Gov. Inslee tours Hanford site

March 6, 2013 

— After spending the day touring Hanford, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he was pleased to see a first step toward progress to address newly discovered leaking waste tanks at Hanford.

He agrees with the Department of Energy's plan to remove waste that could be classified as transuranic from some of the tanks as soon as possible.

However, he said it would take two to four years to start preparing to send that waste to New Mexico.

This would include getting New Mexico to agree to a change to the permit for the waste isolation pilot plant to accept the waste.

In addition to getting the permit changed it would have to take a lot of engineering to figure out how to do it, he said.

He said sending some waste to New Mexico rather than waiting to treat it at the vitrification plant is a good resolution for the people of the United States.

His visit comes on the heels of Tuesday’s announcement that the Department of Energy needs to cut $171 million from Hanford spending because of forced federal budget cuts called sequestration.

The largest cut will be to work managing 56 million gallons of radioactive waste held in aging underground tanks and to build the $12.2 billion vitrification plant to treat the waste for disposal. Those projects, both under the DOE Hanford Office of River Protection, will see an estimated reduction of $92 million.

The rest of the $171 million will come from a $79 million cut in spending on projects under the DOE Richland Operations Office, which is responsible for Hanford cleanup along the Columbia River, central Hanford cleanup except for the underground tanks, cleanup of contaminated groundwater and the overall operation of the nuclear reservation.

Waste from producing plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program has been stored in the tanks, some since World War II.

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