DOE to pay $136,000 fine in Hanford settlement via the Tri-City Herald

RICHLAND — The Department of Energy has agreed to pay a $136,000 fine to settle Environmental Protection Agency allegations that it has violated legal requirements for storing radioactive and hazardous chemical waste at Hanford.

It has operated waste storage areas without a required permit, stopped using other areas for storage without closing them or requesting an extension and has not properly treated some waste, according to EPA.

DOE has argued that it long has followed requirements in the Dangerous Waste Permit issued by the state of Washington and the Tri-Party Agreement to store waste.

Hundreds of inspections during almost two decades have not raised issues with methods now being criticized, it said.

“When handling mixed (nuclear and hazardous) waste, there’s no such thing as being too careful,” Ed Kowalski, director of EPA’s Office of Compliance and Enforcement in Seattle, said in a statement. “Strict compliance with all dangerous waste requirements is the only acceptable path here.”

DOE had permits to store waste in units within T Plant, some double-lined trenches and the Central Waste Complex. But it also was storing waste in places in those facilities that the permits did not cover, according to the investigation.

Most of the waste is material that has been set aside or temporarily buried and then retrieved to eventually be disposed of at the nation’s repository for transuranic waste, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, in New Mexico. At Hanford, transuranic waste typically is waste contaminated with plutonium.

The waste also includes suspected transuranic waste that when tested was classified instead as low-level radioactive waste mixed with hazardous chemicals.

DOE considers the issue to be largely a procedural matter caused by a conflict between regulator-approved practices at Hanford and how permitting is approached nationally under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, it said.

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