Environmental study for US plutonium site
11 April 2007
[AP, CBS, 3 April] The US federal government has agreed to assess damage to natural resources caused by military plutonium production at the Hanford site in Washington state, reversing its earlier stance. Hanford, a plutonium production complex with nine nuclear reactors and associated processing facilities, played a pivotal role in US defence for more than 40 years starting with the Manhattan Project of the 1940s. Now the site is undergoing environmental cleanup managed by the Department of Energy (DoE), with challenges including high-level liquid waste in underground storage tanks, used nuclear fuel, plutonium in various forms, and contaminated groundwater. A lawsuit seeking restoration of soil, water, animal and plant life that may have been injured by radioactive waste and other hazardous substances was brought by the Yakama Nation of American Indians in 2002 and later joined by two other tribes as well as the states of Washington and Oregon. According to Keith Klein, manager of DoE's Richland Operations Office, the department is now willing to "do more" as it has found ways to carry out assessments that will not impact on cleanup obligations or schedules, or add to costs. He denied that the change in stance was a result of the lawsuit. A full review of resource damage could cost $100 million. Hanford is amongst the sites under consideration to host facilities under the US Global Nuclear Energy Partnership program, which seeks to develop advanced technologies to recycle used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste.
US Department of Energy Hanford site
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