By Adam Andrzejewski
The Department of Energy’s massive Hanford Cleanup project in Washington State is expected to cost between $300 billion and $640 billion over the next few decades, but a recent Government Accountability Office report found that the department could save $95 billion if it changes course.
The Hanford Site has 54 million gallons of highly radioactive sludge left from producing the plutonium in America’s atomic bombs, including the one dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki in 1945.
The GAO report explains how changing the primary method of disposal currently used could reduce costs. Hanford’s current approach to cleaning up low activity waste uses a long and expensive process called vitrification to encase the hazardous waste in glass.
However, an alternative method exists and has been successful in other locations. This method encases the waste in a cement-like mixture and is “significantly cheaper” while accomplishing the same objective, according to GAO. This new approach could save the Department of Energy $95 billion over the next 50 to 60 years and has been successful at other locations where similar waste was being cleaned up. At other sites, the cost per gallon of this approach was $200, while the proposed vitrification at Hanford is projected to cost $1,400 per gallon.
In addition to the cost savings, this method might also be safer, with the GAO finding this method “could reduce certain risks by treating the waste faster.” GAO also identified several nearby locations for the disposal of the waste.
While these techniques might save tens of billions of dollars, it’s ridiculous that the Energy Department didn’t confer with the GAO first to ask for their recommendations and build them into its plan. If any cost savings come from this report, it’s thanks to the diligence of the GAO, not the planning of the Energy Department.
The #WasteOfTheDay is brought to you by the forensic auditors at OpenTheBooks.com. This article was originally published by RealClearInvestigations and made available via RealClearWire.