02 October 2009


Public Comment Period on Proposed Delays to Hanford Cleanup runs from October 1 - December 11

Tri-Party Agreement (TPA) negotiations began in 2007, when it became clear that the US Department of Energy (USDOE) was going to miss crucial deadlines to clean up tank waste.  The negotiations fell apart, so the State of Washington sued USDOE in November 2008 to empty the tanks and treat the waste faster, and Oregon State joined the lawsuit in early 2009. USDOE managed to reach separate agreements with each of the states in August 2009, without going to court, and the Proposed Settlement Agreement outlines the conditions of the settlement with WA.  The settlement consists of two parts: a Consent Decree -- its deadlines are enforceable in federal court -- and changes to the TPA.

A quick rundown of some of the changes:
  • Hanford cleanup is delayed by decades;
  • Restrictions on importing off-site waste to Hanford are still unenforceable -- USDOE agrees only to have a "preferred alternative" of not adding more waste to Hanford until 2019 in the upcoming Tank Closure & Waste Management EIS;
  • Washington State accepts USDOE's delays and missed deadlines;
  • Milestone to empty all single shell tanks by 2018 delayed until 2040;
  • Milestone to treat all tank waste by 2028 delayed until 2047;
  • Milestone to "hot-start" waste treatment plant by 2011 delayed until 2019, with full scale operations not beginning until 2022;
  • USDOE will finally comply with Superfund law requiring it to annual submit a lifecycle scope, schedule & cost for completion of Hanford site cleanup.
Comment Today!

1. Include in the TPA an enforceable ban on USDOE adding more off-site waste until existing wastes are brought into compliance and are cleaned up: the “Clean-Up First” principle.
  • This has been the number one public concern in the last three years;
  • Put the ban on adding off-site waste to Hanford  in the Consent Decree as a part of the settlement of the lawsuit;
  • The Governor of Washington’s office said that “Clean-Up First” would be part of the negotiations and settlement, but it is not included in a way that requires enforcement;
  • The Hanford hazardous waste permit should include the “Clean-up First” principle for all landfills;
  • Instead, it will be included in an upcoming Environmental Impact Statement (Tank Closure & Waste Management); the EIS will say that the “preferred alternative” is not import off-site waste until 2019.  This is not a binding statement and this alternative should be removed. 
2. Reject taking until 2040 to empty single shell tanks (SSTs).
    • All of the leak-prone, inadequate single shell tanks (SST) were originally supposed to be emptied by 2018.  This date has been delayed 32 years to 2040.  Meanwhile, over 1 million gallons of radioactive waste have already leaked;
    • The deadline for treating the waste was originally 2028, but has been delayed 19 years to 2047;
    • USDOE should take steps to empty 40 of the 140 remaining tanks by 2019, instead of 9 as proposed in this settlement;
    • It is “unconscionable” (to use Governor Gregoire’s words) to allow waste to remain in the leaky SSTs until 2040; it is doubly unconscionable to allow DOE to add more waste to Hanford while these tanks have not been emptied!
3. Complete the Waste Treatment Plant (WTP) as soon as possible – no more delays!
    • Construction was supposed to be complete by 2011, but the date for “hot-starting” the plant has been delayed 8 more years to 2019;
    • The plant will not be fully operational until 2022;
    • This project has a long history of mismanagement of funds and resources and is already over budget by $8 billion.  Let’s do it right – increase accountability to finish on time and without wasting taxpayer dollars.

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