February 20, 2020

Wyden Demands DOE Improve Protections for Hanford Workers and Surrounding Communities

GAO report released today calls for the agency to “take actions to improve inspections and oversight of contaminated excess facilities” after a tunnel used to store radioactive waste at Hanford collapsed

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today requested the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) take additional steps to ensure the safety and protection of workers at the Hanford site and communities in the region following a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that finds significant problems with the way contaminated excess facilities at Hanford are evaluated, monitored and prioritized for remediation.

In a letter to DOE Secretary Dan Brouillette, Wyden wrote, “Although DOE has agreed to implement all of GAO’s recommendations, I do not believe this is sufficient to ensure protection of workers at the site and the citizens in the region. I am writing today to ask that you outline the specific steps that the Department will take to ensure that there will not be any future unexpected failures of containment at legacy radioactive waste facilities at Hanford.” 

Wyden and several colleagues requested the GAO report after the collapse of a legacy radioactive waste storage tunnel at the Hanford site. The report found that the collapse “raised questions about the adequacy of surveillance and maintenance activities for contaminated excess facilities . . . that are not scheduled for final cleanup in the near future. In addition, this event caused concerns about how DOE prioritizes and schedules cleanup of contaminated excess facilities at Hanford.” 

Wyden, a senior member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, requested that DOE provide written clarification on these issues by March 20, 2020.

A copy of the letter can be found here.