Hanford, situated 322 kilometers from Seattle, was established by the Manhattan Project during World War II. The site contains roughly 60 percent of the US' most dangerous radioactive waste, all stored in decaying underground tanks, some of which have leaked. Clean-up of the site has been ongoing since the 1980s, costing over US$2 billion annually.
The US Department of Energy plans to reclassify some of the country's most dangerous radioactive waste in order to lower its threat level.
In an official announcement 5th June, the Department said labeling high-level waste as low level will save US$40 billion in cleanup costs across the US' entire nuclear weapons complex. Under the plan, material that's languished for decades in nuclear weapons production sites in Washington, Idaho and South Carolina would be taken to low-level disposal facilities in Utah or Texas.
"This administration is proposing a responsible, results-driven solution that will finally open potential avenues for the safe treatment and removal of the lower-level waste. This will accelerate cleanup and reduce risk," Energy Undersecretary Paul Dabber said.
Today the Trump Administration unilaterally changed the definition of waste stored at #Hanford and other nuclear waste sites nationwide, opening the door for the feds to walk away from cleaning up millions of gallons of toxic, radioactive waste. @AGOWA https://t.co/05FqduhDGc
— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) June 5, 2019
Previous definitions of high-level waste were based on how the materials were produced, while the new classification will be based on radioactive characteristics. The agency will maintain standards set by the independent Nuclear Regulatory Commission "with the goal of getting the lower-level waste out of these states without sacrificing public safety" he added, stating he was "excited about reducing the risk faster".
In response, Washington's Governor and Democratic presidential candidate Jay Inslee and state attorney general Bob Ferguson said the White House was disregarding state authority.'
Read more: US to Downgrade Danger of Nuclear Waste to Quicken Clean-Up Efforts