Inslee tours Hanford shares DOE plan to move leaking waste to NM
NEAR RICHLAND, Wash. -- Some new developments coming from the Department of Energy Wednesday, who now say they have a plan on how they'll deal with the leaking tanks at Hanford.
Governor Jay Inslee, who toured the Waste Treatment Plant and tank farms praised DOE's quick action during a press conference on site. "Our insistence on the zero tolerance policy has resulted in an active plan to remove the waste from the state of Washington to stabilize it," said Inslee.
Inslee said DOE is in talks with Joe Franco at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad New Mexico to see if they can retrieve, treat, package, characterize and certify the waste for disposal there.
DOE says this preferred alternative, which may cover up to approximately 3.1 million gallons of tank waste contained in up to 20 tanks, will provide DOE with an option to deal with the tank leaks and to speed up the retrieval effort.
However, this solution only applies to five of the leaking tanks, most of which are stored at Farm Tank T and YT. The sixth tank is too radioactive to move. "We will need to continue to work with the Department of Energy to adopt a specific plan in regard to that particular tank," said Inslee.
The retrieval process is a complicated one as well. Tom Fletcher, the Assistant Manager at the Tank Farms said they are looking at number of alternatives on retrieving and moving the waste from the tanks. "From an options perspective, we're looking at everything from how do we get there as fast as possible, Do we use mechanical mining or basically crawlers with excavating?." he said
Fletcher said as far as transporting the waste, it has to be "CH Tru" meaning not too dangerous to move. He said five out of the six leakers fall into that category. Fletcher then explained that they have to figure out what they'll transform it into, either a solidified form or a dried pellet form. He said that will depend on how it will be stored and shipped. Fletcher said they may end us shipping anywhere from 7,500 drums of waste to 40,000 drums, a big range.
Inslee did have good news at the conference as well, saying he has been in talks with Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who told him the Federal Government will fund the efforts to get the leakers under control, despite cuts and sequestration. "Every single one of those dollars is something owned by the Federal Government to the state of Washington," said Inslee.
But while the plan sounds great, it is still just a plan, New Mexico has yet to agree with the request and even if it does, the permitting and the retrieval process can take at least two to four years. "Unfortunately this is not something that can be done overnight. This is will unfortunately be a multi year process," said Inslee.
Inslee then reiterated the importance of completing the Waste Treatment Plant, saying New Mexico is a temporary solution and we are scrambling because the VIT plant is still under construction. "We need to make sure that this action does not jeopardize progress on the vitrification plant," he said.
Inslee's visit comes on the heels of Tuesday's announcement that the Department of Energy needs to cut $182 million from Hanford spending because of forced federal budget cuts called sequestration, $92 million to the Office Of River Protection. The largest cut will be to the $12.2 billion vitrification plant .