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EPA, DOE Reach Settlement on Timetable to
Remove Hanford Sludge Along Columbia River

by Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin, May 29, 2015

Hanford Nuclear Site 2005 and projection for year 3890.  Some contamination from Hanford slowly spreads to Columbia River The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy have reached a settlement over DOE's failure to meet a critical September 2014 Tri-Party Agreement milestone for beginning sludge removal from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation's K West Basin along the Columbia River.

The settlement includes an "updated achievable and enforceable timetable" for beginning and completing sludge removal from the Basin, says an EPA press release.

According to Rick Albright, Director of EPA's Superfund cleanup program in Seattle, the Agency is looking forward to seeing real progress on the K Basin cleanup.

"We're glad we've reached an agreement so we can get back to focusing on cleanup and protecting the Columbia River," Albright said. "The K Basins should be one of the Department of Energy's highest cleanup priorities at the site. They need to make some real progress, rather than just explain missed deadlines, or they will face more penalties."

Under the terms of the settlement, 10 other associated 100 K Area cleanup milestones affected by the delay in the start of sludge removal are being extended. A new milestone for completing installation of sludge transfer equipment has also been added.

The new milestone date for starting sludge removal is September 30, 2018. Sludge removal must now be completed by December 31, 2019.

Other milestones that have been extended include the milestone to complete deactivation, demolition and removal of the K West Basin by 2023 and to complete all response actions in the K Area by 2024. As part of the agreement, DOE will pay a stipulated penalty of $125,000 for missing the September sludge removal start date.

The 100 K Area is located along the Columbia River, and is one of six areas where plutonium production reactors operated during the Cold War.

K East and K West Reactors operated in the 100 K Area. Water-filled basins stored spent uranium fuel pieces removed from the reactor cores. Beginning in the 1970s, spent fuel from another reactor, Hanford's N Reactor, was stored in the K Basins.

By 2004, all 2,300 tons of spent fuel were removed from the basins. Radioactive sludge, a result of corrosion on spent fuel stored in the basins for decades, has been consolidated in underwater storage containers in the K West Basin, with approximately 35 cubic yards of sludge remaining for removal.

Related Pages:
EPA Begins Fining Hanford Over Deadline by Associated Press, The Columbian, 10/15/14
State Presents Hanford Cleanup Priority List by Annette Cary, The Bellingham Herald, 5/24/14
$3.6B Needed in 2016 for Hanford Cleanup by Annette Cary, Tri-City Herald, 5/14/14
State Too Quick to Threaten Consent Decree Provision Over Hanford Cleanup by Editorial Board, Tri-City Herald, 4/22/14

EPA, DOE Reach Settlement on Timetable to Remove Hanford Sludge Along Columbia River
Columbia Basin Bulletin, May 29, 2015

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