PULLMAN – Nuclear power, weapons, and waste disposal remain a topic rife with controversy. Cleanup will require a Herculean effort, along with massive funding. Accidents continue, promises remain unfulfilled, and Washington State regulators may file a lawsuit against the federal government.
The sobering legacy encompasses 3750 square miles of land involved in the U.S. nuclear weapons complex; approximately 59 tons of bomb-grade plutonium produced at the Hanford site by the time it closed in 1989; 18 metric tons of leftover weapons-usable plutonium—enough for thousands of nuclear weapons; 1.7 trillion gallons of contaminated ground water—an amount equal to approximately four times the daily U.S. water consumption; 40 million cubic meters of contaminated soil and debris—enough to fill approximately 17 professional sports stadiums; and 75 million cubic meters of contaminated soil—enough to cover the entire island of Manhattan more than five feet deep.

Now WSU Press has released a new book on the subject. America’s Nuclear Wastelands uses non-technical language to present a brief overview of nuclear weapons history and contamination issues, as well as a description of the current institutional and political environment. The volume provides a background for understanding the major value conflicts and associated political dynamics, and makes recommendations for navigating long-term stewardship. However, the key purpose is to demonstrate the critical role of public participation, and in so doing, encourage citizens to take action regarding local and national policies related to nuclear production and waste disposal.

Although the author, Dr. Max S. Power, is a government consultant with a long career in Pacific Northwest nuclear waste issues, he has taken the extra step of having the text evaluated by several other experts for accuracy, including May Lou Blazek-Smith, a former director of the Nuclear Safety Division of the Oregon Department of Energy, Ken Niles, the current director, Todd Martin, Chair of the Hanford Advisory Board, Professor Jonathan Brock, Chair of the Hanford Concerns Council, and Kathleen Trever, head of the Idaho National Laboratory oversight office.

Another reviewer, Tom Carpenter, Executive Director of Hanford Challenge, made the following comment after he read the manuscript. “Max Power has managed to capture 60 years of nuclear history—tackling technical, political and societal issues—in a readable and entertaining book. His insider knowledge from decades of personal involvement provides fascinating true-life stories to illustrate his points and bring the material to life.”

Sites discussed include the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, the Rocky Flats Plant, the Idaho National Engineering Lab, the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, the Weldon Spring Plant, the Los Alamos National Lab, Sandia National Labs, the Waste Isolation Plant in Carlsbad, Yucca Mountain, the West Valley Demonstration Project, Brookhaven National Lab, the Feed Materials Production Center in Fernald, the Savannah River Site, the Oak Ridge X-10 National lab, Hanford, and the Pacific NW National Lab.

Available in paperback, the volume is 5 ½” x 8 ¼”, 216 pages, and has a list price of $19.95. It is available at bookstores or can be ordered directly from WSU Press by calling 800-354-7360 or online at wsupress.wsu.edu.