Watchdog Group Deems DOE Waste Cleanup Plan Inadequate

After an eight-year study of radioactive waste cleanup in Washington, the Department of Energy faces complaints that an incomplete disposal solution has been offered.

An activist group is challenging the U.S. Department of Energy's spending over the course of an eight-year study on the cleanup of radioactive tank waste, without offering a thorough plan for radioactive waste disposal. Hanford Challenge, based in Seattle, Wash., is vocalizing concerns that DOE has broken a federal law that requires the agency to state its preferred cleanup method.

While DOE has released a cleanup plan, Hanford Challenge founder and Executive Director Tom Carpenter said the plan is inadequate at best.

"All future cleanup actions depend on what's in this document," Carpenter said. "It's a 10,000-page study that lays out the alternatives, and the government is supposed to pick the cleanup paths, making sure that the future is protected from Hanford's radioactive and chemical products."

The Washington Department of Ecology agrees with the watchdog group, calling the plan incomplete. However, the department does point out the document is technically sound, with important information included.

Both the Department of Ecology and Hanford Challenge agree on a waste cleanup method called vitrification that encases the nuclear waste in glass. The DOE plan does account for a portion of the waste cleanup, but Carpenter points out the nuclear plant does not have the cleanup capability for all of the waste.

The study done by the Department of Energy cost about $85 million. The department told the Tri-City Herald that "DOE believes it is beneficial to further study the potential cost, safety and environmental performance of alternative treatment technologies."

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