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WA State Sues DOE Over Hanford Waste Shipments

> This is a message from the Washington State Department of Ecology.
>
> The following is the news release issued today by the Governor's
> office on the lawsuit filed by the State of Washington to stop
> shipments of transuranic waste to Hanford.
> > Office of the Governor
> >
> > Contacts:
> > Michael Marchand, Governor's Communications Office, 360-902-4136;
> > Gary Larson, Attorney General's Office, 360-586-1883; Sheryl
> > Hutchison, Department of Ecology, 360-407-7004
> >
> >
> > Washington State Sues U.S. Department of Energy to
> > Halt Hanford Shipments
> >
> > OLYMPIA - March 4, 2003 - Gov. Gary Locke, Attorney General
> > Christine Gregoire and Washington State Department of Ecology
> > Director Tom Fitzsimmons today announced that the state has taken
> > legal action to stop the U.S. Department of Energy from shipping
> > additional quantities of radioactive waste to the Hanford site near
> > Richland. The suit results from the Department of Energy's failure
> > to develop a plan for the eventual removal of the waste from the
> > state.
> >
> > The attorney general filed the suit today on behalf of the state
> > Department of Ecology in U.S. District Court in Spokane after the
> > Department of Energy failed to make a commitment to the state by a
> > March 1 deadline. In December 2002, the Department of Energy had
> > agreed in principle to provide enforceable assurances that
> > "transuranic" (TRU) waste currently at Hanford and planned to be
> > shipped to the site would ultimately be disposed of at the Waste
> > Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico.
> >
> > "The Department of Energy's blatant disregard of our previous
> > agreement is indefensible," said Locke. "On behalf of the people of
> > Washington, we will do whatever it takes to ensure that a timeline
> > is developed for Hanford, a cleanup plan is put in place, and the
> > Department of Energy follows through on it."
> >
> > The suit requests a federal court to enjoin the Department of Energy
> > from shipping additional quantities of TRU waste to Hanford. It
> > also asked the court to declare that the Department of Energy 's
> > shipments of such waste are a violation of the National
> > Environmental Policy Act and other environmental laws and
> > regulations.
> >
> > The state was poised to sue over the TRU waste issue in December but
> > put legal action on hold after the Department of Energy pledged to
> > negotiate with the state to develop milestones for digging up the
> > waste, putting it in safe storage and readying it for shipment to
> > New Mexico. Based on those assurances, the state did not file a
> > lawsuit to block the Department of Energy from shipping drums of TRU
> > waste to Hanford from energy facilities in Ohio and California
> > before March 1.
> >
> > "We received assurances that the federal government would prepare to
> > ship approximately 78,000 barrels of radioactive waste out of
> > Hanford, if we let another 170 barrels in," Gregoire said. "But the
> > Department of Energy has not lived up to its end of the bargain, and
> > now they have left us with no choice but to file suit."
> >
> > Approximately 40 drums of TRU waste have arrived at Hanford since
> > December. One shipment is currently en route, and the next is
> > scheduled to be shipped on March 18. Negotiations fell apart last
> > weekend when the Department of Energy informed state officials that
> > it would not agree to a specific schedule for certifying the TRU
> > waste.
> >
> > "We have learned the hard way that little cleanup occurs at Hanford
> > unless the Department of Energy backs up its good intentions with
> > firm deadlines," said Fitzsimmons. "These are the only wastes at
> > Hanford that still do not have a cleanup plan, so it is a top
> > priority for us."
> >
> > Some TRU waste contains highly radioactive materials that are
> > long-lived and may be extremely dangerous if not properly managed.
> > Mixed TRU waste is radioactive, but also contains additional
> > hazardous substances that are regulated by federal law.
> >
> > Between 1970 and 1985, the Department of Energy stored approximately
> > 78,000 55-gallon drums of known or suspected TRU, mixed TRU and
> > low-level mixed waste at Hanford. The waste remains at the site
> > today, most of it partially buried in unlined trenches.
> >
> > The 560-square-mile Hanford reservation produced material for
> > nuclear weapons during World War II and the Cold War that followed.
> > It contains more radioactive waste than any other site in the
> > nation.
> >
> > The 1989 Tri-Party Agreement between the Department of Energy, the
> > U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Washington
> > established a timetable for cleaning up much of the dangerous waste
> > at Hanford, but TRU waste was not part of that agreement. The
> > agreement in December called for incorporating the new TRU waste
> > milestones into the Tri-Party Agreement.
> >
> > State officials also hoped the agreement would lead collective
> > dialogue with other states involved in the National Governors
> > Association's Federal Facilities Task Force aimed at lessening the
> > need to move the dangerous waste around the country multiple times.
> >
> > # # #