Environment and Planning

Environment and Planning

The U.S. Department of Energy has agreed to pay $136,000 in fines for allegedly mishandling waste left over from plutonium production at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The penalty comes from the Environmental Protection Agency. The Department of Energy doesn’t agree with EPA's findings.

US Department of Energy

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says the disclosure of a worsening leak at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is "the most disturbing news."

The U.S. Department of Energy Friday said an underground tank that holds some of the nation's most troublesome radioactive waste may be leaking into the soil. An Oregon official said the development adds "urgency" to the long-running Hanford cleanup. 

US Department of Energy

Ernest Moniz, the new secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy visits Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington on Wednesday. Among the issues he will have to deal with are the leaking underground tanks of radioactive waste and the troubled waste treatment plant.

From his resume, it appears Moniz isn’t short on brainpower. He’s been on the faculty of MIT since 1973. Secretary Moniz received a Bachelor of Science degree summa cum laude in physics from Boston College and a doctorate in theoretical physics from Stanford University.

US Department of Energy

The federal government says in a new report that it may take six years to start emptying a leaking double-hulled tank of waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Washington state law says any leaks must be dealt with as soon as possible – but the federal government’s soon as possible is maybe years away. That’s because it could take 18 months just to get and set up equipment to pump sludge from the leaking double-hulled tank called AY-102. In addition it will take about six years to secure appropriate tank space to put all that sludge.

Tobin Fricke / Wikimedia - tinyurl.com/h99dl7h

Washington Governor Jay Inslee and the state attorney general say they’re quote ‘extremely disappointed’ that the U.S. Department of Energy may miss several key deadlines for cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

The two milestones that may be missed are: completing waste retrieval from two of Hanford’s aging single-shell tanks and finishing up construction on the Low Activity Waste Facility, one of the key parts of Hanford’s Waste Treatment Plant.

US Fish & Wildlife Service

The US Fish and Wildlife Service wants to completely remove federal protections of gray wolves. Agency leaders announced the proposal Friday. The move would turn over gray wolf management to states. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe says gray wolves have recovered dramatically over the past decade.

"To see a species rebound from a century-long campaign of human persecution to flourish on the landscape again, is something we're all extraordinarily lucky to witness in our lifetimes,” Ashe told reporters in a conference call.

/ Bechtel

Workers are back on the job at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation’s waste treatment plant. Work stopped this week when radioactive soil was found under the nests of some swallows.

Swallows used some radioactive mud to make nests on exposed beamwork in Hanford’s waste treatment plant. That’s the $12 billion factory designed to bind-up radioactive sludge in glass logs. The nests were found during routine tests, but this is the first radioactive contamination of the new plant.

Anna King / Northwest News Network

An ankle-high plant with a funny name is stirring up controversy in southeast Washington. The federal government is considering whether to list a yellow-flowering plant known as the White Bluffs Bladderpod as a threatened species. Landowners worry the listing could curtail farming.

I’m out on the edge of a ridiculously steep precipice on the Hanford Reach National Monument – it’s a swath of protected federal ground. This spot overlooks old nuclear reactors just across the brimming Columbia River.

US Senate

Washington Senator Patty Murray says she’s looking for some change at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation with new leadership at the top. A new manager is taking over at a key contracting company that handles the leaking radioactive tank farms. And the Department of Energy has a new secretary, Ernest Moniz.

Murray toured the southeast Washington nuclear site Thursday to get briefings on the massive waste treatment plant being built and the ongoing cleanup of radioactive waste.

Carrie Cordova / US Fish and Wildlife Service

The federal government has pushed back the possible threatened listing of two rare plants that could affect farmers in southeast Washington. Umtanum desert buckwheat and the White Bluffs bladderpod have become very controversial, because part of the plants’ habitat spans valuable crop ground.

It’s a big topic of conversation at the Country Mercantile restaurant where many Franklin County farmers lunch. Ami MacHugh is an area cherry and horse farmer whose land could be affected by the possible federal protections.

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