The nation’s most contaminated nuclear site under fire

Sen. Ron Wyden writes letter to request investigation of Hanford contractor; Portland economist releases report finding huge losses at plant.

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Sen. Ron Wyden wrote a letter to the Department of Energy requesting an investigation of a Hanford contractor.

Portland Business Journal reports:

A Jan. 9 report from Bechtel showed about $277 million had been spent on uncompleted work and that it costs roughly $5.3 million a year to keep contracts in place for just one portion of a pretreatment plant associated with the Waste Treatment Plant. The plant is meant to convert 56 million gallons of nuclear waste stored in 177 leaking underground tanks near the Columbia River into glass logs for stable storage. It is years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.

“The DOE has been mismanaging the cleanup at Hanford for three decades,” Wyden said. “I am outraged that the department claims it doesn’t have enough money to clean up Hanford yet allows such an egregious waste of taxpayer dollar. Taxpayers deserve to know how their money has been spent and the citizens of the Pacific Northwest deserve to have this place cleaned up.”

Hanford is considered the most contaminated nuclear site in the country.

To compound the region’s problems, a Portland economist released a report finding huge losses at the plant.

From Willamette Week:

A new report [Robert] McCullough released earlier this month says the plant’s operator, Energy Northwest, is losing $250 million on a massive 2012 purchase of fuel from the U.S. Enrichment Corporation of Paducah, Ky. Since the $700 million, 15-year deal was done, the price of the uranium-based fuel has plummeted, meaning the generating plant locked in a long-term supply at well-above market prices. McCullough says the deal will saddle customers across the Bonneville Power Administration system, of which Columbia Generating Station is part, with higher costs. 

“Reviewing the memos surrounding this convoluted uranium deal, it is clear that the sole purpose of it was to keep an old, dirty uranium enrichment plant running for another year,” McCullough said in a statement. “According to our analysis, this deal is projected to cost Northwest ratepayers, through their Bonneville rates, around $250 million on a $700 million deal.”

Energy Northwest spokesman Mike Paoli in a statement: “His conclusions are incorrect, mischaracterize the nature of EN’s 2012 fuel purchase, and reflect a gross misunderstanding of a complex, multi-party agreement. According to BPA, the fuel agreement is now showing a more-than-$40 million savings to the fiscal 2014 – 2015 rate case, and will save customers tens of millions more through 2028.” 

 Columbia is located on land leased from the Department of Energy and is not a part of the Hanford site.