Time to Revoke Trump’s Nuclear Waste Rule

Yakama Nation and Washington state, along with Columbia Riverkeeper, Hanford Challenge, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, up the pressure on the Biden Administration. 

In an unprecedented request, Yakama Nation and Washington state, joined by Columbia Riverkeeper, Hanford Challenge, and the Natural Resources Defense Counsel, are calling on the U.S. Department of Energy (Energy) to rescind the dangerous former president Trump-era regulation, which could allow millions of gallons of radioactive waste to be abandoned at the Hanford Nuclear Site forever. 

On June 5, 2019, Energy released a new interpretation of the term “high-level nuclear waste” (HLW) under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA) that would exclude some dangerous waste traditionally considered HLW from stringent storage requirements. 

For over 50 years the term HLW, as statutorily defined in the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (AEA) and the NWPA, required the disposal of this most toxic and radioactive waste in deep geologic formations to protect public health. Energy’s new interpretation opens the door to disposal methods previously prohibited for HLW. The new interpretation’s likely result: less nuclear and toxic waste cleanup at Hanford. Read our technical comments on this new interpretation here

“We believe this rule lays the groundwork for the Department to abandon significant amounts of radioactive waste in Washington State precipitously close to the Columbia River, which is the lifeblood of the Pacific Northwest,” the letter says, “creating a long-term risk of harm to the residents of the Pacific Northwest and the natural resources critical to the region.” Read the full letter here.

Energy maintains responsibility for Hanford cleanup. Hanford is a result of the nuclear arms race that started with World War II and played out through the Cold War. Today, Hanford is the most toxic site in the Western Hemisphere. Built in the center of the site, single-shelled underground storage tanks contain some of the most harmful liquid wastes and, for over 50 years, Energy handled them as HLW. Energy’s new interpretation of HLW will allow the agency to shortcut tank cleanup to save money. The outcome: less cleanup and more risk for the people, fish, and other species that depend on the Columbia River.

Hanford has a vibrant future worth fighting for and attempts to abandon radioactive waste at the site forever are not part of that future. 

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Call on the Biden administration to rescind a dangerous nuclear-waste rule that threatens people’s health and the Columbia River.

Hanford is the most contaminated site in the Western Hemisphere. Cleanup matters.