Second quarter of 2002

US radioactive remediation “accelerated” – Completion date brought forward from 2070 to 2035

WISE-Paris, 05 April 2002

[Posted 05/04/2002]

Washington State Governor Gary Locke announced on 13 March an agreement reached with US Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham that reverses a planned $300 million cut from cleanup funds earmarked for the massive Hanford nuclear reservation in the Pacific north west state. The federal government will also provide an additional $150 million in fiscal year 2003 to pay for accelerated cleanup activities this year.

The funding cut would have threatened construction of a vitrification plant for immobilization of the nuclear waste in glass. This would have had a knock-on effect on other projects, as the vitrification plant is also expected to serve in the cleanup of other areas of the Hanford site which may then be converted into industrial parks, brownfields or conservation sites. There are over 1,500 areas of contaminated soil at Hanford. The funding cut had been part of the Bush administration's proposed FY 2003 budget. A Letter of Intent -restoring the cut - has now been signed by the State of Washington, the Department of Energy (USDOE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), modifying the existing Tri-Party Agreement.

The letter states in part, "This represents a transformation in Hanford Site cleanup, with the objective of accelerating completion from a 2070 timeframe to 2035, and possibly as soon as 2025. It establishes a bias for action and continuous improvement throughout cleanup." Hanford Nuclear Reservation on the Columbia River in southcentral Washington State- which produced plutonium for nuclear weapons from 1943 through 1989- could be cleaned up at least 35 years faster than originally estimated. There are 177 large-scale underground nuclear waste tanks at Hanford, containing some 54m gallons of high-level wastes. An estimated 440 billion gallons of contaminated liquids were discharged to the soil since 1944. Now US-DOE will produce a draft work plan by 1 May 2002 showing how these goals can be met and the Tri-Parties hope to produce a mutually acceptable work plan by 1 August 2002.

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