Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he is not interested in any more excuses; he wants the federal government to start hitting some deadlines on the Hanford clean-up.
Ferguson was reacting to notification by The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that it is at risk of missing three more deadlines on the troubled Waste Treatment Plant (WTP). The WTP is designed to treat Hanford’s 56 million gallons of nuclear and chemical waste through a vitrification process that converts it to stable glass. The DOE is now at risk of missing a total of 14 deadlines on the project which is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.
“And these aren't just informal dealdines, these are deadlines entered into with a federal court and the federal government has an obligation to meet those deadlines and they continue to miss them,” said Ferguson, who plans to present to the governor his plan for possible action against the DOE.
The DOE said the warning was announced out of an “Abundance of caution,” and it plans to work with the state to keep the project moving forward.
Ferguson said his last two predecessors spent much of their careers dealing with problems at the Hanford facility and he was not surprised to see the DOE had missed another deadline.
The WTP is critical to the cleanup. The tanks holding the waste are getting very old and are at risk of leaking, some already are. The plan is to get that waste pumped out and sent to the WTP before the tanks get worse. Leaks have already contaminated groundwater under the tanks and there are fears that groundwater could drain into the nearby Columbia River.