Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire is scheduled to come to the Tri-Cities this week to speak in person to the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future.
President Obama ordered the commission formed as his administration moved to terminate the Yucca Mountain, Nev., repository, and the commission has been told not to consider the Nevada site.
Hanford's spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste treated at the vitrification plant under construction were expected to be sent to Yucca Mountain. Also, used fuel from Energy Northwest's nuclear power plant north of Richland was to be sent to Yucca Mountain.
The commission chose the Tri-Cities for its third meeting of the full panel to hear and see firsthand how large nuclear facilities affect a community as the panel prepares recommendations on how the nation should handle its nuclear waste.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Tri-City Herald
It's expected to hear from at least a dozen invited officials and organizations at the two-day meeting, plus has an hour reserved to take public comment Thursday.
It is scheduled to tour Energy Northwest and Hanford on Wednesday morning. The tour is expected to start with a look at the Columbia Generating Station and then visit Hanford projects dealing with high-level radioactive waste.
Commission members will see one of the tank farms, where some of Hanford's 53 million gallons of radioactive waste are stored underground, and the $12.3 billion vitrification plant being built to treat the tank waste. Other stops likely will include facilities where Hanford's spent nuclear fuel is stored and where 1,935 tubes of radioactive strontium and cesium are stored underwater.
About 80 members of the public will be allowed to shadow the commission on its visit, but seats were claimed within 20 minutes of the start of registration July 9.
After the tour, the commission plans a meeting open to the public from about 1:30 or 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at the Three Rivers Convention Center, 7016 W. Grandridge Blvd., Kennewick.
A final agenda still is being prepared, but Wednesday the panel is expected to hear comments from tribes with ties to Hanford. It also could hear from the Oregon Department of Energy, the Hanford Advisory Board, the Tri-City Development Council, Heart of America Northwest and Energy Northwest.
Thursday the board is expected to hear from elected officials, including Gregoire.
"It would be a mistake, at this late stage, to abandon Yucca Mountain as the national nuclear repository," she said in a statement last month.
Washington's two state senators and Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., were expected to be invited to send staff with statements on their behalf, since Congress will be in session.
Sen. Patty Murray and Hastings have made clear to the Department of Energy that since Congress picked Yucca Mountain as the site of the nation's high-level nuclear repository, DOE does not have the authority to shut down work on the project.
However, Sen. Maria Cantwell has said she's not in favor of opening Yucca Mountain until the government has a comprehensive plan in place to handle all nuclear waste.
The Hanford Communities, a coalition of local governments near Hanford, also is expected to speak to the commission.
Public comment was scheduled, according to an early draft of the agenda, from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday.
Although much of the interest in Washington state related to the Blue Ribbon Commission has focused on what will become of Hanford's waste, the panel also is addressing issues beyond how to establish disposal sites that are technically, politically and socially acceptable.
It will consider whether technical alternatives to using commercial fuel just once offer sufficient promise to warrant serious consideration. It also will consider whether the nation should change the way it stores used nuclear fuel and waste while disposal locations are established.
The panel is expected to have a draft report prepared with recommendations in July 2011.