What happened to the deadlines: Hanford

What happened to the deadlines: Hanford »Play Video
RICHLAND, Wash. -- The Department of Energy held a town hall meeting in Richland Monday night. It came on the heels of the state's timeline for cleaning up the area. The DOE presented their case for why they can't meet those standards and there were dozens of Hanford workers, both past and present on hand, to put the DOE's feet to the fire.

It was a packed house Monday night, and one question that plagued the meeting was, “what happened to our deadlines?”

“I can't believe the state is going to give up all their Consent Decree commitments and milestones for this open ended schedule," said a frustrated Jerry Peltier, a former Hanford worker. But that's exactly what the state is going to take a week to discuss.

In Monday’s presentation, the DOE made no changes to the cleanup of C-Farm plus 9 additional tanks. That project would continue as scheduled in the 2010 Consent Decree, with that waste out by 2022. But, just about every other deadline is "to be determined."

You’re going to go with a schedule that pretty much open-ends all the next dates for the next umpteen years…so you have no commitments, other than perhaps the completion of the project,” said Peltier. David Huizenga, the acting Assistant Secretary of Energy for Environmental Management responded, “We're not doing this because we want to, but because we find ourselves in this situation,” he said. “We're not going to pretend technical issues don't exist and wish them away."

Those technical issues surround the high level waste facility. The DOE says Hanford's cleanup cannot be tackled all at once, as agreed. Instead, they're proposing phases starting with making glass out of low level waste. “Then work on solving the waste technical problems and then ramping up and get those high level waste facilities going," said Huizenga.

“There's a compelling reason to empty those tanks as soon as possible," said one woman, a plea that comes on the heels of recent vapor outbreaks.

“Sending workers back into tanks farms giving off an unknown substance without respiratory gear is a stupid mistake," said one former Hanford worker.

“We think we need to bring tank farm vapors back under control,” responded Kevin Smith, manager with the Office of River Protection. “Some of the reporting has been mischaracterized,” he said, “back to their organization, does not mean back to the tank farms until they're ready."

Ready or not, it's now in the state's hands to decide whether to accept the DOE's proposal.

The DOE spokesman expects a decision by the state on Friday. The state also gave a proposal to the feds that they are looking over as well. If they don't accept an agreement, both groups will begin a 40 day window of negotiations, a stipulation of the 2010 Consent Decree.