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U.S. state of Washington opposes federal plan to reclassify nuclear waste
From:Xinhua  |  2019-01-09 18:54

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SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. state of Washington Tuesday expressed strong objections to a federal plan that downplays the dangers of nuclear waste at the country's largest dumping site.

The new federal proposal that reclassifies as less dangerous the nuclear waste stored in a decommissioned nuclear production complex in southeastern Washington would allow the federal government to "walk away from its obligation to clean up millions of gallons of toxic, radioactive waste," Washington Governor Jay Inslee said in a statement.

"This is an attempt by the federal government to grant themselves the unilateral authority to leave high-level, radioactive waste in the ground" at Hanford Nuclear Reservation, he said.

"This dangerous idea will only serve to silence the voices of tribal leaders, Hanford workers, public safety officials, and surrounding communities in these important conversations," he added.

Hanford's underground tanks hold 60 percent of the nation's most dangerous nuclear waste, which is the deadly legacy of a half-century of plutonium production for the nation's nuclear arsenal.

Washington filed comments Monday with the U.S. Department of Energy, opposing the federal plan to "reinterpret" the classification of 56 million of gallons of waste stored at Hanford. The comments were accompanied by a letter from Inslee and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

The Hanford site was established by the U.S. military during World War II to make atomic bombs, and the most dangerous waste was stored in 177 aging underground tanks.

Currently, all of that waste is classified as high-level, and some tanks were reported to have leaked.

But the federal energy department seeks to reclassify a potentially large percentage of the waste as lower-level waste, which would allow treatment and disposal options that would not guarantee long-term protection for local communities, groundwater and the Columbia River, Inslee said.

Ferguson also criticized the federal proposal by vowing non-tolerance of the "shortcuts in the federal government's cleanup of Hanford."

"Unilaterally re-classifying high-level waste based on criteria not found in statute, and without consultation with other regulators and states, is dangerous and wrong," he said.