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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Inslee hints at state action over Hanford cleanup

OLYMPIA – The federal government's latest plan to cleanup 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. . . 

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. . . 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. It doesn’t have an adequate long-term plan for containing the waste and shipping out of state to a permanent storage facility.

Inslee said the plan Moniz provided was merely a draft, not a completed plan, but doesn’t give Washington the predictability the state needs. The governor said he is consulting with state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who said his office would 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 replied: “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 cancelled plans for the storage facility in Yucca Mountain, Nevada, and the Energy Department fell behind on the schedule and had to announce revisions in 2009.

In February 2013, barely a month after Inslee took office, the department announced that at least one of its double-walled tanks, which were thought to be secure, was leaking. That 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.”

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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