Local leaders look to Savannah River for Hanford clean-up possibilities

RICHLAND, Wash. – When it comes to cleaning up the Hanford Site, local officials said the safety of employees and the community should come first.

“We don’t wanna do anything that’s gonna jeopardize the lives of citizens around here,” State Senator Sharon Brown said.

“We want everything to be done with wisdom and understanding, safety,” Rep. Brad Klippert added.

Klippert, who worked on the Hanford site at one time, said he, Washington State Senator Sharon Brown and Rep. Matt Boehnke have recently looked to South Carolina for a cleanup solution that is safe, fast and more cost-effective.

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“It allows low level waste to be classified truly as low level waste and the high level waste to be remediated separately,” Brown said.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Savannah Site was built during the 1950’s to produce materials for nuclear weapons, much like Hanford. Now, they’re working on getting rid of 37 million gallons of high level, radioactive liquid waste. Right now, they have several cleanup projects including a salt-waste processing facility.

Klippert believes their classification system could work for Hanford.

“You wanna classify the waste on it’s molecular buildup and not just the fact that it’s defense waste and everything’s emitting high radioactivity,” he said.

Yet, in the past, officials like Governor Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson have spoken against reclassifying waste at Hanford.

In a statement to the Trump Administration in 2019, both men said downgrading the waste from high to low could lead to unsafe disposal options.

READ MORE: Critics decry proposed cuts in Hanford Nuclear Clean Up Plan

Still, Klippert and Brown believe the science and results from the Savannah River Site are enough and will not side step safety.

“We don’t wanna give up safety, to do it quickly but then we don’t want this process to take forever,” Klippert said.

Documents from Hanford said the clean up could cost anywhere from $323.2 to $667 billion. Brown said the system used at the Savannah Site could save them money.

“A lot more cost effectively, a lot more efficiently, and a lot faster if we classify tank waste according to the elements that are actually in the tank,” she said.

Hanford officials said they could not comment on this story but Klippert and Brown hope, along with many others, they can work together to continue a safe clean-up.