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Time's Up For Court-Ordered Hanford Cleanup Negotiations Between Feds, Wash. State

Anna King
File photo of a nuclear waste storage tank at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

This week is the deadline for the state of Washington and the U.S. Department of Energy to reach an agreement on how to clean up radioactive tank waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

The two sides can’t agree on a timelinel; it seems the state and the Energy Department have very different views of where things are.

In statements released this week, the Department of Energy said, “The discussions to date have been constructive.” Meanwhile, the state said that after 40 days, the parties haven’t reached an agreement and is “considering its options," which could mean legal action.

So far, top officials from Washington state and the federal government have had two face-to-face meetings, one in early May in Washington, D.C. and another in Richland on May 21. Those meetings weren’t public.

And information about those discussions is tight. The problem the two governments are trying to hammer out involves an agreement signed by both of them back in 2010. It set deadlines for the retrieval of Hanford’s tank waste and for building and operating a massive factory that would bind up the sludge in glass logs at Hanford.

The Energy Department has told state officials most of the deadlines in that agreement, aren’t going to fly. The department says the work is more complicated, and it needs steady money from Congress to meet the deadlines.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.