Nuclear, Waste Management & Decommissioning

Hanford nuclear waste treatment site panned in GAO report

A new report from the Government Accountability Office has harshly criticized the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant project at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington State.

“By just about any definition, DOE’s [WTP] project at Hanford has not been a well-planned, well-managed, or well-executed major capital construction project,” said the GAO in its audit report.

The Hanford nuclear facility dates from 1943, when it was created as a part of the Manhattan Project. The 586-square-mile facility served as the largest weapons-grade plutonium manufacturer in the U.S. until it was retired in 1987, according to The New York Times. Left behind were 56 million gallons of highly radioactive waste stored in poorly catalogued, old, corroding storage tanks. In 2000, the DOE contracted Bechtel National to sort, treat, and store the toxic waste in what former energy secretary Stephen Chu called, “the most complex and largest nuclear project in history.”

Bechtel’s initial budget of $4.3 billion quickly grew to $13.4 billion, with billions more in further growth anticipated, according to the GAO.

“All the while,” says the GAO in its report, “DOE and outside experts continue to raise safety concerns, and Bechtel continues to earn incentive fees for meeting specific project objectives even as the project’s costs and timelines balloon far beyond the initially planned goals.”

To read the full report, click here.

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