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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.