s fourth largest oil producer, insists its atomic effort is purely to generate electricity.

The United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany presented a new package of incentives to Tehran last month, offering a freeze-for-freeze proposal in which they would hold off on further sanctions if Iran froze expansion of its nuclear work.

Western diplomats have acknowledged that it will take months of patient diplomatic effort to build consensus for a fourth round of U.N. sanctions after it took six months to negotiate the latest measures passed by the Security Council in March.

However, they said the United States and the European Union might move ahead with fresh measures to target the Iranian central bank and clamp down on investment in and exports to the oil and gas sector in the meantime.

(Reporting by Zahra Hosseinian in Tehran and Ingrid Melander in Brussels; Writing by Paul Taylor; Editing by Giles Elgood)

New EU sanctions against Iran over nuclear program

New EU sanctions against Iran over nuclear program

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) — The European Union on Friday tightened trade sanctions against Iran to punish Tehran for not committing to a long-standing demand of the international community that it freeze its nuclear enrichment program.

The new EU restrictions go slightly beyond existing U.N. trade sanctions and are designed to deny public loans or export credits to companies trading with Iran.

France, the current holder of the EU presidency, said European governments would also carefully watch financial groups doing business with Iranian banks and step up checks on ships and airplanes traveling to Iran.

“This resolution expands the range of restrictive measures adopted by the U.N. Security Council,” in December 2006 and March 2007, an EU statement said.

The EU called on member nations to “show restraint when granting new public loans for trade with Iran … to also be vigilant on activities taken by financial institutions with banks based in Iran.”

The announcement came three days after France and the United States called insufficient Iran’s response to an international effort to defuse a dispute over its nuclear program.

They said Iran has skirted the central question of whether it was ready to halt uranium enrichment that western nations see providing Tehran with nuclear weapons technology.

The new sanctions expand existing limits on trade with Iran beyond the United Nations Security Council’s three sets of limited sanctions that monitor trade and banking. But they do not go as far as sanctions on Iran’s oil and gas trade which EU ministers threatened in June.

EU countries will inspect airplanes and ships traveling to and from Iran to check that they are not carrying contraband goods to the country. France said they would focus on Iran Air Cargo and the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line.

European governments will also monitor banks dealing with Bank Saderat, an Iranian bank with purported links to suspect Iranian nuclear activities.

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany have tried to entice Iran into suspending uranium enrichment by offering a package of economic, technological and political incentives.

Iran said Tuesday that it would only give a clear response to this offer when it gets a clear response on questions it has about the incentives.

The United States and others accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian atomic energy program. Iran denies the charge, insisting its program is peaceful, but it has thus far refused to halt enriching uranium, a process that can produce the ingredients for a bomb.

Iran currently is under three sets of U.N. Security Council sanctions and could soon face a fourth unless it accepts the incentives package.

http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5j9EVzzCsT-QwKFtWDzgF6ZLue6BgD92E2KQO0