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Energy, EPA Reach Agreement: Fuel Removal From K-Basin Could Start In Two Years

Release Date: 9/10/1998
Contact Information: EPA Doug Sherwood, Larry Gadbois and DOE Guy Schein
Sherwood (509) 376-9529 Gadbois (509) 376-9884 Schein (509) 376-0413

   September 10, 1998 - - - - - - - - - - 98-46


Removal of spent nuclear fuel from the K Basins on the Hanford Reservation would begin in November 2000, according to an agreement announced today between the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The agreement -- which is subject to public comment -- is a step forward in efforts to get fuel removal started at the K Basins where contamination has leaked into ground water that flows into the nearby Columbia River.

Under milestones proposed by the Energy-EPA agreement, fuel removal would start at the K West Basin on November 30, 2000, and from the K East Basin one year later.  Other proposed milestones call for completion of the fuel removal by December 31, 2003, and completion of the K Basin cleanup (including the removal of sludge, debris and water) by July 31, 2007.

Another feature of the agreement is a set of steps to improve project and contractor performance, according to Randy Smith, director of EPA's Environmental Cleanup Office in Seattle.  "There must be continued improvement in efficiency and effectiveness if the K Basin cleanup is to succeed,"  Smith said. "Today's agreement does not solve all the problems, but it does provide a framework that gives Energy, EPA and the contractors a sharper focus on how to get the job done."

After the public comment period, the agreement will be finalized and become part of the legally-enforceable cleanup plan administered by Energy, EPA and the Washington Department of Ecology.  When those three parties became locked in dispute over the K Basin cleanup, EPA invoked a pre-arranged dispute resolution process that enabled EPA and Energy to break the impasse.

The 45-day public comment period is expected to begin late this month.  Copies of the Energy-EPA agreement are available from both Energy and EPA on their internet home pages.

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