Coalition Calls on DOE to Reconsider Nuclear Waste Rule

WASHINGTON – The Yakama Nation, state of Washington and environmental groups joined together in an unprecedented request to the Department of Energy today that it rescind a harmful Trump-era regulation that could allow millions of gallons of radioactive waste to be abandoned at the Hanford Site.

Remediating and removing this toxic waste, which is a legacy of the early U.S. nuclear bomb program, is essential to protecting the Yakama people – and millions more who live downstream along the Columbia River basin.

Given President Biden’s strong and historic commitment to environmental justice, protecting public health, and science-based policymaking, tossing this insidious rule and recommitting to a clean-up of the Hanford Site is crucially important.

“This rule lays the groundwork for the Department to abandon significant amounts of radioactive waste in Washington state precipitously close to the Columbia River, which is the lifeblood of the Pacific Northwest,” the letter says. This creates “a long-term risk of harm to the residents of the Pacific Northwest and the natural resources critical to the region.”

The Energy department’s 2019 so-called “interpretative rule” ignores the science that underpins the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, and gives the department unilateral authority to redefine dangerous high-level radioactive waste as something else – with no opportunity for input, oversight, or consent by state regulators or the public.

The letter was sent to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and signed by: The State of Washington Department of Ecology, Washington Attorney General’s Office, Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), Hanford Challenge, and Columbia Riverkeeper.


NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.