Washington Rejects Dept. of Energy's New Plan for Hanford Cleanu - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Washington Rejects Dept. of Energy's New Plan for Hanford Cleanup

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RICHLAND, WA - The state of Washington is rejecting the U.S. Department of Energy's proposal to amend the federal court agreement governing cleanup at Hanford.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson say the Department of Energy’s March 31, 2014 proposal to amend the 2010 consent decree lacks sufficient specificity, accountability and enforceability. 

Inslee said, “an acceptable path forward must be aggressive but realistic and give the state confidence that tank waste retrieval and treatment will be completed as soon as possible."

“The people of our region made a significant sacrifice for our nation when the U.S. selected the Hanford site to produce plutonium as part of the Manhattan Project during World War II,” Ferguson said. “Today’s announcement should serve as notice to Energy that we are considering taking the next legal step as early as next week.”

In a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, attorneys for Washington state formally rejected the federal Department of Energy’s proposal and detailed the state’s concerns. While the state’s and federal government’s proposed paths forward for cleanup include some similarity, such as in the sequence for beginning various operations of the Waste Treatment Plant, in its letter, the state rejects the lack of specific, accountable and enforceable deadlines in Energy’s proposal.

The state announced its own proposed amendments to the consent decree in March, an is expecting to receive a letter of response from the Departments of Energy and Justice on Friday.

If the Department of Energy rejects the state’s proposed amendments, the state may consider triggering dispute resolution, which initiates a 40-day process of good faith negotiation required under the 2010 Consent Decree. If an agreement is not reached, the state may then ask a federal court to issue an order directing Energy to implement the state’s plan.

Hanford for decades made plutonium for nuclear weapons, and now is engaged in cleaning up the nation's largest volume of radioactive wastes. That cleanup is governed by a federal court consent decree that sets strict milestones for the cleanup process.

However, the Energy Department has said it is in danger of missing many of those milestones because of the complexity of the work.