Posted on March 16, 2014 at 8:25 AM
Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz is scheduled to meet with Gov. Jay Inslee and other high ranking state officials on Monday in Olympia to discuss the Hanford Nuclear Site cleanup, which is billions of dollars over budget and decades behind schedule.
The Director of the Washington State Department of Ecology, Maia Bellon, and the state’s top nuclear program manager, Jane Hedges, are among others also expected to be in attendance.
Hanford is owned by the U.S. Dept. of Energy and regulated by the state Dept. of Ecology and the EPA. The cleanup has been plagued with technical problems, delays, leaking tanks and a lack of transparency.
The agenda for Monday's meeting is expected to include the legally binding consent decree
signed by the state and federal government in 2010. The Dept. of Energy is failing to meet deadlines mandated in the agreement for start up of the Waste Treatment Plant and other milestones. Failure to meet the deadlines could lead to the state taking Energy to court or the imposition of penalties by a federal judge.
Earlier this week the state was highly critical of the DOE's revised plan
to empty the first ever double shell tank to leak at Hanford. The tank, known as AY-102, has been at the center of the KING 5 investigation, Hanford’s Dirty Secrets
. Two-and-a-half years have passed since the government contractor in charge of the tanks had strong scientific indications the tank was leaking, yet the recently submitted plan doesn’t call for any pumping of the tank for at least two more years. State law calls for leaking tanks to be emptied within 24 hours or whatever timeframe is practical.
Energy's plan "demonstrates the federal government's lack of commitment to set a firm, near-term schedule for the removal of waste from leaking double-shell Tank AY-102," the Department of Ecology said in a statement. "On initial review, the plan lacks accountability to meet state law."
This will be the second visit to Washington state to discuss Hanford for Secretary Moniz. The first visit
occurred within his first month of taking office in June 2013. During that visit Moniz met with local leaders in the Tri-Cities as well as Hanford whistleblowers, the media and other stakeholders. As yet, no such availability is planned for this visit, which the watchdog group Hanford Challenge called “undemocratic” and "another example of the USDOE’s failure to provide transparency and accountability”.
Hanford is the most contaminated site in the country. Operations there have centered around clean up since 1989 when more than four decades of plutonium production for the country’s nuclear program ended.
KING 5 Environmental Specialist Gary Chittim contributed to this report.