Trump administration approves changes to radioactive waste classification

RICHLAND, WA - The Department of Energy gets the green light from the Trump administration to change the way it classifies radioactive waste. The proposal would change the standards for treating and disposing of most of Hanford's waste stored in its underground tanks. 

This comes after the state filed its objections to a Trump Administration plan to reclassify millions of gallons of waste at Hanford back in January. 

Hanford currently holds 60% of the nation's high level waste. The new proposal could make some of it classified as low-level and could change the way D.O.E disposes of originally high-level waste based off of new tests.

The D.O.E's proposal would allow low-level waste to be shipped off to sites other than Hanford for disposal with other methods than vitrification or putting it in glass. The waste could be kept in concrete and not taken out as fast, allowing the potential of leaking out and seeping into ground water.

The D.O.E officials said the decision is intended to make it cheaper and easier to clean up nuclear weapons production sites like Hanford and others in Idaho and South Carolina. 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson released a joint statement earlier Wednesday, which said "We will consider all options to stop this reckless and dangerous action."

However, supporters say the change will allow the work to be sped up, saving billions to get the waste off the Hanford site sooner.

In attempts to renegotiate, the Department of Ecology's Maia Bellon sent a letter to D.O.E undersecretary Paul Debbar asking to remain at the negotiating table to find a mutual solution.

"I am gravely concerned with the D.O.E. forging ahead with a new interpretation of high-level radio active waste that does not comport with federal law despite the objections from Washington State... I urge you and your team to not walk away from the negotiating table, " Bellon said. 

The state wants to hold a discussion about challenges the energy department is having in meeting cleanup deadlines under the Tri-Party Agreement.

D.O.E has confirmed that it received the letter and said it would respond through proper channels.

Recommended for you