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
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
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.