Congress needs vit plant plan soon

Tri-City HeraldAugust 9, 2013 

— Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., is pushing for the Department of Energy to release a plan soon for the Hanford tank farms and vitrification plant to treat the tank waste, she said Thursday.

She spoke with new Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Tuesday, two days before touring Hanford historic sites and holding a brief press conference at Hanford’s B Reactor.

“I was very clear to him that we could not wait any longer for a comprehensive plan,” she said.

Critical budget decisions will be made this fall on Hanford spending and she’ll need to know details of DOE’s plan by then, she said. “I need to be able to share with the Senate and House exactly what the money is going to be spent for,” she said.

Work has been stopped at the Hanford vitrification plant’s Pretreatment Facility until technical issues can be addressed, possibly by adding facilities at Hanford tanks outside the vit plant to prepare waste for treatment or add additional storage for waste.

Former Energy Secretary Steven Chu launched a project in fall 2012 to resolve technical issues, including unplanned nuclear reactions or corrosion that could limit the life of the vit plant.

Since then, up to six underground single-shell tanks have been discovered to be leaking and questions have been raised about whether a double-shell tank that has a leak from its interior shell also has been leaking waste from its outer shell.

Radiation readings related to the tank’s leak detection pit concerned Hanford officials in June. Tests are ongoing, but Moniz believes the waste in the pit is not from the double-shell tank, Murray said.

Murray also discussed the need for openness from DOE officials, saying she has been clear with Moniz that the public needs to understand environmental cleanup at the nuclear reservation.

If the public does not understand cleanup, Congress will be unwilling to provide money for it, she said.

DOE officials in Washington, D.C., have been restricting what information Hanford officials can discuss with the Herald and what contractors may share with their employees on cleanup projects across the nuclear reservation.

Annette Cary: 582-1533;; Twitter: @HanfordNews

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