RICHLAND (AP) — Removing radioactive waste from underground tanks at the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site has proven to be technologically vexing for years, and recent word that six tanks are leaking has only added pressure to the efforts to empty them.
A proposal to ship some of that waste to New Mexico to ultimately stem the leaks earned approval from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who called it the right step for south-central Washington’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the state and the nation.
The proposal still requires approval from the two states, and Congress still must approve funding — likely pushing any shipments of waste two to four years into the future. But Inslee said he will push lawmakers to fully pay for the proposal, saying “every single dollar of it is justified.”
Federal officials on Wednesday announced a proposal to ship some 3 million gallons of radioactive waste from Hanford for disposal in a massive repository — called the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant — near Carlsbad, N.M., where radioactive materials are buried in in salt beds nearly a half-mile underground.
The waste near Carlsbad includes such things as clothing, tools and other debris.
The Hanford site sent the equivalent of about 25,000 drums of such so-called transuranic waste, which is radioactive but less deadly than the worst, high-level waste, to WIPP between 2000 and 2011.
The latest proposal would target transuranic waste in underground tanks that hold a toxic, radioactive stew of liquids, sludge and solids, but it would address only a fraction of the 56 million gallons of total waste in the tanks.