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GAO - Government Accountability Office

01/07/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 01/07/2021 11:14

Hanford Cleanup: DOE's Efforts to Close Tank Farms Would Benefit from Clearer Legal Authorities and Communication

The Department of Energy, under agreement with EPA and Washington State, is cleaning up radioactive waste at its Hanford site. It finished retrieving waste from one group of underground tanks-a 'tank farm'-and it has begun retrieving waste from 2 of the remaining 17.

If DOE classifies the residual waste in tanks as something other than high-level waste, and the state approves it, DOE can fill the tanks with grout and leave them in place. This could avoid some risks and save $18 billion. But DOE's legal authority to do this is unclear.

We recommended that Congress consider clarifying DOE's authority to manage the residual waste.

Example of a Single-Shell Tank at Hanford, WA