Gov. Inslee tours Vit Plant, leaking tanks at Hanford

<p>Gov. Jay Inslee</p>

Gov. Jay Inslee

Governor Jay Inslee (D) tours parts of Hanford today, as the Department of Energy announces a potential plan to move waste from several leaking tanks at the site to a plant in New Mexico.

This afternoon, Inslee toured the Waste Treatment Plant and several tank farms that have leaking tanks in them to better understand the issues at the hazardous waste site.

He says he is glad to see progress being made, but he wants to hold the federal government more accountable to make sure the work continues safely and quickly.

After two weeks of high concern about the six leaking tanks at Hanford, Governor Jay Inslee says there appears to be some relief.

"The good news is that our insistence on a zero tolerance policy has resulted in an active plan to remove this waste" said Inslee.

Today, as the governor toured the Hanford site, the Department of Energy announced it is working on a plan to remove the waste from some of the leaking tanks and transfer it to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico.

But this process will take time.

Inslee says it will likely take two to four years to retrieve the waste and get everything ready to be moved.

"The bad news is unfortunately, there will be some continuing leakage in these tanks while we're experiencing this" said Inslee.

The leaking tanks are five to eight miles away from the Columbia River.

Inslee says even though the tanks will continue to leak, there is no immediate risk to public, or to the drinking water.

"Nor is there any threat to our wonderful agriculture products" said Inslee.

The governor says the overall cleanup is making progress - today, 72% of the site has been cleaned up, and construction of the vit plant is 50% completed.

But the sequestration issue could have a major impact on the future of the clean up work.

"We do not have the precise dimensions of this, but it could end up people losing a day a week for several months or several weeks of work, and that will slow down this process" said Inslee.

In addition to working on removing some waste, the DOE is also working on monitoring the tanks more closely with video cameras.

That way, crews can be aware of any issues sooner rather than later.

"So there will be an increased, I think, level of confidence as a result of this new information" said Inslee.

This afternoon, the governor also renewed his vow to fight to make Yucca Mountain the permanent home for all the hazardous waste at Hanford.

He says there is no other viable long term storage option.

Inslee believes today's announcement from the DOE is a good first step, but he says he doesn't want this to slow down progress at the Waste Treatment Plant.

The plant will eventually turn radioactive waste into glass like logs for permanent storage.