Letter: Penny wise, pound foolish

May 19, 2014 

The news item on closure of the Hanford Waste Sampling and Characterization Laboratory in Wednesday's paper looks like another stupid decision tied to bean-counting.

If the present active agreement on management of the Hanford Tank Waste is to be implemented, with earlier and larger-scale processing of selected Tank Waste without separation, there is a critical role for tank inventory characterization and gating of contents between the selected borosilicate composition and iron phosphate glasses more suited to some tank contents, as well as batching details for two main glass types, including dilution factors.

Ideally, this key activity, essential to glass batching conditions, should be a high-profile, world-class operation, and not a poor-sister subcontract, where the institutional memories of it technical staff can be arbitrarily scrapped. Quality is imperative to maximize confidence in glass-fixed waste that will stay at Hanford forever.

Excellent analytical support, in combination with higher-capacity melters, in conjunction with abandonment of the flawed idea of chemical separation, could resolve the entire challenge of the Hanford Tank Wastes in about 10 years -- with no residue. But this outcome will not be achieve if we choose to shoot our brains out.

JOHN F. WILLIFORD, Richland

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