Sen. Wyden plans to make Hanford cleanup a high priority

<p>Sen. Ron Wyden</p>

Sen. Ron Wyden

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D) of Oregon visits the Hanford site today, and vows to make cleanup efforts at the hazardous waste site a priority in the U.S. Senate.

Senator Wyden is the chair of the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Wyden says when a new Secretary of Energy is selected to replace Dr. Steven Chu, he plans to secure a commitment with that person to make sure they make the Hanford cleanup a high priority.

Today, Senator Wyden toured parts of the Hanford site as part of a fact finding visit.

He toured the B Reactor, Hanford's tank farm and the Vitrification Plant.

Senator Wyden also addressed a single shell tank that appears to be leaking at the site, and the construction of the Waste Treatment Plant that is years behind schedule.

He says these two issues reinforce his belief that the cleanup of the site is extremely important.

"This should represent an unacceptable threat to the Pacific Northwest for everybody. There are problems that have to be solved, and the Department of Energy cannot say what changes are needed, when they will be completed, or what they will cost. That is not acceptable for a plant that is in theory more than half complete" said Senator Wyden.

Collectively, the tanks at the Hanford site hold millions of gallons of highly radioactive waste left from decades of plutonium production for nuclear weapons.

Department of Energy officials say the one single shell tank in question is losing between 150 and 300 gallons of liquid over the course of a year.

The Office of River Protection says it has not determined why the level of fluid is dropping in the tank.

Wyden says there are also unresolved safety issues at the Vit Plant dealing with waste mixing, potential hydrogen explosions, and the erosion and corosion of pipes.

The plant is expected to turn millions of gallons of radioactive waste into glass-like logs for longterm storage.

It is estimated to cost about $12 billion and be operational in 2019.