OLYMPIA – The federal government’s latest plan to clean up nuclear waste at Hanford is short on details and the state is considering its options to force a better one, Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday.
After meeting with U.S. Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz, Inslee said the federal department’s “draft cleanup plan” was inadequate on two respects. It doesn’t address what the federal government will do in the near future with leaking tanks of hazardous waste from decades of making parts for nuclear weapons, and it doesn’t have an adequate long-term plan for containing the waste and shipping it out of state to a permanent storage facility.
Washington state needs predictability, the governor said as he announced he is consulting with state Attorney General Bob Ferguson to hold the federal government “legally accountable for environmental cleanup at Hanford.”
Asked at what point he would go to court to challenge the federal government’s cleanup operations, Inslee would say only: “At the right point.”
The state and federal government have clashed in and out of court over removing waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation for decades. In 1989, the U.S. Department of Energy filed an agreement with the state and the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the waste on a timetable that calls for establishing a factory to convert much of the waste into glasslike logs that could be safely transported to a permanent storage facility. But the Obama Administration canceled plans for the storage facility in Yucca Mountain, Nev., and the Energy Department fell behind on the schedule and had to announce revisions in 2009.
In February 2013, the department announced that at least one of its double-walled tanks, which were thought to be secure, was leaking. Other single-walled tanks are also leaking. Last summer, the governor called for the department to step up its timetable for cleanup, but in the Obama administration’s budget announced last month, the federal government wants to cut money for Hanford cleanup.
“Our concerns go way beyond this year’s budget,” Inslee said, adding “One way or another, we expect to have a solution.”