Weapons Complex Monitor Vol. 27 No. 7
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Article 6 of 12
February 12, 2016

Hanford Advisory Board Calls for Cutting Off Risk Study Funding

By Staff Reports

The Hanford Advisory Board is asking the Department of Energy not to spend any more of the Hanford Site cleanup budget on a Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation (CRESP) evaluation of the remaining risk at the DOE facility. Money should be spent on cleanup, not more study, the board said in a letter sent to Monica Regalbuto, assistant energy secretary for environmental management.

The study by the independent, multiuniversity group was announced as a $4 million project and was commissioned by DOE officials in Washington, D.C., rather than those at Hanford. Neither DOE nor CRESP responded to a request for information on how much money has been spent to date.

Preliminary draft results, covering about half the Hanford areas and facilities still requiring cleanup, were released Aug. 31. The preliminary report focused on many of the most complex remaining projects, including groundwater, waste storage tanks, and the PUREX processing facility. The next phase of review would cover other Hanford projects, which include additional processing plants and waste sites where large amounts of liquid were disposed of in the ground.

CRESP officials have said the review’s identification and characterization of potential risks at Hanford is intended to provide information that will help guide decisions about the order in which remaining cleanup work should be done. Work at Hanford is expected to take 50 more years and cost more than $100 billion. “It’s important to take a step back periodically to assess what is remaining and how to think about the challenges ahead,” said David Kosson, the CRESP review’s principal investigator, in a previous discussion about the project.

“We are concerned that its findings may be used to help justify doing less cleanup at Hanford,” the board said. “We have seen numerous attempts through the years to do just that, all based on the premise that it is too expensive to do the cleanup that DOE has committed to complete.” Board members said there is no justification to deviate from the Hanford cleanup work spelled out in the Tri-Party Agreement, the court-enforced consent decree, and records of decision. Their provisions are based on extensive scientific analysis, including risk analysis, and significant public review and input, the letter said.

The process should not be circumvented, said board member Pam Larsen. “Risks have been known for a long time,” said advisory board member Susan Leckband. She called the study an academic exercise that should not be extended, given its cost. Board members said that since the most challenging remaining cleanup work was covered in the first phase of the report, it appears unlikely that continuing the study would provide meaningful insights. “We do not see a value in spending the cleanup budget to complete this study,” the letter said. “The board strongly recommends that you not proceed with the remainder of this project and return its associated budget back to Hanford.”