— Hanford workers deserve the best protective equipment available and access to their records related to chemical vapors, Monica Regalbuto said at a hearing Tuesday of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Committee members, including Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., questioned Regalbuto as the nominee to be assistant secretary of energy for environmental management. It is the top DOE position responsible for Hanford and other defense cleanup.

 

She ranked Hanford cleanup as the second of three top priorities for DOE’s environmental cleanup project.

The top priority is restarting the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, a national repository for transuranic waste that has stopped work because of a radiation incident earlier this year.

Hanford’s transuranic waste is mostly debris contaminated with plutonium. No Hanford waste was being sent to the repository at the time of the shutdown, but more Hanford waste is planned to be sent there.

She ranked Hanford second because of the large amount of work remaining and the Savannah River, S.C., site, where radioactive waste is being glassified, as third.

Great challenges remain in DOE environmental cleanup, and innovation will be required, she said. During the first 25 years of cleanup of nuclear weapon sites nationwide, the work focused on “low-hanging fruit,” she said.

There have been cost overruns in DOE cleanup and other programs, but in the future, DOE plans to “move forward with a much more thought-out program,” she said. Construction will not start on new projects until DOE is ready, she said.