In this 2019 photo, a sign at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is posted near Richland. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, file)

In this 2019 photo, a sign at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is posted near Richland. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, file)

Hanford nuclear waste cleanup efforts could be delayed

A new report does not mention the Dept. of Energy moving radioactive capsules to safer storage.

Associated Press

RICHLAND— The Department of Energy has announced priority plans for environmental cleanup nationwide and indicates a slower process for the decommissioned nuclear site in Washington state, a report said.

The focus at the Hanford Site will be to start treating waste at the $17 billion vitrification plant, but the report does not detail other work at the 580-square-mile (1,500-square-kilometer) site, the Tri-City Herald reported Tuesday.

The report does not mention moving radioactive capsules to safer storage and cleaning up a radioactive spill under one of the buildings a mile north of Richland.

“It is shocking that DOE would propose to delay projects like the cesium-strontium capsules and the 324 Building contamination, which pose such great risks to the workers and public,” said Tom Carpenter, executive director for Hanford Challenge, a watchdog and worker advocacy group.

The “Environmental Management Vision 2020-2030: A Time of Transition and Transformation” report may also signal delays and decreased commitment to current plans for up to 10 years, including cleanup of contaminated groundwater flowing toward the Columbia River, the newspaper said.

“Proactively addressing these hazards before they pose an imminent risk is critically important, and frankly, they can’t wait until sometime in the 2030s,” said David Reeploeg, the Tri-City Development Council vice president for federal program.

A budget request for upcoming year by President Donald Trump’s administration proposes cleaning up 56 gallons (212 liters) of radioactive waste held in underground tanks at the site.

Reeploeg added that he was pleased there is some commitment to treat tank waste.

Hanford produced plutonium for nuclear weapons during the Cold War and World War II.

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