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EPA Levies $76,000 Penalty Against Energy for Hanford Cleanup Failure

Release Date: 4/3/2003
Contact Information: Bill Dunbar
(206) 553-1203

April 3, 2003

Highly radioactive sludge contaminating groundwater and Columbia

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that it is penalizing the Department of Energy $76,900 for failing to begin the removal of nearly 50 cubic meters of sludge from the Hanford 100 K East Basin.

The K Basin sludge is highly radioactive and high-risk waste, which makes its removal a top human health and environmental priority for the EPA at Hanford. The sludge contains corroded spent nuclear fuel stored in the water-filled basin, dirt and dust which fall into the basin, and sloughed material from the basin’s concrete walls.

Under the TPA, the Department of Energy was to have begun initial removal of the sludge by December 31, 2002 and the agreement stipulates that if delays occur Energy would pay up to $5,000 in penalties for the first week of delay and up to $10,000 for each additional week. Removal of the K East Basin sludge has been in the Tri-Party Agreement (TPA) for about a decade.

The K East Basin is filled with water for cooling, radiation shielding, and contamination containment but this water becomes radioactive from the fuel and sludge. At least several times this water has leaked from the basins and now discharges into the Columbia River.

“The EPA is pleased with the Department of Energy's progress in removing the spent nuclear fuel from the two K Basins" said EPA Regional Administrator John Iani. “Over half the original spent fuel has been removed to environmentally protective storage.

“However, sludge removal has not been a success story. Starting – and completing – this activity on schedule is an important part of reducing risks from the Hanford site".

hanford penalty letter.pdf