RICHLAND, Wash. (AP) — Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson said they will not extend Friday’s deadline for resolving a dispute with the U.S Department of Energy over cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the nation’s most polluted nuclear weapons production site.
The state has agreed to extend the deadline twice already since negotiations began in March.
The state now has 30 days to file a motion in federal court, or reach an agreement with the Energy Department.
Under a 2010 consent decree, the Energy Department has deadlines to build a plant to treat Hanford’s most dangerous radioactive wastes, and to retrieve wastes contained in single-walled tanks. Since 2011, the Energy Department has repeatedly told the state it cannot meet those deadlines.
Hanford for decades made plutonium for nuclear weapons, and the wastes are left over from that work.
The state has threatened to take the department back to court in an effort to get the decades-long cleanup back on track. The cleanup costs taxpayers about $2 billion per year.
A major problem with the cleanup is that construction of a unique facility called the Waste Treatment Plant, which is designed to turn the most dangerous wastes into glasslike logs for eventual burial, has been indefinitely delayed by technical and safety concerns.
The consent decree also set deadlines for emptying some of Hanford’s underground waste tanks.
The Energy Department has said most of the remaining deadlines are at risk of being missed, including having the plant fully operational by 2022.
Setting deadlines that likely will be missed created false expectations in the community and with the state, and eroded confidence in the cleanup work, the Energy Department has said.