Heart of America Northwest Research Center Programs
The Hanford Nuclear Reservation is the most contaminated area in the western hemisphere, and radioactive contamination is already causing serious harm to the Columbia River, salmon and other wildlife, and the health of the exposed workers and members of the public—especially Native Americans exercising their treaty rights to fish the Columbia. Over one million gallons of High-Level Nuclear Waste has already leaked from Hanford's outdated and compromised waste storage system—a fact that lends urgency and significance to Heart of America Northwest's work.
We believe in the 'Clean-Up First' Principle—the most basic environmental principle—that existing wastes at Hanford must be cleaned up and brought into compliance before off-site wastes are added. The Heart of America Northwest office is based in Seattle, but we travel frequently throughout Oregon and Washington to public meetings, hearings, special events and to meet with officials, our members and board members. We also sit on the Hanford Advisory Board and thereby influence cleanup standards in collaboration with other citizens’ groups and government organizations overseeing the cleanup.
Grassroots Organizing: We have active organizing committees and members in multiple cities across Washington and Oregon. Our Lutheran Volunteer Corps intern works closely with our members, volunteers, college classes and service-learning students from the University of Washington and Seattle University, and other local environmental organizations to mobilize and inform the public on Hanford issues. Key components of our organizing are public workshops, university outreach, and utilizing social media, including facebook and twitter. The focus of our grassroots organizing efforts is to increase public involvement and building coalitions.
Highly Credible Research & Analysis: Heart of America Northwest researches and analyzes every major decision announced that pertains to Hanford cleanup. We use this research to create quarterly Citizens' Guides, factsheets, email newsletters, and other publications to mobilize and inform the public. In addition, Heart of America Northwest researches and publishes reports on Hanford. Our most recent research efforts have focused on the confirmation of leaking single-shelled tanks at Hanford that are leaching toxins into the soil; the enormously high radioactive exposure that Native Americans face in a risk scenario investigating their use of the land and resources surrounding Hanford; and earthquake risks and the questionable financial efficiency of the fully-operational Columbia Generating Station—the nuclear power plant that sits on the Hanford Reservation and is of a very similar design to Fukushima. As new documents and decisions are announced, Heart of America Northwest allots time and resources to review, research, and analyze each one.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
Heart of America Northwest's recent organizing efforts mobilized over a thousand Seattleites and the press to pressure the US Navy to reexamine cleanup standards for radioactive contamination it has left behind in Seattle’s Magnuson Park, formerly the Sand Point Naval Air Station. We created an online petition and cosponsored public meetings with over 150 attendees with speakers from Heart of America, the Department of Ecology, Seattle Parks, and the US Navy. The results of our efforts included the approval by Seattle’s mayor for the creation of a Citizen’s Advisory Committee to oversee the cleanup, as well as the expansion of the test area to include residential areas in the park.
Heart of America Northwest is working to protect the safety of the region and our ratepayers from the Columbia Generating Station, the last remaining nuclear power plant in the Pacific Northwest. The plant happens to be located on the already-contaminated Hanford Nuclear Reservation. In the past few decades, the CGS has generated as much waste to match all of the waste at Hanford from nuclear weapons production. It also sits next to the Columbia River and faces serious infrastructure concerns related to earthquake risks in the area. Our research and advocacy is aimed at preventing a nuclear catastrophe and protecting ratepayers from continuing to waste hundreds of millions of dollars on overly expensive nuclear power for Seattle, Snohomish and other publicly owned utilities.
In addition to involving the public in decisions about Hanford, local toxic waste sites and energy decisions, we train and involve college and university students to be effective environmental professionals or citizen advocates.