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Energy | Environment

Report Raises Issues With Hanford's Waste Treatment Plant

This week Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon is on a fact-finding mission of Hanford’s waste treatment plant.

This week Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon is on a fact-finding mission of Hanford’s waste treatment plant.

Department of Energy

RICHLAND, Wash. – This week Senator Ron Wyden is on a fact-finding mission at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington. The Oregon Democrat chairs a key committee that shares jurisdiction over a $12 billion waste treatment plant being built at Hanford. Soon, the main contractor on that project might face hefty fines.

The punishment stems from an investigation of the troubled plant by the U.S. Department of Energy. The findings in that report are startling.

At Hanford, there’s a slow grinding conversation in paper going back and forth, back and forth. In scientific-speak and legalese these reports have slapped down between government agencies, contractors and watchdogs. Lately, that conversation has been getting terser.

And it’s raising major questions about the waste treatment plant, says Tom Carpenter. He’s the head of the Seattle-based watchdog group Hanford Challenge.

“How bad is it? Is this plant really salvageable at this point? If so what do we need to do to fix it, what will it cost, how long will it take?” Carpenter asks.

This report was circulated and leaked in November — but here, we’re taking a closer look at what it says. The document was drafted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s investigative and enforcement arm. Even its name is a mouthful: The Office of Health, Safety and Security’s Office of Enforcement and Oversight.

The report is a pretty dry read – but if you look close, it includes some serious concerns.

First, just a tiny bit of history. This waste treatment, aka vitrification plant, is a 65-acre complex. It looks like downtown high-rises smashed together with a major-league stadium. The massive factory is supposed to treat 56 million gallons of radioactive goo.

Yes, goo… continue reading at Northwest News Network.

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