From: Shannon Dininny, Associated Press
Published June 29, 2005 12:00 AM

Congress Requests Review of Hanford Waste Plant

YAKIMA, Wash. — In the latest setback to the government's largest construction project, a congressional subcommittee is calling for an investigation into a multibillion-dollar waste treatment plant at the Hanford nuclear reservation.


Paul Anderson, a spokesman for the Government Accountability Office, confirmed Tuesday that Ohio Republican Rep. David Hobson and Indiana Democratic Rep. Peter Visclosky -- the chairman and ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations subcommittee on energy and water -- requested an audit of the project in a letter dated June 24.


Anderson declined to release additional details or the letter, as did spokesmen for the committee members.


However, the review is likely to focus on the burgeoning cost of the plant -- a point that has been a continuing source of alarm for the Energy Department, which manages cleanup at the highly contaminated Hanford site.


The cost of construction was estimated at $4.35 billion before the contract was awarded in 2000; it's grown to $5.8 billion.


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The plant is being built to treat millions of gallons of radioactive waste left from Cold War-era nuclear weapons production. It is located in south-central Washington.


Under a cleanup pact signed by the Energy Department, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Washington state, the plant must be built by 2009.


Gov. Christine Gregoire said in a statement that officials are prepared to enforce that deadline "unless the Department of Energy submits a change request that clearly justifies the need for any delays."


For 40 years, the Hanford reservation made plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons arsenal. Today, work there centers on cleanup to be finished by 2035.


Source: Associated Press


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