KING 5 story on Hanford prompts action by Inslee, feds

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by SUSANNAH FRAME / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @SFrameK5

KING5.com

Posted on June 25, 2013 at 2:24 PM

Gov. Jay Inslee and the U.S. Department of Energy are each looking for answers from a private company managing the most dangerous radioactive waste at the Hanford Site, where plutonium was made for the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

The KING 5 Investigators reported Monday that the company -- Washington River Protection Solutions -- overlooked evidence that a massive tank of radioactive waste was leaking. A full year passed from the time evidence first began to appear before the leak was made public.

KING 5 obtained a letter from the Department of Energy's Office of River Protection to top WRPS official Mike Johnson asking for a thorough review of the contractor's waste management activities at Hanford. The review is to "see if we have become complacent or have overlooked advances in monitoring waste tanks," wrote ORP's Kevin Smith in the letter.

Smith set an August 1 deadline for the review to be completed. "We should evaluate whether we have the right surveillance, event response, investigation, and issues management processes in place," he wrote. Smith said ORP will be conducting a simultaneous review of its own oversight of the waste tanks.

At the state level, Gov. Inslee has asked his top Hanford adviser to begin inquiries into the situation with the leaking double-shell tank, a spokesperson for his office said. 

Asked about KING 5's report on Wednesday, Inslee said, "We're going to be reviewing this. We know how diligent I want this state to be of having a zero tolerance policy ... on leaking radioactivity. It is the right policy. It is demanding, but it is legally enforceable and we're going to continue to insist on that policy."

Inslee added: "We are going to be insistent that our federal partners be open and transparent with us to the extent humanly possible, that we are and will be reviewing what happened in this particular circumstance."

In February, Islee declared a "zero tolerance policy" for leaking radioactive waste at Hanford after it was revealed that multiple tanks in a different part of the site were leaking.

KING 5 will report Thursday night at 10 and 11 p.m. on the numerous red flags in 2011 and 2012 pointing to the leak. The story also features Mike Geffre, a WRPS employee who spent months attempting to get the company to investigate the leak.

Hanford holds 56 million gallons of radioactive waste accumulated over decades of plutonium production. The government is spending more than $2 billion a year to secure the waste and build a treatment plant to convert the radioactive liquids into solids that can be stored permanently at a yet-to-be-determined location.
 

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