No annual public meeting on Hanford has been set in the Tri-Cities this year.
The Department of Energy has agreed to one meeting similar to the Hanford nuclear reservation State of the Site meetings that once were held each year. But rather than hold it in the Tri-Cities, it will be in Hood River, Ore.
Called the Hanford Regional Dialogue, it will be at the Best Western Plus Hood River Inn, 1108 E. Marina Drive, at 6 p.m. Nov. 1.
Like the State of the Site meetings, key leaders from the Department of Energy and its regulators — the Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington state Department of Ecology — are expected to give overviews of environmental cleanup work and answer questions.
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Breakout group discussions are planned on topics such as cleanup priorities, aging infrastructure and plans to treat 56 million gallons of radioactive and hazardous chemical waste for disposal.
In past State of the Site meetings, people have asked about rumored layoffs, pension changes, chemical vapor exposures and the future use of land that has been cleaned up. They have shared their opinions on priorities for cleanup and protection of workers, the public and the environment.
The Hanford Advisory Board recommended almost a year ago that the agencies provide annual State of the Site meetings around the region in spring 2018.
“The board believes that in-person meetings with decision makers demonstrate a true commitment to the goals of transparency and public policy deliberation,” the board said.
It has made similar requests in the past.
The agencies replied to the board in April that “multiple meetings would be desirable.” But they planned to start with a single public session outside of the Tri-Cities in the near future.
DOE said this week that it wanted to hold one regional meeting and then evaluate the event before deciding whether to hold more meetings. DOE, rather than its regulators, organizes the sessions.
The agencies held a virtual State of the Site on the internet last year, but have not held an in-person State of the Site since spring 2014. The meeting in Richland that year drew 250 people.
For several years before that, the meetings were held sporadically rather than annually.
The Hanford Advisory Board told DOE and its regulators that State of the Site meetings — with wide-ranging discussions and give and take between the public and leadership — are better suited for in-person meetings.
In 2015, with no State of the Site meetings scheduled, Columbia Riverkeeper, Hanford Challenge, Heart of America Northwest and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility organized their own meetings around the region as an alternative.
EPA and the Department of Ecology participated, but DOE did not.
Ecology officials said at the time that it was important to address public concerns in an open forum, whether the forum was organized by government agencies or citizen groups.
The meetings give the public, Hanford workers and workers’ families a chance to ask questions on any topic and hear directly from top Hanford officials. Occasional other public meetings are held through the year, but they are limited to specific topics.