Hanford

Tri-City leaders tell Inslee to choose Ecology official carefully

Construction continues on the Hanford vitrification plant with ironworkers installing rebar at the top of the High-Level Waste Facility truck bay wall last fall.
Construction continues on the Hanford vitrification plant with ironworkers installing rebar at the top of the High-Level Waste Facility truck bay wall last fall.

Tri-City leaders are asking Gov. Jay Inslee to choose wisely when he names the next person in charge of regulating the Hanford nuclear reservation.

“Now is not a time for a lapse in state leadership when it comes to Hanford,” the mayors of the Tri-Cities and West Richland and the chairmen of the Benton and Franklin county commissions said in a letter sent this week to the governor.

Jane Hedges, the manager of the Washington Department of Ecology’s Nuclear Waste Program, gave four months notice at the first of November that she planned to retire. The state, along with the Environmental Protection Agency, oversees the Department of Energy’s nuclear reservation.

Now is not a time for a lapse in state leadership when it comes to Hanford.

Letter to Gov. Inslee from Tri-City leaders

This week she told the Hanford Advisory Board a replacement has yet to be selected. An interim manager likely will be appointed to serve for a couple of months until a permanent manager is named, she said.

“It is important for us to have as seamless of a transition to a new leadership as possible, as this is a critical time in the life of Hanford site cleanup,” said the letter to Inslee.

Local leaders said all parties — DOE, its contractors, state and federal regulators, tribes, local governments and citizens — need to work as a team “to keep the cleanup train on the tracks and headed toward the desired station.”

The state has two lawsuits pending against DOE, one over missed deadlines and another over worker protection from tank vapors.

Any weakness in a united front by the state and local communities could allow a loss of needed federal money for cleanup and more delays, the letter said.

We need to continue to show meaningful progress here at Hanford to be able to justify our place in the federal budget.

Letter to Gov. Inslee from Tri-City leaders

Community leaders are concerned about the progress and direction of cleanup at Hanford, particularly the Hanford vitrification plant being built to turn up to 56 million gallons of radioactive waste into a stable glass form for disposal. The waste is left from the past production of plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program.

“It remains a project under construction with no certain completion or startup date,” the letter said. The state should take the lead to make sure it begins operating in a way that is technically sound and economically feasible, it said.

As other DOE weapons sites are cleaned up, convincing senators from other states to pay for Hanford becomes more difficult, the letter said. Progress in Hanford cleanup must continue to be demonstrated, it said.

“We hear the crescendo of cynical chatter from other sites about how Hanford gets the lion’s share of the funding, but doesn’t seem to be making progress commensurate with that outsized funding,” the letter said.

We hear the crescendo of cynical chatter from other sites about how Hanford gets the lion’s share of the funding, but doesn’t seem to be making progress commensurate with that outsized funding.

Letter to Gov. Inslee from Tri-City leaders

Those concerns are compounded by the November national elections and what the results could mean for Hanford, it said.

Inslee should name a new program manager who is a mature leader with strong management skills and the ability to “navigate stormy political waters,” it said.

The letter praised Hedge’s leadership of the local oversight office since the start of 2006.

The Hanford Advisory Board gave Hedges a standing ovation this week and a letter saying it has been fortunate to have her expertise and enthusiasm for responsible Hanford cleanup.

The position of nuclear waste program manager is advertised as paying an annual salary of $75,452 to $110,000 annually.

The Nuclear Waste Program has an operating budget of about $21 million and a staff of about 90 workers. Education and experience in a scientific or technical field plus a master’s degree are among desired qualifications to manage the program.

Annette Cary: 509-582-1533, @HanfordNews

  Comments