Hanford Advisory Board meeting

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Paige and I participated in the September HAB meeting, and want to give everyone a summary of what happened there. My summary below is, unavoidably, the product of how I heard and understood the presentations and discussions. I’ll try to report these as I heard them, without offering a lot of my own commentary.

Bill: The quarterly Public Involvement Committee meeting took place Wednesday afternoon. The main event was part of DOE-Richland’s unveiling of their “Done in a Decade” 10-year plan for the Hanford site. They’ve been presenting the plan to each of the HAB committees, and have mailed out draft publicity materials to a list of “highly involved stakeholders.” They’re taking public comments through Sept 30.

Paige: Actually there is not a time limit that strict on it — the thrust is that the DOE wanted to get comments out to us in the early stages of their thinking (now) and get feedback, both negative and positive so that they can make changes — attempting to get some kind of broad consensus so that DOE can begin building its budget request in the next several months for the 2002 budget. Keith Klein’s reasoning on these changes partly lies in having plans to present to Congress that show closure of some kind, which is the kind of planning that seems to be drawing the necessary funds to the smaller sites.

Bill: Discussion of this plan continued throughout Thursday and Friday. At the committee meeting and in the full meeting, HAB members expressed plenty of skepticism about the plan’s title. Of course, DOE doesn’t plan to be done in a decade in the normal sense of “done.” Apparently, what the title is supposed to mean is that a certain amount of work will be done in a decade. Their key concept is to “shrink the site” by attacking some (presumably) manageable problems aggressively while deferring others.

The attack will be along the “River Corridor,” which includes the “100” area where the reactors are as well as the “300” area near Richland. The deferral will be in the “200” area, the central plateau, where the tanks, Plutonium Finishing Plant, and reprocessing plants are. Those are the most difficult of Hanford’s problems. Tentatively, public meetings on this topic will be held in conjunction with the November and December HAB meetings (in Pasco and Portland/Clackamas, respectively).

Also at the Public Involvement Committee meeting, Dennis Faulk of EPA discussed the Tri-Party Agreement’s Community Relations Plan. He’s looking for input from interested parties by December, as they consider updating this plan. A public “user’s guide” for community relations was published in February 1997, and is available by calling the “Hanford Cleanup toll-free line” at 1-800-321-2008.

Thursday evening, an informal discussion took place regarding the tank wastes and the vitrification project, under the auspices of the ad hoc tank waste committee. The Office of River Protection, which has responsibility for the tanks and the tank waste vitrification project, is working to recover from the dual shocks of the failure of the BNFL project and the firing of Dick French. They’ve issued a “Request for Proposals” (RFP) from new bidders on the vit project and want to have a contractor in place by January. Apparently, the RFP strongly favors contractors who will preserve the basic BNFL design rather than striking out in new technical directions. Some of those at the discussion saw that as good (preserving the wor