DOE will do Hanford Environmental Assessmentby Shannon Dininny, Associated Press
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 3, 2007
YAKIMA, Wash. -- In an abrupt reversal, the federal government has agreed to begin assessing the damage to natural resources caused by plutonium production at the Hanford nuclear reservation, the nation's most contaminated nuclear site, The Associated Press has learned.
Such injury assessments typically cost millions of dollars and often serve as a precursor to paying monetary damages.
In 2002, the Yakama Nation sued the U.S. Department of Energy, which manages Hanford cleanup, seeking restoration of soil, water, plant and animal life that may have been damaged by radioactive waste and other hazardous substances. The Nez Perce Tribe later joined the lawsuit, as did Washington and Oregon.
The Energy Department fought back, arguing it was too soon to determine if there were injuries to the environment or whether reparations should be paid.
But the agency said Tuesday it would begin assessing those damages in collaboration with two other federal agencies, the states and the Indian tribes.
"The only change was how much we're willing to do when," Keith Klein, manager of the Energy Department's Richland Operations office, told the AP. "We're willing to do more, sooner, now, because we believe we've found ways to do it that won't impact our cleanup obligations and schedules or add unduly to the taxpayer cost."
The federal government created Hanford in the 1940s as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. Today, it is the nation's most contaminated nuclear site, with cleanup costs expected to top $50 billion.
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