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 to the health of the public exposed, 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 Over one million gallons of High-Level Nuclear Waste has already leaked from Hanford's outdated and compromised waste storage system, a fact that lends urgency and significance to Heart of America Northwest's work.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 meeting with officials, our members and board members.
Grassroots organizing to ensure timely clean-up at Hanford and the implementation of the 'Clean-Up First' principle: We have active organizing committees and members in multiple cities across Washington and Oregon, and the staff community organizer works with them, volunteers, college classes and other area environmental organizations to mobilize and inform the public on Hanford issues. Key components of our organizing are public workshops, university outreach, and utilizing 'new media,' including facebook, blogging, and twitter. Increasing public involvement and coalition building are the focus of our grassroots organizing efforts. In 2009-2010, we will employ grassroots organizing to oppose three USDOE plans to add radioactive and hazardous wastes to Hanford. Our multi-pronged strategy includes an organizing plan to have Washington State adopt the principle of 'Clean-Up First' in Hanford's state hazardous waste permit. This will stop USDOE from adding waste while existing contamination is not cleaned up and wastes are not in compliance. We have already secured a commitment in 2009 to legislators that such language will be in the permit. If not, our multi-pronged strategy will have us return to the Legislature to direct this to happen.
Highly Credible Research & Analysis Heart of America Northwest researches and analyzes every major decision announced that pertains to Hanford clean-up and the importation of off-site wastes to Hanford. We use this research to create quarterly Citizens' Guides, factsheets 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: soil and groundwater contamination; the Department of Energy's recently discontinued practice of using unlined dump sites for radioactive wastes; endangered salmon that spawn in the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River; and the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. In 2010, much of Heart of America Northwest's research efforts will turn toward the draft Tank Closure and Waste Management Environmental Impact Statement. We will gather a team of experts to analyze the 7,000 page document and the proposed environmental impacts of Hanford's current wastes and the importation of off-site wastes to Hanford. As new documents and decisions are announced, Heart of America Northwest allots time and resources to review, research and analyze each one. The next few years are of critical importance for this work, as Hanford is again proposed as a site for a national radioactive and toxic waste dump.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
Heart of America Northwest's recent organizing efforts turned out hundreds of members of the public to protest against delays to cleaning up the High-Level nuclear waste at the Hanford site. In Fall 2009, we mobilized citizens and the press to pressure the US Department of Energy on a plan they had to ship the hottest type of low-level radioactive waste to Hanford, called Greater Than Class C wastes. After public outcry and an editorial in the Oregonian that relied on our research, the Department of Energy released a statement that they do not intend to ship these wastes for disposal at Hanford. This was a major victory for Heart of America Northwest's grassroots organizing efforts. Heart of America Northwest has consistently led the regional effort to stop use of Hanford as a national radioactive waste dump â€“ including leading the coalition which drafted Initiative 297 and passed it in 2004 with the highest vote total in state history to that date. I-297 sought to adopt the common-sense principle of â€œClean-Up Firstâ€: requiring that existing wastes be brought into compliance and cleaned up before more waste is dumped at a contaminated site.
Heart of America Northwest's funding took a serious downturn as the economy slipped over the past year. Our lean budget comes at a critical time for Heart of America Northwest, however, because many important Hanford decisions are slated to be made in 2010. Topping our list of concerns is the recent release of an Environmental Impact Statement that prefers the alternative to use Hanford as a national radioactive & toxic waste dump starting in the year 2022. Although our resources are slim, we will analyze and review the document and organize the public and other environmental groups to make informed comments and become actively involved in the decision-making process as it pertains to Hanford. We will fight to prevent Hanford from becoming a national radioactive waste dump and protect the Northwest's environmental and public health, but we need individual and community support to do so.