Inslee offers staff meeting with TRIDEC about Hanford

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldApril 30, 2014 

The governor and attorney general have offered to have staff meet with the Tri-City Development Council to discuss TRIDEC's concerns about the state's focus at Hanford.

TRIDEC is concerned that the state's interest in Hanford waste tanks and the vitrification plant being built to treat the waste could shortchange other important environmental cleanup at the nuclear reservation.

"We are really looking forward to having the meetings," said Gary Petersen, TRIDEC vice president of Hanford programs. "We want to explain the local community's position on what we think is the higher risk, particularly understanding there is limited federal funding."

TRIDEC sent Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson a letter in mid-April saying budget increases for the work in its proposed amendment to Hanford's court-enforced consent decree could pull money from other Hanford work.

TRIDEC estimated the proposed consent decree would add $300 million to $400 million to annual costs at Hanford. That does not include adding at least eight more leak-proof storage tanks, which the state wants. Estimates on costs of designing and building tanks have varied, but TRIDEC estimates the cost for the eight tanks at $800 million.

Inslee should understand federal funding realities as a former congressman, Petersen said.

Since TRIDEC sent the letter, the Department of Energy has rejected the state's proposal and initiated 40 days of good faith negotiation, as required under the 2010 consent decree, which addresses tank waste and its treatment. If the state and federal governments cannot reach agreement, the state might then return to federal court to request an order directing DOE to meet the requirements of the state's plan.

TRIDEC is concerned that work could be further delayed on what it believes are more pressing projects if a judge orders more money spent on tank-related work. Among those concerns are radioactive waste stored underwater at the K West Basin near the Columbia River, strontium and cesium capsules stored underwater that could be at risk in a severe earthquake, and a central Hanford uranium plume that is threatening groundwater.

Inslee and Ferguson sent a letter to TRIDEC this week saying they acknowledge that one of the biggest challenges at Hanford is getting enough federal money to keep the cleanup on track, both at Hanford and in other states with DOE weapons sites.

"We remain committed to working with other states and the federal government to develop solutions that are technically feasible, economically efficient and environmentally protective," the letter said. "We need the federal government to commit sufficient resources to get the job done."

Addressing Hanford's 56 million gallons of radioactive waste held in underground tanks and other Hanford work "is not an either or proposition for DOE," the letter said.

The Tri-Party Agreement sets deadlines for key projects listed by TRIDEC, the letter said.

"The state expects DOE to comply with those legal requirements just as we expect DOE to comply with federal court requirements applicable to Hanford's tank waste," the letter said.

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

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