The federal court, which set some of the at-risk deadlines in a 2016 consent decree, would be informed and aware of the negotiations as they proceed. DOE’s formal agreement to enter negotiations was provided to Maia Bellon, director of the Department of Ecology, in a letter from Hanford DOE manager Brian Vance on Wednesday.
It came just a week after DOE notified the state that it was at serious risk of missing some court-enforced deadlines for constructing and operating the $17 billion Hanford vitrification plant. The notification could return the matter to federal court. “We’re encouraged that Energy is willing to discuss a path forward on those milestones under court supervision, in context with discussing the broader Hanford tank waste mission,” Bellon said Wednesday.
However, she had just received the letter and Ecology was evaluating its specific points on Wednesday, she said. The Hanford nuclear reservation near Richland has 56 million gallons of radioactive and hazardous chemical waste stored in underground tanks. The waste is left from the past production of plutonium during World War II and the Cold War for the nation’s nuclear weapons program.