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Court Approves Consent Decree To Clean Up Waste From Hanford Underground Tanks
Posted on Friday, October 29, 2010 (PST)

The U.S. District Court in Spokane has approved and entered a judicial consent decree that imposes a new, enforceable schedule for cleaning up waste from Hanford’s underground tanks.

 

The consent decree is one piece of a two-part settlement package, which also includes new milestones in the Tri-Party Agreement, an administrative order between the U.S. Department of Energy, Washington State Department of Ecology, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which governs cleanup at DOE’s Hanford Site.

 

“This consent decree shows that America will keep its promises to clean up the toxic legacy of nuclear weapons development at Hanford, “ said Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire. “The radioactive and hazardous waste will be removed from those huge, leak-prone underground storage tanks. The Columbia River — and a million people who live and work downstream from Hanford — will be protected from contamination. Now we can all focus our full attention on getting the cleanup completed.”

 

“This consent decree opens a new chapter in a long effort to establish an enforceable and achievable schedule to clean up nuclear waste currently stored in Hanford’s underground tanks,” said Attorney General Rob McKenna. “Thanks to the dedication and expertise of our state’s highly experienced negotiating team, the people of the Tri-Cities and those from surrounding areas in Washington and Oregon have a new — court-enforceable — commitment from the federal government to complete the cleanup project at Hanford.”

 

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Gregoire, McKenna, and other state and federal officials announced the proposed consent decree and modifications to the TPA in August 2009, and committed to receiving input from stakeholders and interested governments prior to finalizing it.

 

The Tri-Party Agencies held a 72-day public comment period, a public workshop, and five public meetings to gather public comments on the proposed consent decree and TPA modifications. About 146 public comments were received, which Washington State officials considered prior to entering the final judicial consent decree. The TPA amendments were signed by DOE, Ecology and EPA on Oct. 6.

 

The consent decree is the product of several years of negotiations by the parties. It is part of the settlement of a lawsuit that Ecology filed against DOE to compel the completion of key aspects of the Hanford cleanup. The state of Oregon joined the lawsuit later.

 

Hanford currently stores over 53 million gallons of radioactive and chemical waste in 177 underground tanks at the site. The Waste Treatment Plant  is being designed and built to immobilize the tank waste in a glass form in a process called vitrification.

 

Key points of the agreement:

 

-- Pacing milestones to keep construction of the WTP on schedule.

 

-- Completion of the retrieval of single-shell tanks in Hanford’s C Farm in 2014.

 

-- Treatment of tank waste beginning in 2019 with full operations in 2022.

 

-- Completing the retrieval of all single-shell tanks in 2040.

 

-- Completing the treatment of tank waste in 2047.

 

-- Closing the double-shell tank farms in 2052.

 

Information about the consent decree and TPA modifications can be found at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/nwp/2008lawsuit_settlement.htm

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