Energy Secretary: Hanford worker and management communication ne - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Energy Secretary: Hanford worker and management communication needs improvement

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PASCO, WA - The U.S. Secretary of Energy made a whirlwind trip around Washington state this week, starting in Seattle and ending in the Tri-Cities. Secretary Earnest Moniz said he toured the tank farms at Hanford. Nearly 60 possible vapor exposures have been reported at the tank farms this year along. 

Moniz said even before the stop work order by the union that represents tank farm workers earlier this year, he had ordered an "independent assessment" to find out what is going on out there. The team finished collecting data just last week. Secretary Moniz said the full report will be made public in the coming months but first reactions show communication is an issue.

"I think that's something that would be best worked out with the workers. They know what they're doing on the job. So we need to get that management/worker communication, frankly, improved," said Secretary Moniz.

Moniz also toured the HAMMER facility outside of Richland and absolutely sang its praises. He called it "unique and effective" and said it is a model of best practices in safety.

We also asked about a future change in the administration and senate leadership and whether that could change the future of Yucca Mountain. The Obama administration ousted an idea to store the nation's nuclear waste in Nevada when it withdrew licensing to build a repository at Yucca Mountain several years ago. 

Secretary Moniz said he obviously doesn't know which way the next administration will lean on the matter but he does think the right thing is what the Blue Ribbon Commission said: it has to be a consent-based process and so far that has not been the case. 

On the other hand, Moniz said he thinks a decision earlier this year by the president to overturn a 1985 ruling is really good for Hanford. That change means civilian and defense waste, like Hanford's, can be stored together now.

"I think taking those separate tracks is absolutely right and gives us more options, and i think it will lead to more rapid disposal in the high-level waste category," said Secretary Moniz.

He said the Department of Energy is looking into alternatives for interim storage, something he feels strongly about.