Ranking Member Smith Statement on Tunnel Collapse at Hanford
“This month’s tunnel breach at the Hanford Nuclear Site underscores the importance of policies that prioritize worker health and safety. While the complete collapse of the tunnel was averted, I remain concerned. The Department of Energy (DOE) is relying more on luck than on certainty that all measures have been taken to avoid a potential incident that could release radiation and contamination. Such an incident would cause unacceptable harm, endanger lives and require long-term evacuations of the area and huge remediation costs. There have been too many near-misses across the nuclear complex. In addition to this latest incident, there are on-going concerns about noxious fumes at Hanford. Looking beyond Hanford to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, in 2014, a drum burst because of an inexcusable typo in drum packing guidance which could have killed or sickened workers at the site had the underground area not been evacuated a week prior due to an unrelated incident. The culture of complacency cannot continue.
“A successful clean-up of Hanford requires rigorous safety rules and regulations, as well as a strong and reliable safety culture that focuses on protecting the men and women conducting the essential, and often dangerous, work at the site. The DOE and its partners must demonstrate that it has met these objectives and use all incentives and coercive measures at its disposal to do so. The health and safety of employees at Hanford must always come before consideration of the bottom line.
“As Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, I will carefully monitor the investigation into the tunnel collapse and efforts to ensure that the risk of another collapse at additional tunnels is as close to zero as possible. I remain committed to ensuring a safe and transparent clean-up at Hanford and I will continue to fight to ensure that the DOE has the well-being of all workers as a top priority and that it has the resources it needs to do so.”