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Triay says DOE will fulfill tank waste cleanup

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is committed to keeping its promises on disposal of high-level radioactive waste from Hanford and other Department of Energy weapons cleanup sites, said Ines Triay, DOE assistant secretary for environmental cleanup.

She spoke Wednesday at the first 2010 briefing for the bipartisan House Nuclear Cleanup Caucus organized by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., to provide information on DOE environmental cleanup to members of Congress and their staff.

President Obama is terminating plans for the Yucca Mountain, Nev., repository, where Hanford's high-level radioactive waste and irradiated nuclear fuel was intended to go.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu appointed a Blue Ribbon Commission to look at options for defense waste and used commercial nuclear power fuel that would have gone to Yucca Mountain for disposal.

Triay said she was encouraged by the caliber of people appointed to the commission.

"Those kind of powerful minds can come together to designate a path forward that is going to make a future for high-level waste and spent nuclear fuel more robust," she said.

It also gives the DOE environmental cleanup program an opportunity to have new strategies and technologies for high-level waste vetted by the commission, she said.

Technology and science need to be used to come up with strategies that improve the efficiency of dealing with high-level radioactive waste, she said.

"The energy secretary feels strongly we need to make an investment in this area to do this work better," she said.

Hanford has 53 million gallons of radioactive waste in underground tanks. Plans call for emptying leak-prone tanks that date to as early as World War II and turning the waste into a stable glass form at the $12.2 billion vitrification plant under construction.

Vitrified high-level waste will have to be stored temporarily at Hanford without Yucca Mountain being available, but Tri-City leaders are concerned that the waste would remain permanently at Hanford.

The Obama administration's proposed 2011 budget for DOE environmental cleanup includes $60 million to develop tank waste technologies and $25 million to better understand how ground water contamination spreads at sites such as Hanford.

It also includes a $50 million increase in funding for the Hanford vitrification plant to help reduce risks that might prevent the plant from being ready to treat tank waste in 2019 or drive its cost above the budgeted $12.2 billion.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; more Hanford news at hanfordnews.com

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