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Study looks at Hanford, commercial waste mixing

Two types of material are stored separately

WASHINGTON – The Department of Energy should have a study completed this fall on whether Hanford and other high-level radioactive defense wastes should be disposed of with used nuclear fuel from commercial plants, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said.

He discussed plans for the study in response to questioning from Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., at a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday.

Bipartisan Senate legislation has been introduced to implement the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, which was formed after the Obama administration moved to end work on the Yucca Mountain, Nev., nuclear repository.

The proposed legislation would allow the construction and operation for a facility for defense waste if Moniz determines that separating the two types of waste is best.

Technically, Hanford and commercial waste could be stored together, Moniz said at the hearing.

Hanford waste includes high-level radioactive waste now stored in underground tanks that is planned to be glassified at the vitrification plant plus fuel irradiated for weapons plutonium production but not processed to remove plutonium after the Cold War ended.

However, there could be advantages to not combining the two types of waste, he said.

Cantwell is concerned that Hanford and other defense waste is not treated as “an afterthought” as plans are made for disposal of commercial used fuel.

“It’s unacceptable to our state and my constituents to think that Hanford is just going to end up being that repository for that vast amount of high-level defense waste,” she said.


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