Cleanup delays at Hanford can't go on

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The federal government last week gave state officials notification it might (as in likely) miss two cleanup deadlines at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

This should not be a surprise to anybody. Just about every deadline regarding nuclear cleanup has been delayed or broken. It’s always something.

That’s because the buried nuclear waste is out of sight literally and figuratively. It’s in the northwest corner of the United States in a desert. Beyond that, the potential disaster isn’t looming, it’s years and years away. Hakuna Matata, as they said in “The Lion King” — no worries.

When funding gets tight, as it always does, the cleanup at Hanford gets shortchanged.

The cleanup is so massive that the scope is difficult to comprehend. So, few try — including those in Congress.

As a result, the only thing you can count on regarding nuclear cleanup is it will be behind schedule.

The federal government cannot continue to delay the cleanup up of 56 million gallons of radioactive waste contained in 177 tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. The U. S. Department of Energy confirmed earlier this year that six of the tanks are leaking outside their shells. When the waste leaches to the Columbia River, and eventually it will, it will be a national disaster.

While this should matter to the entire country, it matters most to those of us who live about an hour away.

The latest delay is in regard to a court-ordered timetable to accomplish tasks such as tearing down contaminated buildings and treating contaminated water.

Perhaps the delays in those areas is understandable given the more time-critical problem of dealing with the leaking tanks.

Then again, had the government proceeded more quickly in fulfilling its pledge to clean up the radioactive material, the millions of gallons of waste would have been treated and the tanks would not be there to leak.

The cleanup at Hanford is not optional, it’s vital for safety reasons and it is an obligation of the federal government.

The nuclear waste stored near Richland — about 70 percent of the nation’s nuclear waste — was created to make the atomic bombs dropped on Japan to end World War II. The creation of nuclear waste continued during the Cold War. This deadly waste is at Hanford because of national security efforts.

The nation has an obligation to get the job done before it’s too late.

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