Some of the 56 million gallons of radioactive waste — visualize roughly 50 football fields filled 10 feet deep — contained at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation will eventually find its way to the Columbia River. And when it does it will be a national disaster.
The only way to prevent this from happening it to remove the waste.
This has been considered a top priority by the federal government for decades. Yet, when it comes to fully funding this critical waste cleanup the money — and progress — fall short.
“The state has shown a good amount of patience,” Gov. Jay Inslee said on Monday. “Now the clock is up.”
Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Monday plans to once again sue the federal government if it doesn’t come up with a better plan of action or agree to the state’s proposal for cleanup in the next two months.
Washington state has successfully taken the federal government to court in the past, and this has not fully motivated Uncle Sam to deliver as promised.
In 1989, the state and federal governments entered into an agreement that called for the waste to be cleaned up on a 30-year timetable. Progress fell short, deadlines were missed. Washington sued in 2008. That suit was settled in 2010 with specific deadlines for full cleanup by 2047 and all the waste was to be out of the single-wall tanks, six of which are leaking, by 2040.
The federal government concedes it is behind on meeting those deadlines and has come up with a plan to get back on track. Inslee said the plan “lacks significant detail.”
No doubt Inslee is correct. Another round of legal battles will likely confirm it.
And the federal government will pick up the pace with good intentions only to bog down when Congress puts funding elsewhere. There always seems to be more urgent needs.
It’s frustrating. Yet, going to court is about all that can be done. Inslee and Ferguson should proceed aggressively.
Sadly, the sense of urgency that seems to be lacking in Washington, D.C., will come to fruition when only Congress understands the situation is critical. The latest legal threat is part of the process.
We can only hope the light comes on in the U.S. Capitol before it’s too late to prevent disaster.