with a Supplement by Donald E. White
The geologic and some hydrologic aspects of BWIP [Basalt – Waste Isolation Project 1 (excluding geochemical relations) are unfavorable enough to raise serious questions about its eventual suitability as a repository. Most of these questions can either be resolved or intensified, perhaps fatally, prior to major construction commitments.
— Donald E. White, Ph.D., U . S. Geological Survey
A major reason for considering basalt for repositories is its abundance in Federal land near Hanford, Washington, and the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory and not its overall favorable characteristics.
— Panel on Radioactive Waste Isolation Systems of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences
The construction of a radioactive waste repository at Hanford and the subsequent placement of high-level wastes in it is likely to be a dangerous mining operation with possible high costs in lives and money. The geologic and hydrologic characteristics may be so adverse that the site could violate every one of the major performance standards required by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Moreover, the site may be so complex that it may be difficult to have reasonable confidence that it will contain the wastes, as required, even after long and expensive efforts at site characterization.
For these reasons, a number of people and institutions, including the National Academy of Sciences panel on Waste Isolation, have concluded that the choice of Hanford, among the three sites chosen as the most likely ones for the first repository, would appear to be more politically expedient than technically sound. One of the other two proposed locations, on the Nevada Test Site, is also on federal land. The only private land site is in Deaf Smith County, Texas, one of the richest agricultural areas of the country. Examination of basalt and tuff was undertaken because DOE saw advantages in locating a repository on federal/DOE controlled land rather than on the inherent suitability of these rock formations.
Hanford, in south central Washington State, has been a principal center for federal nuclear activities since 1943. The plutonium for the Nagasaki bomb was made there. There is one large operating nuclear reactor (the N-reactor), a plutonium-fueled test reactor (FFTF), one nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, and a variety of research projects on the site. Fifty million gallons of high-level radioactive wastes are stored there, in addition .to millions of cubic feet of other radioactive wastes. The Columbia River, one of the country’s largest, flows through the site. The radioactive waste disposal repository would be about 5 miles from the nearest point on the river. Both surface water and groundwater are used for irrigation, which is widespread in the larger region.