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March 10, 2009
Federal court confirms state authority over mixed waste at Hanford

Department of Ecology Release

OLYMPIA – Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Washington state’s authority over mixed hazardous and radioactive transuranic waste buried at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
Transuranic waste refers to artificially made radioactive materials with atomic numbers higher than uranium in the Periodic Table of Elements.
The federal appeals court ruling affirms the state’s regulatory order, issued in 2003, requiring the U.S. Department of Energy to remove and process the equivalent of approximately 75,000 drums (55 gallons each) at Hanford.
The waste has been stored in unlined trenches since the 1970s.
Washington Department of Ecology director Jay Manning said, “The federal court has upheld the state’s authority to protect its people and its resources from the extremely dangerous wastes that were buried decades ago at Hanford.”
He added, “The court rejected the Energy Department’s effort to exempt itself from hazardous waste management laws passed by Congress and the state Legislature.”
Attorney General Rob McKenna said, “We are very pleased that this ruling confirms the enforceability of an important element of the Hanford cleanup schedule. We appreciate the support of Idaho and Tennessee, who submitted a ‘friend of the court’ brief on this important matter.”
Ecology’s 2003 regulatory ordered required Energy to remove the drums from unlined trenches, examine the contents, and either store the waste under state law or prepare it for disposal at an approved facility in New Mexico.
The appellate court agreed with the district court that the Hanford waste isn’t exempt from requirements of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the state’s Hazardous Waste Management Act.
The case is Washington v. Chu, No. 06-35227.
Media Contact: Janelle Guthrie, Director of Communications, (360) 586-0725 / Dave Workman, Department of Ecology, Olympia, WA, pager 360-786-3074 Sharon Braswell, Department of Ecology, Richland, WA, 509-372-7895 /


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