TRIDEC Writes Governor and Attorney General

TRIDEC president Carl Adrian and TRIDEC vice president for federal programs Gary Peterson write a letter to Washington governor Jay Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson outlining what TRIDEC believes should be the focus of Hanford clean up right now. 

The pair cautions the state leaders that in their opinion, there are greater concerns closer to the Columbia River right now than the tank farms and the vit plant, which in TRIDEC's view, is what the state is focused on. The full letter is below:

 

April 14, 2015

 

 

The Honorable Jay Inslee                                            The Honorable Bob Ferguson

Governor, State of Washington                                  Attorney General, State of Washington

PO Box 40002                                                             PO Box 47600

Olympia, WA  98504-0002                                          Olympia, WA  98504-7600

 

Dear Governor Inslee and Mr. Ferguson:

 

The Tri-City Development Council (TRIDEC) and the Tri-Cities Community have followed with interest the recent proposals by both Washington State and the Department of Energy to amend the Justice Department’s Oct. 2010 Consent Decree relating to Hanford’s tank farms and Waste Treatment Plant (WTP).

 

We compliment you and the State for the specificity in your 2014 proposed amendment, and we were disappointed that the Department of Energy’s public proposal was not more specific.

 

We are writing to express serious concerns that the State’s singular focus on the tanks and WTP will result in reduced funding for and progress in the River Corridor and Central Plateau cleanup under the Richland Operations Office, or could end up in a protracted legal battle which does not help cleanup at all.

 

TRIDEC has publicly stated that the double shell tank (AY-102), though leaking through the inner shell, is doing exactly what it was designed to do – contain any leak between the inner and outer shell of the tank.  In addition, we recognize that all of the pumpable liquids have been removed from the 144 single shell tanks.  Therefore, immediate risks to the environment and public from the tanks have been minimized.

 

We believe that design and construction of eight new double-shell tanks will cost about $800 million (at a cost of approximately $100 million each) and require 8 to 10 years before the first tank comes into operation (including permitting). During this same 8 – 10 year period, given nearly an equal amount of funding, it should be possible to completely empty another 8 to 10 single shell tanks.  Or, if currently available funds were taken to build new double shell tanks, it is likely that no more single shell tanks will be cleaned out.  We recognize that there is extremely limited Congressional funding for cleanup at all of the Weapons Complex Sites.  Any diversion of cleanup funds – from one project to another, or even from one site to another – is very improbable and should not be attempted.

 

TRIDEC supports the concept of ‘early LAW’ (low-activity waste glassification) within WTP and the Tank Farms, and we applaud both the State and DOE for their support of this effort.


 

 

 

Governor Jay Inslee

Attorney General Bob Ferguson

April 14, 2014

Page two

 

 

The Tri-Cities community expects work on the WTP and tank farms to continue as planned.  We simply believe that the tanks do not present an immediate and urgent threat to the environment and public, and so they should be dealt with on a schedule and with a funding profile that is reasonable, achievable, and allows cleanup elsewhere on the Hanford Site to continue at the same time.  This “other” cleanup, under the Richland Operations Office, is critical to reducing the near-term risks that threaten people and the Columbia River (groundwater contamination, vadose zone contamination, cesium/strontium capsules, buried waste near the Columbia River).  Work at the WTP and tank farms is important, but not MORE important than the other work at Hanford.

 

Both DOE Richland (RL) and ORP need consistent funding simply to sustain the momentum that has been gained at WTP and the Tank Farms, and at the balance of the Hanford Site under RL.   Consistent funding provides a balanced workforce across the Hanford Site, and allows RL to maintain the Hanford infrastructure needed to support both cleanup operations.  It’s worth noting that RL’s budget will need sizeable increases in the next couple years to support building new infrastructure in support of ORP operations.

