Hanford Nuclear Waste Cleanup Stalls Amid Legal Turmoil

A cleanup of nuclear weapons waste at Washington State's Hanford Site was first outlined in 1989. But now, as state officials wrangle with the federal government, deadlines set in 2016 may still not be met.

1 minute read

June 13, 2019, 12:00 PM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc

Hanford Site

Tobin / Flickr

Washington's Hanford Site once played host to the Manhattan Project. Over the past several decades, it's been the site of one of the nation's largest nuclear cleanup efforts. But as Ralph Vartabedian reports, delays abound. 

"Two multibillion-dollar industrial facilities intended to turn highly radioactive sludge into solid glass at the Hanford nuclear site have been essentially mothballed. Construction was halted in 2012 because of design flaws and Energy Department managers have foundered in finding alternatives," Vartabedian writes. Meanwhile, the storage of 56 million gallons of radioactive waste so close to the Columbia River has raised environmental concerns.

According to the state, "federal officials have taken repeated unilateral actions that will make their cleanup unlikely to meet critical deadlines set up in a 2016 consent decree in federal court." Part of that stems from cost issues. In February, a new estimate expanded the projects likely bill "from $110 billion to as much as $660 billion, a cost increase that has staggered Congress and has fueled sentiment to cut short the cleanup goals."

State officials are preparing for further legal wrangling to get the project back on track.

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