Hanford watchdog sues for more plutonium fuel documents

Mar 18, 2011

The nuclear reactor crisis in Japan is prompting more scrutiny of the nuclear power plant near Richland in southeast Washington. Thursday a Seattle-based Hanford watchdog sued Energy Northwest. The group is demanding the power supplier turn over more documents on the possibility of the plant using plutonium for reactor fuel.

For 26 years Energy Northwest has used uranium fuel rods to produce power for the region. Now its board is thinking about adding plutonium as a fuel in the reactor near the Columbia River.

But the recent earthquake, tsunami and reactor crisis in Japan have heated-up the debate. One of the Japanese reactors in crisis uses plutonium.

Gerry Pollet, director of Heart of America Northwest, the group now suing for more documents, says he worries using weapons grade plutonium would produce more radioactive waste at Hanford:

"And ironically bringing back to Hanford the weapons grade plutonium that we worked really hard to clean up and remove from Hanford."

Energy Northwest spokeswoman Rochelle Olsen says the power supplier hasn't even decided whether to do a nearly two-year study on the feasibility and safety of switching fuels.

If that study is approved, it could take 15 years before Energy Northwest actually uses plutonium in its reactor.

Energy Northwest’s next public meeting is scheduled March 22nd and 23rd in Richland.