We have until February 2nd to tell U.S. Dept. of Energy it must address concerns before proceeding.
Dear U.S. Dept. of Energy,
I would like to express my deep concern over the current Draft Waste Incidental for Reprocessing (WIR) Evaluation for Phase 2 of the Test Bed Initiative (TBI). Specifically, Energy must address the following safety and environmental concerns before proceeding:
- Accountability of Off-Site Treatment Facilities: Questions and uncertainties arise around the TBI’s reliance on offsite treatment facilities. For example, PermaFix Northwest, the potential offsite grouting facility located in Richland, WA, has a long history of safety concerns and environmental violations. Energy must have a plan in place that will keep contractors accountable, ensuring public and environmental safety.
- Grout stability: Historically, grouting has had minor success due to the unpredictable nature of grout setting in highly radioactive waste. There is no guarantee that radionuclides will remain immobilized in grout over time, meaning that radioactive waste could leak into the ground immediately after burial or years later. Energy must explain how it plans to monitor grout and assess the efficacy of the grouting treatment.
- The use of Waste Incidental to Reprocessing (WIR): Energy is reserving the right to decide what is and is not High Level Waste (HLW) through the use of WIR. The problem is, under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA), tank waste by definition is HLW. Case law strongly suggests that Energy’s WIR approach contradicts the NWPA as it applies to Washington. The success of the TBI hinges on Energy’s authority to independently reclassify High Level Waste (HLW) to Low Level Waste (LLW), which it does not have. This is unacceptable.
- Increased Waste at Hanford: If the TBI proceeds, grouting 2,000 gallons of tank waste will increase Hanford’s soluble tank wastes by 1.7 times. Creating more soluble waste at Hanford could result in additional orphaned waste, or waste with nowhere to go, at the site. The TBI’s plan to dispose of waste at offsite disposal facilities has received pushback from states where those disposal facilities are located. Does Energy have a contingency plan for dealing with grouted waste?
- Insufficient Environmental Review: On August 17, Energy quietly released the draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for the TBI without notifying the public and without providing an opportunity for a public hearing or comment period. A select group, including the WA Department of Ecology and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation were invited to comment, however the public was not. Energy must give the public every opportunity to understand the gravity and ramifications of the TBI and the future of Hanford’s tank waste.
Overall, the prioritization of tank waste at Hanford is vital. However, I am deeply worried by Energy’s inability to develop a robust cleanup plan addressing these key safety and environmental concerns, within the details of the treatment and disposal.
The federal government is about to make a major decision at Hanford! The U.S. Dept. of Energy’s (Energy) plan to retrieve and grout 2,000 gallons from the infamous Tank SY-101 will determine the future of radioactive tank waste at Hanford. Hanford’s tanks hold some of the nation’s most toxic, radioactive waste.
Pollution from Hanford’s tanks has already entered Hanford’s soils, groundwater, and some has reached the Columbia River. But there are problems with Energy’s proposed cleanup plan. Energy’s Test Bed Initiative (TBI) and its phased approach has excluded public involvement, limited environmental review, and raises real safety and environmental concerns that Energy must first address. Energy’s latest move is beginning to look more like cutting corners than cutting waste. We have until February 2nd to tell Energy it must address these concerns before proceeding. Sign the petition today!
We are asking that Energy address these key safety and environmental concerns: (1) the accountability of offsite grouting and disposal facilities, (2) the efficacy of grout, (3) Energy’s unacceptable attempt to reclassify High Level Waste to Low Level Waste, (4) the possibility of orphaned waste on site, and (5) the lack of public engagement throughout the TBI environmental review process.
Hanford is the most contaminated site in the Western Hemisphere. Cleanup matters.