The cornerstone of emptying the tanks is a treatment plant that will convert the waste into glasslike logs for safe, secure storage. The plant, last estimated to cost more than $12.3 billion, is billions of dollars over budget and behind schedule. It isn’t expected to begin operating until at least 2019.
Washington state is imposing a “zero-tolerance” policy on radioactive waste leaking into the soil, Mr. Inslee said. So given those delays and the apparent deterioration of some of the tanks, the federal government will have to show that there is adequate storage for the waste in the meantime, he said.
“We are not convinced of this,” he said. “There will be a robust exchange of information in the coming weeks to get to the bottom of this.”
Mr. Inslee and Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, both Democrats, have championed building additional tanks to ensure safe storage of the waste until the plant is completed.
Mr. Wyden, Oregon Democrat, toured the site earlier this week. He said he shares the governors’ concerns about the integrity of the tanks but he wants more scientific information to determine it’s the correct way to spend scarce money.
Mr. Wyden noted the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site — and the challenges associated with ridding it of its toxic legacy — will be a subject of upcoming hearings and a higher priority in Washington, D.C.
The federal government already spends $2 billion each year on Hanford cleanup — one-third of its entire budget for nuclear cleanup nationally. The Energy Department has said it expects funding levels to remain the same for the foreseeable future, but a new Energy Department report released this week calls for annual budgets of as much as $3.5 billion during some years of the cleanup effort.
There are legal, moral and ethical considerations to cleaning up the Hanford site at the national level, Mr. Inslee said, adding that he will continue to insist that the Energy Department completely clean up the site.
• Associated Press writer Dina Cappiello in Washington, D.C., contributed to this article.
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