Target: Frank Marcinowski, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Waste Management, Office of Environmental Management at the Department of Energy
Goal: Demand that operators immediately address safety concerns at the nation’s most contaminated nuclear storage site
Hanford Nuclear Reservation is considered the most contaminated waste facility of its kind in the United States. The Department of Energy (DOE), which operates the site, was aware of leaking storage tanks for months before alerting the public, and has yet to provide a firm timeline for dealing with this extremely hazardous waste. New leaks continue to be reported; meanwhile the Obama administration has recommended cutting millions of dollars from Hanford’s cleanup budget.
In a recent letter to the DOE, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon criticized ongoing issues at the site. Several of the tanks containing high-level nuclear waste have documented leaks, and design flaws are likely to plague even the tanks’ newer replacements, according to Senator Wyden. He wrote in part that “It is time for the department to stop hiding the ball and pretending that the situation at Hanford is being effectively managed.”
Hanford sits on the scenic Columbia River, which forms much of the border between Oregon and Washington states. Nearby residents and others concerned with the river’s health have reason to worry: according to a report prepared for the DOE, 67 storage tanks are suspected of leaking 1 million gallons of nuclear waste.
Demand that the DOE heed Senator Wyden’s call to action. Tell regulators they must prepare and implement a plan to address this ongoing crisis without delay.
Dear Mr. Marcinowski,
Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon has widely criticized the DOE’s handling of Hanford’s ongoing nuclear leaks. I agree that something must be done immediately, and that operators are playing with fire by assuming there are no additional leaks when new ones continue to be discovered.
Sadly, this is merely another chapter in the department’s disgraceful handling of the situation at Hanford. A subcontractor for the cleanup was fired in 2014 for exposing operators’ lack of safety precautions; and in 2013, Hanford made news after a nuclear safety board warned that some of the site’s tanks could explode “if adequate ventilation is not provided.” Now we learn that although the DOE was aware of numerous leaks, the department waited months before alerting the public.
Residents along the Columbia River in Oregon and Washington have every reason for concern. They know the official plan is for these compromised storage tanks to last several decades, and that firm plans to more permanently deal with the waste have failed to materialize. I call on you to immediately act on Senator Wyden’s request for a timely action plan that addresses these ongoing safety and operational issues.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: TobinFricke via Wikimedia