Hanford

Congressional delegation to Trump: Support Hanford cleanup

Workers at the Hanford 618-10 Burial Ground north of Richland are making progress on removing and treating radioactive waste dropped down pipes buried vertically in the ground.
Workers at the Hanford 618-10 Burial Ground north of Richland are making progress on removing and treating radioactive waste dropped down pipes buried vertically in the ground. Tri-City Herald file

The entire Washington state congressional delegation called on President-elect Donald Trump to make environmental cleanup of the Hanford nuclear reservation a priority for his administration.

Both senators and all 10 representatives from Washington state signed off on the bipartisan letter sent to Trump on Monday. The effort was led by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

“We believe, with your strong support, we can continue the vital nuclear waste cleanup and environmental remediation work currently underway at Hanford,” the letter said. “This work is essential to protecting the health and safety of the Tri-Cities community, the Columbia River, Washington state and our nation.”

Previous administrations and Congress have recognized the legal and moral obligation of the federal government to clean up Hanford, and the Trump administration must do the same, the letter said.

“A critical component to this support is proper funding levels, which enables progress and ensures our top priority — worker safety — is achieved while these dangerous cleanup operations take place.

The safety of more than 9,000 Hanford workers is at stake, as they continue what the congressional delegation called “a remarkable job.”

This is the largest and most complex environmental remediation project in the nation and is critical to ensuring the safety and well-being of those who live both in the Tri-Cities and downstream of Hanford along the Columbia River.

Letter signed by all U.S. senators and representatives from Washington state

Hanford is contaminated from the production of more than 65 percent of the plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program from World War II through the Cold War.

The site has about 56 million gallons of radioactive waste stored in underground tanks, thousands of tons of used nuclear fuel, large volumes of solid radioactive waste, thousands of excess facilities and contaminated soil and groundwater.

Substantial progress has been made at the 580-square-mile site to take down the contaminated buildings and dig up the contaminated soil and debris near the Columbia River.

But much work remains in addition to emptying leak-prone underground waste tanks and treating the waste at the vitrification plant under construction to allow permanent disposal of the waste.

The 324 Building just north of Richland near the Columbia River sits over a spill of highly radioactive waste, the letter pointed out. In addition, a long list of waste sites and buildings in central Hanford still need to be cleaned up.

“This is the largest and most complex environmental remediation project in the nation and is critical to ensuring the safety and well-being of those who live both in the Tri-Cities and downstream of Hanford along the Columbia River,” the letter said.

The Washington state congressional delegation said members look forward to discussing Hanford cleanup in more detail with the incoming president and his administration in the coming days and months.

Annette Cary: 509-582-1533, @HanfordNews

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