06 January 2010

How did we get here?

Tracing the paper trail leading to this draft Tank Closure & Waste Management EIS

The draft Tank Closure & Waste Management Environmental Impact Statement (TC & WM EIS), although released to the public in late October 2009, has a history that spans a decade. The years from 1999-2009 tell a story of the Department of Energy (USDOE) continually attempting to dump radioactive and hazardous wastes at the Hanford site, while the public actively and persistently fought back. And it’s not over, folks, for the document currently under consideration proves that USDOE plans have not changed at all, and USDOE still intends to use Hanford as a national radioactive and hazardous waste dump as soon as it will be politically ok to do so.

In 1999, USDOE released the Waste Management Programmatic EIS, in which USDOE identified Hanford and the Nevada Test Site as the two regional disposal sites for low-level radioactive & mixed low-level radioactive wastes. Despite the fact that these decisions were not based on meaningful analysis of the impacts of adding wastes to these two sites, USDOE forged ahead with site-specific Environmental Impact Statements – the draft Hanford Solid Waste EIS was released in 2003.

Over 500 members of the public showed up at the hearings on the Hanford Solid Waste EIS in 2003 to oppose the selection of Hanford as a national radioactive waste dump. Disregarding the public’s comments, USDOE started to ship highly radioactive plutonium wastes (RH-TRU) to Hanford. Heart of America Northwest and Columbia Riverkeeper sued and successfully won a federal court injunction against USDOE; the two citizens’ groups were later joined by Washington State.

Without revisiting the 1999 decision, USDOE implemented it with the release of the final Hanford Solid Waste EIS in 2004, including the preferred alternative to dump tens of thousands of truckloads of radioactive and mixed radioactive hazardous waste from the nation's nuclear weapons production facilities at Hanford. The State of Washington expanded the existing lawsuit to include the inadequacy of the EIS because it lacked groundwater modeling and flow analysis.

The same year, in 2004, Heart of America Northwest filed Initiative 297 to stop Hanford or other contaminated sites from having more mixed radioactive hazardous wastes dumped while existing wastes violate state hazardous waste laws and are contaminating the environment. I-297 passed with 69.09% of the vote - the highest vote total for any ballot initiative or candidate in Washington State history to that date – sending an overwhelming message that the citizens of Washington do not want Hanford to become a national radioactive waste dump.

Washington State and USDOE finally settled the lawsuit in July 2005. This settlement has proven essential in Hanford history, as WA secured a moratorium on shipping offsite waste to Hanford (with seven “minor” exceptions) until a new, final EIS is issued. The recently released TC & WM EIS is the draft of the final EIS to end the moratorium, and is supposed to be USDOE’s “re-do” of the failed Hanford Solid Waste EIS. Unfortunately, tens of thousands of pages of environmental impact statements later, public outcry is again needed to reinforce the decades-old message that Hanford should not be a national radioactive and hazardous waste dump.


  1. How come the USDOE still trying to dump more waste to Hanford? Hanford has already contaminated. Why don't they try to keep it clean so that our generation and next still have a chance to live in earth?? We still want to live much longer too.

  2. Unfortunately, they've been trying to dump more radioactive waste at Hanford for decades - as evidenced by this post! Join us in the next few months at a public hearing to protest this!

    Thanks for your comment!