July 31, 2011 in City

N-waste report draws worry

Future of storage at Hanford, or more of it, unclear
Annette Cary Tri-City Herald
 
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The draft report may be read at brc.gov. Comments may be sent until Oct. 31 to Timothy Frazier, Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Ave. S.W., Washington, DC 20585. A final report will be delivered to the energy secretary by Jan. 29.

The draft report making recommendations on the future of the nation’s nuclear waste, released Friday by the Blue Ribbon Commission, was met with concerns and criticisms by those with Hanford interests.

They feared at best the draft report’s recommendation could lead to high-level radioactive waste remaining at Hanford longer, and at worst that more waste could be shipped to Hanford or that Hanford’s own waste would remain at the site indefinitely.

The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future was formed to make plans for radioactive waste that had been expected to go to the Yucca Mountain, Nev., repository before the Obama administration took steps to shut down the project.

The draft report called for prompt action to develop one or more deep geologic facilities for permanent underground disposal and prompt action to develop one or more temporary storage sites to consolidate waste in the meantime. However, it called for decisions to be made based on the consent of those involved, after the state of Nevada’s objections derailed plans for Yucca Mountain.

“Experience in the United States and in other nations suggests that any attempt to force a top-down, federally mandated solution over the objections of a state or community – far from being more efficient – will take longer, cost more and have lower odds of ultimate success,” the draft report said.

It also called for the need for a new organization independent of the Department of Energy to develop a focused program for the storage and disposal of the nation’s nuclear waste. And it pointed out the need for research and demonstration of advanced reactor and fuel cycle technologies plus increased training and education in technical and scientific fields.

The draft report also asked that the fees collected on nuclear-produced power for the waste program be made available for use and kept independent of the annual appropriations process. Northwest ratepayers have paid about $300 million in fees since the Columbia Generating Station began operating near Richland.

Hanford appears to be an interim storage site by default, without a vote by Congress or the public, said Gary Petersen, vice president of Hanford programs for the Tri-City Development Council. But he also saw positives in the draft report, including what he saw as a sensible recommendation to form a new independent organization and the support for scientific and technical training and education.

“All this report tells me is that the people of Washington state will be collateral damage in President Obama’s road to re-election,” said Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., in a statement. “Hanford will be home to high-level defense waste even longer while his administration presents the facade of looking for a new permanent repository.”

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said she was concerned about recommendations for interim storage.

“Our country has had a nuclear waste disposal plan in place for decades, and we can’t afford to step away from the billions of dollars we have spent moving that plan forward,” she said in a statement.

If there is a nationwide search for a new place for the nation to store high-level radioactive waste, Hanford is likely to be on the list, warned Mike Lawrence on Thursday night, just hours before the draft report was released. Lawrence is a former manager of the Department of Energy’s Hanford Richland Operations Office.


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