Just how clean is clean when it comes to removing radioactive tank waste? That’s one of the questions tackled in a new federal plan that will guide cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
After about 10 years of development, it’s being published in the federal register Friday.
The document says Hanford’s huge tanks of radioactive sludge should be emptied as much as possible and filled with some sort of grout or stabilizing material. But it says that the tank itself should be left in the ground.
That’s controversial. Some Hanford stakeholders believe that contaminated soil beneath the tanks from leaks should be dug up too.
Suzanne Dahl is with the Washington State Department of Ecology. She says this document reflects the best available science, but leaves big decisions like whether Hanford will ever get more radioactive waste for disposal.
“The site already has such a risk burden, from all the other contamination that already exists here, that we can’t take a lot of offsite waste if any,” says Dahl.
That decision will be made in 2019 or when Hanford has an up-and running Waste Treatment Plant to stabilize all that sludge.