Since I havent had the time to compile the information…..
Hanford probe urged in Congress
By Shannon Dininny
The Associated Press
YAKIMA â€” In the latest embarrassing setback to the federal government’s largest construction project, a congressional subcommittee is calling for an investigation into a multibillion-dollar waste-treatment plant at south-central Washington’s Hanford nuclear reservation.
Paul Anderson, a spokesman for the General Accounting Office, confirmed yesterday that the Republican chairman, Rep. David Hobson of Ohio, and ranking Democrat, Rep. Peter Visclosky of Indiana, on the House appropriations subcommittee on energy and water requested an audit of the project in a letter dated June 24.
Meanwhile, U.S. Department of Energy officials said yesterday they have halted construction on parts of the plant most affected by concerns about seismic instability, in light of a review released earlier this year.
There are legal, enforceable milestones that require that the plant be built by 2009, and “we are prepared to enforce those milestones unless the Department of Energy submits a change request that clearly justifies the need for any delays,” Gov. Christine Gregoire said in a statement.
The plant is being built to treat millions of gallons of radioactive waste left from Cold War-era nuclear-weapons production.
Anderson declined to release additional details or the letter.
However, the review is likely to focus on the exploding cost of the project â€” a point that has been a continuing source of alarm for the Energy Department, which manages cleanup at the highly contaminated Hanford site.
The cost of construction was estimated at $4.35 billion before the contract was awarded in 2000. Already, the cost has grown more than 30 percent â€” to $5.8 billion.
Earlier this year, the Energy Department began to study the plant’s design and cost estimate after a scientific review said that the force of the ground movements at the plant site during a severe earthquake would be 38 percent greater than previously estimated.
In 2002, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board raised concerns that the Energy Department had failed to adequately investigate the impact a severe earthquake might have on the plant. The Energy Department had gathered seismic data from the entire 586-square-mile Hanford reservation to determine the impact such a quake might have, but it did not conduct a seismic investigation of the plant site itself.
The agency has notified Congress that the project’s cost is expected to grow by at least an additional 10 percent, said Bruce Carnes, associate deputy secretary. But the Energy Department will not speculate on a final cost estimate or the schedule before a new review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is completed, he said.
For 40 years, the Hanford reservation made plutonium for the nation’s nuclear-weapons arsenal. Today, work there centers on a $50 billion to $60 billion cleanup, to be finished by 2035.
The waste-treatment plant will use a process called vitrification to turn the waste into glass logs for permanent disposal.