DOE advisory board meets quietly at Hanford

RICHLAND — A Department of Energy national advisory board subcommittee is meeting in the Tri-Cities, but much of the talk will be behind closed doors.

The DOE Environmental Management Advisory Board Tank Waste Subcommittee will meet at the Courtyard Marriot on Columbia Point in Richland through Wednesday.

The subcommittee will open the session from 2 to 5 p.m. today to meet with the tribes, states and others interested in Hanford. However, no further agenda was released by DOE.

The Hanford Advisory Board has urged DOE to open the subcommittees meetings to the public, saying closing it is legal, but contrary to the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which emphasizes open meetings and public involvement.

It also runs counter to President Obama's direction to all federal agencies to create "an unprecedented level of openness in government" with a "system of transparency, public participation and collaboration," the board reminded DOE in advice to the agency in September.

The board has "seen what can happen when significant changes to the direction of Hanford cleanup are proposed in closed forums, and which are then pursued without stakeholder or regulator buy-in, as happened with the tank waste treatment privatization effort and the pursuit of bulk vitrification," it told DOE.

"These and other such proposals resulted in delays and unnecessary costs," it said.

DOE replied in a letter to the Hanford Advisory Board that it "has endeavored to conduct its activities in an open and transparent manner."

But it pointed out that subcommittee meetings are not required to be open to the public because it reports to the full board during open meetings. The next report is Feb. 24 in Henderson, Nev.

The subcommittee provides independent review of technical issues in the environmental cleanup at Hanford related to underground tanks holding 53 million gallons of radioactive waste and the $12.2 billion vitrification plant being built to treat the waste for disposal.

* Annette Cary: 509-582-1533;