Defense board hearing for Hanford plant under way

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KENNEWICK, Wash. (AP) -- A public hearing by a federal board that makes safety recommendations about the nation's nuclear facilities is under way in Kennewick.

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board is holding its second public hearing in Washington over a waste treatment plant under construction at south-central Washington's Hanford nuclear reservation.

The $12.3 billion plant has been the subject of increasing scrutiny after several workers raised concerns about the plant's safe operation.

Board Chairman Peter Winokur said in his opening statement Thursday that the plant serves a vital function in cleaning up the highly contaminated site, but that unresolved technical problems with the plant's design challenge its ability to operate safely and efficiently.

The board will be taking testimony from federal managers and the public.