Delayed Hanford Waste Decision Nettles Washington Regulators

Apr 19, 2012

A draft environmental plan for the Hanford Nuclear Reservation puts off a decision on how to treat a big portion of nuclear tank waste at the southeast Washington site. We’re talking about what to do with radioactive gunk called low-activity waste. The delay of that decision is nettling Washington’s Ecology department. Correspondent Anna King reports.

This environmental impact statement has been in the works for eight years. The plan details how most of the radioactive waste should be cleaned up. But now, the federal government says it needs additional time to find more cost effective ways to care for low-activity waste. Suzanne Dahl is the lead tank waste expert for Washington’s Ecology department. She says there’s already a plant in the works to treat low-activity waste. Dahl says the federal government has spent a lot of money exhaustively studying many alternatives.

Suzanne Dahl: “We shouldn’t be sort of waiting for a new technology to develop when we know we have one in hand.”

Lori Gamache is a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Energy. She says her agency legally has until the fall of 2014 to make a decision about Hanford’s low-activity waste.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio