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Northwest News Network

Washington State Fines Feds More Than $1 Million Over Hanford Cleanup Data

A federal report says parts going into Hanford's Waste Treatment Plant are not  properly documented to insure their safety for nuclear waste processing.
A federal report says parts going into Hanford's Waste Treatment Plant are not properly documented to insure their safety for nuclear waste processing.

The Washington Department of Ecology has issued a more than $1 million penalty to the U.S. Department of Energy for withholding important information at the Hanford cleanup site.

Ecology leaders say without access to this data, they can’t effectively protect the land, air and water for residents in eastern Washington and surrounding communities. They say they’ve attempted to negotiate this issue with federal Energy managers for years.

Washington state regulators say the federal Energy Department is legally required to provide access to this data as part of the binding Tri-Party Agreement. That document was signed in 1989 and governs cleanup of the Hanford site.

Hanford is one of the most contaminated sites in the world –  including toxic materials like 56 million gallons of radioactive and chemical waste. 

The Department of Energy says it has filed an appeal with the state’s Pollution Control Hearings Board. A spokesperson wrote: “We will continue to provide appropriate access to information in a way that allows us to continue to adhere to federal laws and requirements.”

The DOE stores and treats waste in tanks with equipment that is 50, 60, or even 70 years old. Washington’s Ecology Department says it can only ensure the safety of aging infrastructure if the federal government provides transparent access to those operating records.

The Ecology Department says it aims to use the penalty funds to support eastern Washington communities.

Copyright 2020 Northwest News Network