U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell urges the federal government to safely treat and dispose of hazardous nuclear waste stored at the Hanford site as former Texas Gov. Rick Perry prepares to take over as head of the U.S. Department of Energy.
President Donald Trump tapped Perry as Energy Secretary of the White House in December. He is expected to take on the role upon the Senate’s approval.
Cantwell has voiced concern in recent weeks over the federal government’s commitment to cleaning waste at the site.
“We have a lot of work to do to make sure the federal government lives up to the Tri-Party Agreement, and our state is going to continue to push them to do so,” Cantwell told KVEW Friday.
The Tri-Party Agreement is a joint cleanup effort made for Hanford in the late ‘80s between the Washington State Department of Ecology, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Cantwell questioned Perry about his commitment to the cleanup effort at a hearing earlier this month. In response, Perry said he will adhere to the Tri-Party Agreement. He added the federal government will work with both state officials and the private sector to clean Hanford waste as efficiently as possible while keeping workers safe.
However, it likely won’t be a simple task. Cantwell called Hanford “arguably one of the most technical cleanup projects in the entire world.”
On Friday, Cantwell said there are still a lot of questions to be answered about the science and technology required to get rid of radioactive waste at the site.
She said Hanford’s vitrification plant will be an essential component of the plan to dispose of hazardous waste.
Vitrification is a process that turns nuclear and chemical waste from the site’s underground tanks into glass by heating a mixture of waste and glass-forming materials to extreme temperatures. Once cooled, the vitrified waste can be disposed of in a safer manner.
The Hanford Vit Plant is reportedly the largest vitrification facility in the country.
Cantwell is meeting with Hanford workers on Friday afternoon to speak with them about cleanup efforts and employee safety.
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