Federal court affirms Washington AG's lawsuit over Hanford Cleanup

Chris Rizo Mar. 11, 2009, 11:41am

Rob McKenna (R)

SPOKANE, Wash. (Legal Newsline)-Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna is within his jurisdiction to enforce cleanup operations of certain chemicals at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, an appeals court has ruled.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the state had authority to require the U.S. Department of Energy to dig up and process the equivalent of about 75,000 55-gallon drums of transuranic waste buried at Hanford.

Transuranic waste includes radioactive trash and protective clothing contaminated with plutonium. Hanford is a former Cold War-era plutonium production site, established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project.

The state attorney general's office sued the federal government after the Washington state Department of Ecology in 2003 ordered the Department of Energy to remove and process waste that was buried in boxes and drums at the eastern Washington site.

The 9th Circuit ruling does not affect the 53 million gallons of high-level radioactive waste currently being stored in 149 aging and leaky tanks close to the banks of the Columbia River.

"We are very pleased that this ruling confirms the enforceability of an important element of the Hanford cleanup schedule," McKenna said in a statement.

The case is Washington v. Chu, No. 06-35227.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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