PASCO — The states of Washington and Oregon teamed up Tuesday night to tell the Department of Energy that bringing more radioactive waste to Hanford would be a bad idea.
"It is inconceivable to us that U.S. DOE would spend billions of dollars to try to clean up the environmental damage at Hanford, yet ignore that work by proposing to dispose of additional highly radioactive wastes on the site," said Ron Skinnarland of the Washington State Department of Ecology, reading from a joint Washington and Oregon state letter to DOE.
DOE held its seventh public hearing in a series across the nation in Pasco to discuss a draft environmental study that considered options for disposal of the nation's greater than class C low-level radioactive waste and similar nondefense waste.
The amount of waste is relatively small at 190,000 cubic feet of radioactive waste being stored at sites elsewhere in the nation, plus 230,000 cubic feet of waste expected to be generated during the next 60 years. The waste would cover a football field about seven foot deep.
But it has high radioactivity of about 160 million curies. In comparison, the 53 million gallons of waste awaiting treatment in Hanford underground tanks have about 190 million curies.
Most of the radioactivity is in activated metals from nuclear reactors being decontaminated or decommissioned.
It also includes concentrated radioactive materials previously used for medical use, such as diagnosing and treating cancer. Unneeded sealed sources are stored at hospitals, construction sites and universities until they can be disposed of, which poses a national security risk, according to DOE. Their concentrated radioactivity and portability could make them a source for dirty bombs, it said.
DOE is considering disposing of the waste in shallow trenches, deeper boreholes or above-grade vaults at Hanford or at sites in Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico or South Carolina. It also is looking at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, the nation's repository for defense waste -- and only defense waste -- contaminated with plutonium or other transuranic waste.
Yucca Mountain, Nev., the nation's proposed repository for high-level radioactive waste has been taken off the table as an option for the greater than class C waste after the Obama administration moved to shut it down.
"We already have a wonderful place to put this waste -- Yucca Mountain," said Janet Johnson of Pasco, at the hearing. "(Yucca) is sitting there. It's waiting. America can't be stupid enough to let it happen."
The Department of Energy did not hear any support for bringing more radioactive waste to Hanford at the Pasco hearing. About 30 people attended, but few spoke.
DOE already has agreed to a moratorium on importing greater than class C waste to Hanford at least until the Hanford vitrification plant is fully running, likely in 2022. That is included as the preferred alternative in another environmental study, the draft Hanford Tank Closure and Waste Management Environmental Impact Statement.
That draft study showed that waste already planned to be disposed of at Hanford would exceed environmental limits for certain radioactive isotopes.
Extensive contamination will remain at Hanford even when work is complete, despite decades of work and tens of billions of dollars spent, Skinnarland said.
Washington and Oregon are disappointed that the draft environmental study prepared on greater than class C waste continues to list Hanford as a viable location for disposal of that highly radioactive waste, he said.
The next hearing is planned Thursday in Portland.
Public comment will be accepted until June 27 at www.gtcceis.anl.gov or Greater-Than-Class C Low-Level Radioactive Waste EIS, Office of Technical and Regulatory Support (EM-43), U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Ave. S.W., Washington, D.C., 20585-0119.
-- Annette Cary: 509-582-1533; firstname.lastname@example.org; More Hanford news at hanfordnews.com.