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Groups disagree with Hanford cleanup decision via Tri-City Herald

The federal government issued its first final cleanup decision for one of Hanford’s reactors without incorporating changes recommended by the Hanford Advisory Board and environmental groups.

The Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency adopted a plan for the area around Hanford’s former F Reactor that would leave radioactive waste deep underground in one place to decay over 264 years.

Groundwater contamination would be left to dissipate over 150 years.

“(The Department of Energy) is choosing to ignore overwhelming, common-sense input from citizens throughout the Pacific Northwest who want to see a proactive approach to reducing pollution that reaches the Columbia River from the Hanford site and the F Reactor area,” Dan Serres, conservation director for Columbia Riverkeeper, said in a statement.

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The board recommended that DOE and EPA take action to significantly reduce the time for cleanup goals to be reached after DOE released its proposed plan. The final decision largely adopted that proposal.

The board also expressed concern about DOE’s ability to restrict use of the land to prevent intrusion into areas with contamination far into the future.

The adopted decision requires digging up contamination in 91 places, but leaving radiological contamination deeper than 15 feet below ground in 15 places.

Excavation restrictions to prevent contact with the contaminated soil would need to be in place, with limits at different sites lasting from the year 2033 to 2278. In one place, irrigation would need to be prohibited to prevent water from carrying contamination down to groundwater.

The agencies considered active treatment of already contaminated groundwater, including pumping up the water and cleaning it before reinjecting it into the ground, but instead settled on letting the contamination gradually dissipate.

Natural processes such as biodegradation, dispersion, dilution and radioactive decay would reduce contamination over 150 years to drinking water standards, the decision document said.

The cost of actively treating the groundwater would be $177 million to $194 million, while letting it dissipate while monitoring it with wells and restricting its use would cost $36 million, according to the decision document.

“We are disappointed that Energy has not opted to use available technologies for a thorough cleanup,” Emily Bays of Hanford Challenge said in a statement.

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