Judge rules on Hanford issue

Court decision favors state’s case in lawsuit

— The federal government must clearly demonstrate progress in its efforts to clean-up the Hanford nuclear site.

That’s according to a U.S. District Court ruling last Friday, resolving the state’s latest lawsuit over the clean-up of nuclear waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

In a 102-page ruling, the U.S. Department of Energy is taken to task for what the court calls a “total lack of transparency.”

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington Chief Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson agreed with state officials that the U.S. Department of Energy’s lack of transparency and accountability have contributed to the on-going delays in cleaning up the Hanford site.

Peterson ruled for the state in setting hard deadlines for specific clean-up milestones, requiring reporting to the states of Washington and Oregon to improve transparency, and creating an expedited hearing process, should further problems arise. 

The court also encouraged the parties to work together going forward.

“This ruling represents a big step in the right direction for our state,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “Cleaning up the legacy waste at Hanford is the federal government’s legal and moral responsibility to the Tri-Cities community and the Pacific Northwest.”

Attorney General Bob Ferguson hailed the ruling as a “…significant victory for the people of Washington. The federal government has long been more focused on excusing its delays than being a good partner in cleaning up the toxic mess they left behind at Hanford.”

The court order set hard deadlines for the completion and operation of the three main components of the waste treatment plant. For example, a plant designed to treat low-activity waste, a critical piece in the clean-up effort, must begin treatment by 2022.

In a separate order, the court rejected the federal government’s attempt to remove a technical advisor nominated by the state from a panel assembled by the court to assist with specialized aspects of the case.

In a separate lawsuit, Ferguson is suing the federal Department of Energy and its contractor, Washington River Protection Services.

Ferguson in that suit alleges that hazardous tank vapors at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, pose a serious risk to workers at the site.


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