Moniz promises Hanford visit, department reorganization, LNG decisions

Source: Nick Juliano, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, June 14, 2013

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz plans to visit the embattled nuclear waste site in Hanford, Wash., next week, he told a congressional subcommittee today during a wide-ranging hearing.

Moniz called the site, where leaks have been discovered in six tanks storing radioactive sludge, one of the “most challenging” in the Department of Energy’s portfolio of Cold War-era facilities that need to be cleaned up, a job he called a “legal and moral imperative.”

Next week’s trip will be Moniz’s first visit to Hanford since taking the helm at DOE last month. The department has faced withering criticism from officials in the Pacific Northwest over its handling of the Hanford site, including from Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), whose state is downstream of the facility near the Columbia River.

“I have committed to a plan to address the serious issues at hand, and I look forward to visiting Hanford next week and determining the path forward on the project,” Moniz said in his opening statement today for a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, his first public appearance on Capitol Hill since being confirmed.

Moniz also outlined today a proposal to reorganize DOE management practices. He said he wanted to better integrate DOE’s parallel science and energy missions to move more easily from basic research through technology demonstration, to consolidate policy analysis from each program area and to improve facility security in light of activists last year breaking into the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

In response to questions from Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), Moniz also reiterated his plan to quickly review pending applications to export liquefied natural gas, on a case-by-case basis. He said more decisions on whether to approve export applications “absolutely” would be completed at least before the end of this year.