Washington State, DOE Reject Changes to Hanford Agreement

Washington state and the Department of Energy have rejected each other's proposals amending an agreement on waste cleanup at the Hanford site.

The state won a consent decree in 2010 that set milestones for the cleanup of Cold War-era nuclear waste at the site. Many are unlikely to be met because of technical challenges, particularly those related to the delayed Waste Treatment Plant (WTP) to vitrify tank waste. DOE offered a proposed amendment to the decree last month that would give the agency more leeway to manage delays. But on Friday, Washington's governor and attorney general rejected many of its terms, specifically what they described as a lack of enforceable deadlines.

"While Washington agrees there should be a phased implementation of WTP facilities, the manner in which Energy has proposed to amend the consent decree to implement such a phased approach lacks sufficient specificity, accountability and enforceability," read the state's response to the DOE.

In a statement, the attorney general said the state will pursue legal action against the agency as early as next week. That could entail a 40-day dispute resolution process outlined in the original agreement, possibly followed by another court order.

Washington had proposed its own plan to amend the consent decree, which the DOE also announced it had rejected Friday. An agency statement read: "The state’s proposal reflects agreement between DOE and the state in several key areas. It does not, however, adequately account for the realities of technical issues resolution, project management requirements and budget constraints, and therefore DOE cannot accept the state’s proposal."

DOE's formal response to the Washington proposal.

Washington's response to the DOE's proposal.

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