Tuesday, January 25, 2000

Report says work too slow at Hanford and other nuclear sites

RICHLAND, Wash. (AP) - Cleanup efforts at the Hanford nuclear reservation and other nuclear weapon production sites fail to "reflect the urgency that the circumstances merit," according to a new report.

The report to Energy Secretary Bill Richardson by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board cited recommendations issued in 1994 by the scientific advisory panel for cleaning up plutonium left over from the production of nuclear weapons.

Despite some progress, "severe problems continue to impede" cleanup, the report said.

"The most common reason given for failure to meet schedules has been insufficient financial support" by Congress the report said..

Richardson should advise Congress and the president of the funding shortage and assign projects according to potential safety risks, the report said.

The Savannah River nuclear site in South Carolina has the three most pressing problems, the report said.

No. 4 was converting plutonium solutions into stable forms at Savannah and at Hanford's Plutonium Finishing Plant, which has more than 300 kilograms of the highly radioactive and toxic metal in 4,300 liters of solution that was to have been stabilized a year ago.

"The story of inability to treat plutonium solutions at PFP has been typical of a sequence of ineffective activities at that plant, generally the result of poor management," the report said.

"They recommend we continue doing the things we are doing," said Harry Boston, deputy manager for site transition at Hanford. "The issue is they'd like to see us do it faster.

"We concur. We'd like to see it done faster, too."

To do that, the Energy Department has tied 60 percent of the payments to Fluor Hanford Co. for PFP cleanup to safely accelerating the work and has offered a chance at a bonus.