Washington State and D.O.E. Settle Lawsuit over Hanford Cleanup

Washington State and D.O.E. Settle Lawsuit over Hanford Cleanup »Play Video
HANFORD - The Secretary of Energy's big visit to Hanford carried a big announcement: The state settled a lawsuit against the feds over cleanup timelines.

They struck a deal and the state is no longer suing the Department of Energy over missed Hanford deadlines. The agreement sets new dates and now makes those legally binding.

"It is a new partnership that has made this day possible," said Gov. Chris Gregoire.

While it was tough talk from Gregoire last year, now it is talk of compromise.

Last year, Washington sued the Department of Energy over missed deadlines with Hanford cleanup.

Now a new energy secretary means a new beginning, with some concessions.

"All waste must be cleaned up by 2047. It is longer than what we had hoped but it is reasonable and achievable," Gregoire said.

And a better number than what the previous administration had given. Funding cuts meant only cleaning up one tank per year — that would take 140 years.

"We have a legal obligation and a moral (obligation) to make sure this community's sacrifices are being honored," Sen. Patty Murray said.

The new agreement requires that all waste be treated by 2047. And with that, Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s visit became much more than a photo opportunity.

Both Washington senators, governors from Washington and Oregon all came to Hanford for the Chu’s first trip to the area.

Chu toured the vitrification plant. This is the place with the most complex radioactive waste in the world. It's 53 million gallons of the nastiest stuff.

Tank by tank, they're sucking it out, storing it and eventually turning it into glass.

"In order to appreciate the size the scale of the complex problems. This is the biggest nuclear project in the world," Chu said.

The biggest in the world and Chu toured the largest federally funded construction project in the nation.

What we do here is a big deal, so it's a big deal the feds are now holding up their end of the bargain.