EPA Fines Hanford For Stagnating Radioactive Waste Near Columbia River

Oct 15, 2014

The Environmental Protection Agency intends to fine the U.S. Department of Energy up to $10,000 per week if radioactive waste just a stone's throw from the Columbia River isn’t cleaned up.

The K-East and K-West reactors were shut down in 1970 and 1971.
Credit U.S. Department of Energy

Behind the old called the K-West reactor at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is a huge concrete swimming-pool-like basin. It was built in the 1950s and meant to last for 20 years. That’s where workers dumped hot irradiated rods until they cooled. Later they were shuttled off to be further refined into plutonium for bombs.

At the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s, thousands of these rods were left behind in the water. TheDOE has been trying to clean up this waste for a while, but now the EPA says they are way behind schedule.

The EPA says the basin was supposed to be cleaned up back in 2002. The DOE says it hasn’t gotten enough funds from Congress to keep on schedule.

The Department of Energy has about two weeks to start negotiations, or face the weekly fine until cleanup starts.