Although the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is more than 200 miles upriver from Vancouver, the environmental group Columbia Riverkeeper wants Clark County residents to understand the potential ramifications of a U.S. Department of Energy proposal to reclassify the radioactive waste at the shuttered nuclear production site.
Energy is taking steps to change how the federal government labels the nuclear waste left inside Hanford storage tanks. By reclassifying high-level nuclear waste — which has to be removed — to low-level waste, the material would be allowed to be left in place and the storage tanks filled with concrete, then sealed with a cap.
The tanks lie close to the Columbia River.
In a report titled “Draft Waste Incidental to Reprocessing Evaluation for Closure of Waste Management Area C at the Hanford Site, Washington” the Energy Department concludes that the site’s radioactive waste has been remediated to a satisfactory degree and that the remaining waste, if properly stored, could be treated as low-level radioactive waste.
“This is one of the biggest policy decisions in recent years at Hanford,” said Dan Serres, Riverkeeper’s conservation director. “It will impact people throughout the entire region. By reclassifying waste at Hanford, the Department of Energy is setting the stage to leave highly dangerous waste in the tanks and in the soil beneath the tanks.”
The environmental organization, along with speakers from the Yakama Nation and Hanford cleanup advocacy groups Hanford Challenge and Heart of America Northwest, plan to give an in-depth explanation of Energy’s proposal and the current progress of the site’s cleanup during a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Vancouver Community Library Columbia Room. 901 C St., Vancouver.
•Who: Speakers from Columbia Riverkeeper, the Yakama Nation and Hanford cleanup advocacy groups.
• What: Explanation of the Department of Energy’s proposal to reclassify Hanford waste.
• When: 6:30 p.m. Monday.
• Where: Vancouver Community Library Columbia Room, 901 C St., Vancouver.
The meeting comes just days after the federal government extended the public comment period on the proposal to Nov. 7.
The proposal is similar to one Energy made in the early 2000s that faced sharp criticism from environmental groups and politicians.
“We want people to get up to speed on the issue enough that they can contact the decision-makers on this issue … and encourage people to engage with them and understand Washington state and the federal delegation have important voice in this,” Serres said.