RICHLAND, Wash. - Oregon Senator Ron Wyden toured Hanford Tuesday to learn more about the site. Wyden is the new chairman of the Senate Energy Committee and says he wants to raise the level of awareness in Congress about Hanford cleanup.
"This is an opportunity for these issues to be a higher priority at the Department of Energy. There's scarce budget resources and we want to make sure that safety and waste disposal are at the top of the list," he said.
U.S. Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, will be leaving his position and as chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, Wyden will play a key role in deciding who will replace him.
Wyden says his visit will allow him to bring up Hanford during the hearings to select a new energy secretary.
"Chance to listen to those here who day in and day out are trying to tackle these issues and I can then pose questions to the secretary, the nominee, on the basis of what I learn," he said.
After several delays and setbacks in the Hanford site cleanup and construction of the Vit Plant, Wyden says he is eager to increase the pace.
"What I and other senators are going to want to hear is what's the end game? What's the strategy, the long term strategy for cleanup here," he said.
Wyden also supports bipartisan work to preserve Hanford history by making the B Reactor part of a national park.
"The national park would be a chance to look deep into the well of history and get a clearer understanding of what's ahead," he said.