Senate committee to hold special hearing on Hanford tank leaks

Brown and EricksenThe Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee will hold a special hearing at 8 a.m. on Thursday to learn more about the recently reported leaks from six underground radioactive waste storage tanks at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hanford Site. The meeting will be broadcast live on TVW at www.tvw.org.

“This will be an opportunity for members of the Senate to get a detailed report about what’s in those tanks, why they’re suspected of leaking, how the feds are responding and what it all means for the Columbia River,” said Ericksen, R-Whatcom County, who serves as chairman of the committee. “Once we have that information we’ll have a better feel for what can be done from a legislative perspective to address the situation.”

The Hanford Site, built secretly during World War II to produce plutonium for national defense, is within the 8th Legislative District represented by Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick. While no amount of leaking radioactive material is acceptable, Brown says, she’s pleased the governor’s office has focused early on this issue.

“These tanks were never intended to be in use for this long and it’s not a secret that the tanks are leaking. However, given the gravity of the situation and the enormity of the issues involved, it is exceedingly important that we continue the discussion with the state Department of Ecology to ascertain the most effective and efficient method of cleanup,” Brown said. “The people I represent want to see this problem solved sooner rather than later, just as people all around our state do, so I’m looking forward to meeting with the department at Thursday’s meeting.”

In addition to a briefing from representatives from Ecology, which oversees Hanford cleanup on the state’s behalf, a project director from Bechtel National will also give the senators an update about Hanford’s Waste Treatment Plant project and plans to convert the waste now stored in underground tanks into glass that can be sent away for storage at a long-term repository.