Wash. Officials Shocked By Energy Secretary’s Hanford Remark

Feb 21, 2012

PASCO, Wash. – Washington state officials are reacting negatively to the possibility that there might be a delay to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation’s massive waste treatment plant. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu raised that prospect in comments last week.

Secretary Chu said Hanford’s waste treatment plant has so many technical issues and the federal budget is so strained that the schedule to get it built by 2019 might slip.

That was news to many Washington state officials in the Department of Ecology and the Attorney General’s office. Both agencies helped negotiate the new consent decree two years ago in a federal court in Spokane.

And U.S. Senator Patty Murray -– on a visit to Pasco, Washington -- said she plans on holding the Department of Energy accountable to the promised timeline.

“Every budget request that is coming to us is less than what we believe is necessary. Those are the times that we live in," Murray says.
"I am working with DOE to make sure that those budget numbers will meet the milestones that they signed into law.”

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire said budget concerns should not undermine the federal government’s responsibility to clean up Hanford.

Beyond Chu’s comments, the state of Washington hasn’t received any official notice that Energy won’t meet its agreed upon deadlines.

Copyright 2011 Northwest Public Radio