Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Yakima Herald-Republic Not So Happy With the Feds' Efforts at Hanford

The editorial board of the Yakima Herald-Republic yesterday unloaded on the US Department of Energy for cost escalations and delays associated with the clean up at the Hanford Site. Hard not to feel some sympathy for the editors' point of view. On the other hand, no one seems to know how to do a clean up of this magnitude and complexity. And all of the elaborate "decision-making process" employed to date does not seem to help when basic science and engineering questions remain unanswered. Here's a quote from the editorial showing what has the Herald-Republic upset:
As reported earlier this month in both this newspaper and the Tri-City Herald, the estimated cost has skyrocketed again -- this time from $26 billion to $44 billion for closing Hanford's underground tanks and treating their radioactive and hazardous chemical waste. There's more. * That amount does not include estimated contingency costs of as much as $18 billion -- bringing the potential cost to $62 billion -- if the project has more delays or other difficulties. And given the track record for almost two decades now, the chances of delay are near-certain unless there's a new culture of action we're not seeing so far. The $44 billion cost would cover emptying and closing the 177 underground tanks at the Hanford nuclear reservation and treating the 53 million gallons of waste they hold. The new numbers project that treatment of the waste and closure of the tanks would be completed in 2042, rather than 2028 as is required by the 1989 Tri-Party Agreement signed by the state and federal governments to establish (cue the cynical cackle) cleanup deadlines.