Hanford Planning Document Leaves A Key Question Dangling

Dec 11, 2012

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington environmental regulators say a new 6,000 page plan for the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is very useful. But it lacks a definitive path forward for treating a large part of the radioactive sludge there.

The most radioactively contaminated waste at Hanford is set to be bound up into more stable glass logs in a huge factory being built here. But the government hasn’t decided exactly what to do with everything else -- the Low Activity Waste -- in this new massive cleanup roadmap.

That concerns Suzanne Dahl, the tank waste treatment manager for Washington’s Ecology department. Dahl says after 10 years of work on this plan, the state wants the federal government to stop exploring options, and commit to binding up that low level waste in glass too.

“We don’t think that spending money trying to invent new technologies for something that you already have a perfectly viable technology for is a reasonable thing to do.”

The U.S. Department of Energy is keeping several options open: Binding up the waste in grout, or in a system called steam reforming.

On the Web:

Tank Closure & Waste Management plan (Hanford.gov)

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio