President Donald Trump is a man who likes to get things done and that could mean progress on cleanup of the Hanford nuclear reservation, said the communications director for the Environmental Protection Agency’s transition team.
Washington state Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, was tapped by Trump as one of 10 people for the EPA’s transition team.
He is serving in that temporary role while continuing as a member of the state Legislature, including serving as chairman of the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee.
He criticized the pace of environmental cleanup of Hanford during a news conference in Olympia on Thursday morning, after flying in from Washington, D.C.
The federal government has been spending about $2.3 billion in recent years on the work.
“We have been in a holding, delay pattern for far too long,” he said. “Hopefully, we will change our tune and start getting things done. That will be the new direction for the EPA.”
EPA and the Washington state Department of Ecology are regulators for Hanford. They and the Department of Energy signed the Tri-Party Agreement, which lays out a legally binding cleanup plan and deadlines for Hanford. The agreement is frequently updated.
Trump’s “get-it-done” philosophy “hopefully will be applied to Hanford,” Ericksen said. “We are going to be moving forward with that at a much better pace than the previous administration.”
We have been in a holding, delay pattern for far too long. Hopefully, we will change our tune and start getting things done. That will be the new direction for the EPA.
Washington state Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale
Ericksen also will work toward that goal in his role as chairman of the Senate committee, he said.
He is not interested in a permanent job in Washington, D.C., but would consider a regional appointment to an agency such as the EPA, he said.
He gave no details on how the pace of cleanup might be accelerated.
Work on the Hanford vitrification plant has had multiple delays and new deadlines have been set many times. Most recently a federal judge said the plant needed to be treating low activity radioactive waste in 2023 and be fully operational in 2036.
Those deadlines replaced a previous deadline set in 2011 requiring the plant to be fulling operating in 2022.
Among issues causing the latest delay was a need to address technical issues to make sure the plant operates safely. Some cleanup also has been slowed as protections are increased for workers at risk of being exposed to chemical vapors associated with waste in underground tanks.
Hanford has 56 million gallons of radioactive and hazardous chemical waste held in underground tanks from the past production of plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program. The vitrification plant is being built to turn that waste, some of it dating back to World War II, into a stable glass form for disposal.
Hanford cleanup has made progress on other projects.
With cleanup completed on much of the nuclear reservation along the Columbia River in recent years, the 580-square-mile nuclear reservation is left with remaining work on 82 square miles.
Other progress has included moving 2,300 tons of used fuel to dry storage; cleaning 15.6 billion gallons of contaminated groundwater; demolishing 428 buildings or other facilities, many of them highly contaminated; and cleaning up 977 waste sites.