“The U.S. Department of Energy has announced that it is labeling some ‘high-level’ waste as ‘low-level,’ the June 10 Columbian editorial “In Our View: Shortcut on nuke waste cleanup shortsighted” claims. Unfortunately, this statement is simply not true. High-level nuclear waste cannot be reclassified as low-level waste.
What DOE has proposed under their Order 435.1 is to actually classify all the waste in the 177 Hanford tanks based on their content, not their origin.
Almost 90 percent of the waste in the 177 tanks is already classified as low-level waste. Previously, all the waste in these tanks was broadly identified as high level because of where it came from; not based on the contents itself.
So this is not a move by DOE to somehow reclassify high-level waste in those tanks. High-level waste remains as high-level waste.
Instead, it is an action to correctly identify the wastes in each tank — high-level waste, low-level waste, mixed low-level waste and possibly transuranic waste. These latter three categories can be removed and treated at greatly reduced costs, and much sooner than is true of high-level waste.
This is a smart step forward for Washington residents, and for all taxpayers.