Today, the Trump Administration unilaterally changed the definition of high-level waste stored at Hanford and other nuclear waste sites across the country, opening the door for the federal government to walk away from its obligation to clean up millions of gallons of toxic, radioactive waste at Hanford. Washington currently holds 60 percent of the nation’s high-level waste with 56 million gallons stored in 177 underground storage tanks at Hanford.
This action by the Department of Energy violates federal law and allows for a complete reversal of how tank waste can be treated and stored at the Hanford site. Washington state has worked for decades with the Department of Energy to ensure that high-level waste would be safely treated if it were to remain at the Hanford site.
Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson released a statement today condemning the administration’s actions.
“The Trump Administration is showing disdain and disregard for state authority with these actions. Washington will not be sidelined in our efforts to clean up Hanford and protect the Columbia River and the health and safety of our state and our people.
“By taking this action, the administration seeks to cut out state input and move towards disposal options of their choosing, including those already deemed to be unsafe by their own assessments and in violation of the existing legally binding agreement. We will consider all options to stop this reckless and dangerous action.”
A collaborative approach to redefining waste proposed by the Washington State Department of Ecology was rejected by the Department of Energy. The state's proposal would have met the need of federal agencies, the state and the community.
Yesterday, Washington Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon sent a letter to DOE Undersecretary Paul Dabbar asking the department to remain at the negotiating table to find a mutually acceptable solution, rather than issuing a new waste definition that will effectively terminate negotiations.