Involve the public in holistic solutions for Hanford cleanup
The Columbia River is the lifeblood of the Pacific Northwest, providing vital resources to the people of the entire region. The Hanford Reach of the Columbia River flows for 50 miles past the Hanford Nuclear Site, the most contaminated place in the Western Hemisphere. This last free-flowing stretch of the Columbia River has immeasurable importance for Tribal people, downstream communities, salmon, and clean water for the entire region.
Dear Director Watson, Energy Secretary Granholm, U.S. Department of Energy, and Washington Department of Ecology:
The Columbia River is the lifeblood of the Pacific Northwest, and the Hanford Nuclear Site poses an immense, long-term risk to the Columbia and the communities connected to it. Hanford cleanup must succeed to protect the health of the region, the river, and future generations.
In May, you announced that the Washington Department of Ecology and the U.S. Department of Energy reached a “conceptual” agreement regarding “holistic” negotiations about major aspects of Hanford cleanup. I am concerned about the still-secret agreement and its implications for Hanford, the Columbia River, and communities that rely on the River. I urge you to seek meaningful public input before you change the course of cleanup or finalize agreements.
I object to secret negotiations determining the future of Hanford cleanup, the health of communities in the region, and the potential future use of Hanford by Tribal people and others. The entire region must have a voice in how the federal government fulfills its responsibility to protect the Columbia from 56 million gallons of tank waste, vast quantities of chemical and radioactive contamination in soil and groundwater, and aging, failure-prone tanks and structures.
I urge you to:
- Hold hearings across the Northwest and incorporate public input into any proposed changes to the Tri-Party Agreement;
- Accelerate and invest in efforts to protect groundwater from tank waste, including constructing new, compliant tanks and cleaning up soil contamination already leaked from failed tanks;
- Not reclassify untreated tank waste and leave it in the ground or in tanks: remove tank waste from the environment at Hanford;
- Follow the requirements of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and ensure that Hanford does not become a de facto high-level waste disposal site or a disposal site for grouted tank waste;
- Address dangerous contamination close to the Columbia River.
I urge you not to cheapen the nation’s investment in Hanford or short-circuit cleanup by finalizing agreements behind closed doors that will impact all of us and our descendants for millennia. I care about the future of Hanford.
Hanford is the most contaminated site in the Western Hemisphere. Cleanup matters.