 

With this letter, we request that the Washington State and the Department of Ecology take a closer look at the near-term public risks that are presented by: 

 

  • Waste Encapsulation and Storage Facility (WESF) where 53 million curies of cesium and strontium in more than 1,900 capsules are stored in water basins where the concrete liner is known to be deteriorating.  Both the DOE Inspector General and the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board see WESF as a major public health and environmental safety risk.  Getting these capsules into dry storage is, and should be, a major DOE EM goal;
  • Radioactive sludge sitting in the K-West Basin (it costs $20 million a year to simply “watch” over this sludge).  There are more than 27 cubic meters of highly radioactive contaminated sludge in a water filled basin located in the 100-K Area of Hanford some 500 yards from the Columbia River.  The 100-K sludge contains more than 550,000 curies of radioactive material.  This sludge needs to be moved away from the Columbia River to T Plant for final treatment;
  • Large quantities of mixed and transuranic wastes are sitting in degrading containers at the central waste complex in the 200 West Area.  These wastes need to be repackaged and prepared for final disposition.  The Department of Ecology issued a citation to DOE for the condition of these containers.  These containers could be repackaged for safe storage or shipment offsite by PermaFix in North Richland.


 

 

 

 

Governor Jay Inslee

Attorney General Bob Ferguson

April 14, 2014

Page three

 

 

  • The 324 Building in the 300 Area sits some 300 plus yards from the Columbia River. 
    • The 324 Building is designated as a Category 2 (CAT 2) nuclear facility that is located in the 300 Area and began operation in 1965, and ceased operation in 1996.
    • 324 is the most complex and hazardous research facility still located along Hanford's river corridor.
    • Hot cells are contaminated from research with high-levels of radioactive material.
    • A significant spill occurred in B-Cell in the mid-1980s
    • B-Cell cleanout and stabilization conducted from mid-1990s through 2010 showed that there was a breach in the sump and liner of this cell, with radiation readings as high as 14,000 R/hr. (extremely hot)
    • Soil and Water remediation – Two uranium plumes are threatening both groundwater and the Columbia River.  One uranium plume sits “perched” some 20 feet above groundwater near B-Plant, and another has already began seeping into the Columbia River in the 300 Area.  The one at B-Plant needs to be pumped and treated, while the one in the 300 Area needs to be addressed with chemical retardation.
    • The K-3 ventilation system at the WESF facility contains some 300,000 curies of contamination and due to the age of the filters, poses a major risk that requires removal and disposal of the filters to the Environmental Restoration and Disposal Facility (ERDF).

 

The above list identifies only some of what we feel are the more immediate risks to the environment, the river, the environment and the public. These activities all require additional funding OVER the Administration’s FY2015 budget request for river corridor cleanup!  TRIDEC feels that the above projects will not likely receive needed funding if the State and the Administration continue to focus on WTP and the Tank Farms, or if the State moves to legal action on the Consent Decree.   Being so singularly focused does a great disservice to the Hanford cleanup, as Hanford is certainly not a one-issue or one-waste stream site.  All Hanford wastes threaten the environment and our community.

 

We respectfully submit that the State of Washington and more specifically the Department of Ecology look at Hanford cleanup as a whole, rather than as a single project that falls under the Consent decree.   Our community feels very strongly that moving the Consent Decree to the courts will negatively impact Hanford cleanup across-the-board.

 

Our community is excited that more than 70% of the Hanford Site could be cleaned up by the end


 

 

 

Governor Jay Inslee

Attorney General Bob Ferguson

April 14, 2014

Page four

 

 

of 2015.  There will be 210 square miles of Hanford that is cleaned up if we continue to support

both the RL and ORP budgets!   More specifically, our community is looking forward to a time when we can gain public access to the entire River Corridor.   This will only happen if we continue to invest in cleaning up major sites along the Columbia, and in the Central Plateau.

 

We look forward to your continuing support for cleaning up Hanford, getting Congress to approve a new Manhattan Project National Park, and new missions such as fabricating or assembling small modular reactors for shipment all over the world.