Hanford permit revision to take 2 years

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 22, 2013 

The Washington State Department of Ecology will take an estimated two more years to issue its first full revision of the Hanford Facility Dangerous Waste Permit since 1994.

The state received more than 4,000 comments on the draft revised permit, which is more than 14,000 pages long, and will be making revisions in response to them.

The two years will be spent revising the permit and then reopening the public comment period for changed sections of the permit. Those comments then will be addressed and the latest version of the permit will be issued.

The state already has worked on the draft permit reissue for about three years.

The comments received on the initial draft include a mix of mostly technical comments received primarily from the Department of Energy and some policy questions raised by the general public, said Jane Hedges, manager of the Department of Ecology's nuclear waste program.

Some of DOE's technical comments on the permit were made several times, repeated for different areas of the nuclear reservation.

The state still is considering which policy issues should be addressed, but that likely will primarily require better clarity in the document rather than changes in policy, Hedges said.

The state repeatedly heard concerns that waste might be imported to Hanford, which the draft permit does not specifically ban. However, the draft permit also does not allow most waste to imported because it is not among the wastes the draft permit specifies may be managed and disposed of at Hanford.

The state will be looking at how to explain that in the document in a way the public can readily understand, Hedges said.

Now the state is prohibiting sending most radiological waste mixed with hazardous chemicals to Hanford until the vitrification plant under construction is at full operation in about 2022 to treat radioactive waste for disposal.

While the draft permit is being revised, Hanford will continue to be regulated under the old permit, which is frequently updated.

The permit regulates the treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous chemical waste and radioactive waste mixed with hazardous chemicals. The draft permit breaks up Hanford into 39 separate units, such as the vitrification plant, and outlines rules for each.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @HanfordNews

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