The Department of Energy and the contractor charged with managing the Hanford Nuclear Reservation failed to include two radioactive waste storage tanks on a federal list, a congressman says.
Failure to list the tanks allows employees to work on the tanks without proper safety controls, “creating a serious safety risk” at the southeastern Washington facility, U.S. Rep. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said at a news conference Saturday.
A 1990 law authored by Wyden requires a contingency plan for emergencies and installation of monitoring equipment in 177 radioactive waste storage tanks. It requires tanks in danger of leaking or exploding be included on a watch list.
Westinghouse Hanford Company said work was done on the two tanks without controls although analysis has shown the tanks may belong on the “Hydrogen/Organic Watch List,” according to a report prepared in August and released by the DOE last month.
The report also said four other tanks could be added to the watch list and, in the meantime, will be treated with the same safety and environmental controls as those on the list.
Wyden said the tanks should have been added to the list as soon as it was known they had the potential to leak or explode.
“The bottom line is the Department of Energy and Westinghouse are skirting the edge of the public health and safety law and putting the public and environment at risk,” Wyden said.
Keith Taylor, an Energy Department spokesman in Richland, said there was no safety risk and officials are reviewing tank work. He said there was no violation of the watch list law.
“We’ve got a monitoring program that says that if there is no operational problem then we just monitor the tanks normally,” Taylor said. “The Department of Energy is committed to safe operations of the tank farm.”