DOE links possible Hanford safety breaches to Bechtel via The Seattle Times

An investigation by the U.S. Energy Department has found that San Francisco engineering firm Bechtel may have committed a wide range of safety and health violations at a plant it is building to treat high-level radioactive waste at the Hanford nuclear reservation, according to agency documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
The Hanford plant is being built to treat an estimated 56 million gallons of radioactive waste created from about half a century of nuclear-weapons production. The waste is stored in underground tanks. At least some of those tanks are leaking radioactive sludge, posing a threat to the nearby Columbia River and making the $12.3 billion treatment plant one of the most urgent environmental projects in the nation.

The investigation report, dated Nov. 13, found that Bechtel had failed to follow procedures, maintain safety margins, train workers and correct items that did not meet requirements, among other problems.

The lengthy report cited three broad problem areas: a concern over safety margins at the plant, corrosion of pipes and vessels and underground pipe protections.
Bechtel officials deny that serious problems exist at the plant and say the investigation report is an “interim step” in determining what may be wrong.

But the investigation clearly adds weight to concerns voiced earlier by scientists about the design of a highly sophisticated mixing and filtering system, which would condense radioactive waste so it can be cast into solid glass for long-term storage.

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