TRI-CITIES, Wash. – The Department of Energy and its regulators have agreed to new legally binding environmental cleanup deadlines for radioactive waste that has been temporarily buried at central Hanford since 1970.
The proposed new package of deadlines would allow more time for some work but also add new deadlines the DOE must meet.
The set of changes covers drums, boxes and cans of debris suspected of containing plutonium that the DOE temporarily buried in central Hanford. Then Congress said transuranic waste – typically waste containing plutonium – must be sent to a national repository. But until the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico opened, the waste was buried for later retrieval.
What is being dug up varies widely, and officials have different sets of milestones for different waste groupings.
Under the new deadlines, the DOE would be required to have all but the remote-handled waste (too radioactive for workers to handle) that was temporarily buried to be dug up by Sept. 30, 2016. Remote-handled waste, including that in four caissons, would need to be dug up by the end of 2018.
The DOE would be required to have a conceptual design of facilities that will be used to process the waste in large boxes or needing remote handling by Sept. 30, 2016. A final design would be due two years later.
All the transuranic waste in large containers and remote-handled transuranic waste would need to be treated and shipped to WIPP by the end of 2035, the first time a deadline for completion of that work has been set.
Low-level waste must be treated for disposal by Sept. 30, 2017.