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Hanford Challenge Concerned Over Audit of Vitrification Plant

May 02, 2012

A federal audit has concluded that the Energy

Department and a contractor building a nuclear waste treatment plant at the Hanford reservation installed tanks

that did not always meet requirements of a quality assurance program or the contract.
The $12.3 billion plant

being built to convert radioactive waste into glasslike logs has been the subject of recent whistleblower

complaints about its design and safety.
The audit focused on tanks that were received prior to mid-2005. The

tanks' design is significant because they will be located in sections of the plant that will be too radioactively

hot for workers to enter once the plant is operating.
The Energy Department says it has taken steps to

improve oversight, conducting technical surveillance on tanks and holding installations until issues can be

independently verified.
Monday’s audit is just the latest in a series of worrisome events at the

vitrification plant. Isaac Kaplan-Woolner spoke with a nuclear waste watchdog about how he sees these latest

problems.
Meanwhile, Washington State is joining South Carolina today in asking a panel of federal appellate

judges to force a reconsideration of Yucca Mountain as the nation’s nuclear waste repository. Yucca Mountain

plans were taken off the table by President Obama in 2010. The longstanding Yucca debate has been mired in

politics. It was once seen as a possible permanent home for Hanford’s nuclear waste.