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Radioactive Hanford Sludge Ages as Feds To Miss More Deadlines

US Department of Energy


Washington officials say they’re disappointed but not surprised by news that the federal government likely will miss several more cleanup deadlines at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. 

At Hanford, radioactive sludge stews in aging underground tanks not far from the Columbia River. A 1989 agreement created the timeline for treating that caustic gunk. But the task has proven extremely difficult: A waste treatment plant has been plagued by whistleblowers, critical federal investigations, cost overruns and delays.

Now, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz says that the federal government and its contractors will likely miss three more key deadlines before 2022, and possibly need to redesign major parts of the plant.

Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson called the news “yet another setback.”

And Suzanne Dahl, the tank waste treatment manger for the Washington Department of Ecology says the Waste Treatment Plant is essential. In her words: “We can’t afford to throw up our hands.”

Department of Energy statement: 

The Department of Energy notified the states of Washington and Oregon that a serious risk has arisen that the department may be unable to meet the consent decree milestone for completing hot commissioning of the low activity waste facility and two related milestones. The department is making these notifications out of an abundance of caution and looks forward to discussing the circumstances with the state as we continue to engage on a path forward.

Washington State Attorney General Statement:

Yesterday afternoon, the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) informed the Washington State Attorney General’s Office that the federal government is at substantial risk of failing to meet three more milestones ordered by the court in the 2010 Hanford Cleanup Consent Decree.With yesterday’s notice, all deadlines set in the Consent Decree for the construction and operation of Hanford’s Waste Treatment Plant (WTP) between now and 2022 appear to be at risk.Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued the following statement on the issue: “I am disappointed to learn that the federal government is now at serious risk of not meeting its legal deadlines on the critical clean-up milestones at Hanford. Today’s news is yet another setback in the federal government’s ability to meet its court-ordered obligations to Washington State as laid out in the consent decree. Our office will continue to work diligently to provide our state clients with every legal option available to protect the health and safety of Washington residents.”

Washington State Department of Ecology Statement:

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