Energy Department Moves to Abandon Radioactive Waste

WASHINGTON – The Department of Energy issued new rules giving itself the authority to abandon storage tanks with more than 100 million gallons of high-level radioactive waste at sites in South Carolina, Idaho and the state of Washington.

Under the law, this most toxic waste must be disposed of in deep, geologic formations so it won’t endanger public health; the Trump administration is trying to avoid that important requirement. 

The following is a statement from Geoff Fettus, a senior attorney at NRDC:

“The Trump administration is moving to fundamentally alter more than 50 years of national consensus on how the most toxic and radioactive waste in the world is managed and ultimately disposed of. No matter what they call it, this waste needs a permanent, well-protected disposal option to guard it for generations to come.

“Pretending this waste is not dangerous is irresponsible and outrageous.”

The following is a comment from Beatrice Brailsford, the nuclear program director at the Snake River Alliance:

“Protecting people and the environment from nuclear hazards is a key Department of Energy responsibility. DOE: Do your job!”

The following is a comment from Tom Clements, director of Savannah River Site Watch:

“The massive containers of glassified high-level nuclear waste at Savannah River Site must be disposed of as required by law—in a properly licensed geologic disposal site and not via shallow burial in low-level nuclear waste facilities in Utah or Texas.

“The Energy Department’s questionable rewriting of the regulations is simply a cost-cutting measure designed to get thousands of high-level waste containers dumped off site; they must continue to be safely stored at Savannah River until a geologic repository is available.”

The following is a comment from Tom Carpenter, executive director of Hanford Challenge:

"The Hanford nuclear site is riddled with earthquake faults, surrounded by active volcanoes, and has a major river system flowing through it and is not suitable for the storage of wastes that are toxic for millenia. DOE needs to comply with, not defy the law in order to protect current and future generations."   

The following is a comment from Lauren Goldberg, legal & program director at Columbia Riverkeeper:

"The Trump administration's attempt to cut corners with nuclear waste undermines effective, long-term cleanup at the Hanford Nuclear Site. People in the Pacific Northwest value clean water and strong salmon runs. This decision flies in the face of sound science and judgment."

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) 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.​ 

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