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By Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times

Washington state accused the federal government Monday of missing crucial legal deadlines to clean up 56 million gallons of highly radioactive waste at the former Hanford nuclear weapons site in southeastern Washington, demanding a new set of schedules by April 15.

Gov. Jay Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson sent a letter to Energy Secretary Ernest J. Moniz demanding that eight new double-shelled storage tanks be built to hold waste that is in leaky underground tanks with single steel walls. A state attorney said the eight tanks would cost $640 million, based on federal estimates.

The aging tanks contain plutonium, cesium and other toxic material, the byproduct of decades of nuclear weapons production that represents a dangerous environmental threat.

Inslee said the federal government had failed to come up with a plan to fix serious technical problems that undermined construction of a treatment facility for the waste — a technology about which there are growing doubts.

“I understand they have challenges, but that is no excuse for not meeting their obligations,” Ferguson said in an interview. “They entered into an agreement, and I intend to hold them to the agreement.”

The state’s new demands are a response to the Energy Department’s disclosure last year that it will probably fail to meet more than a dozen key milestones in constructing a $13.4 billion waste treatment plant that would transform radioactive sludge into solid glass, which could later be buried at a disposal site.

The 27-page plan that Washington state sent to Moniz accuses the Energy Department of operating on its own schedule, despite signing off on stringent deadlines in a 2010 legal agreement meant to remedy years of violations of a pact dating from the 1980s.

Critics of the cleanup project said they were encouraged that Washington is talking tough and demanding new tanks but questioned whether state officials are repeating the kinds of political mistakes that have dogged the project for decades.

“The state has to be asking itself, ‘Here we are holding another press conference on Hanford. What has changed?’” said Tom Carpenter, executive director of Hanford Challenge, a nonprofit group that has assisted several high-profile whistle-blowers who were fired after raising public concerns about flawed engineering at the project. “The issue is whether the cleanup is only a series of press conferences, saying we have to do better in the future.”

After the Hanford site was taken out of operation in the 1980s and the public learned that the vast 586-square-mile area was badly contaminated, the Energy Department agreed to begin treating the waste by 1999. That deadline slipped to 2011 and then again to 2019.

Construction of key parts of the treatment plant was stopped in 2012, when senior engineers began to question whether the design was critically flawed. And last year, the Energy Department disclosed a vague plan to change direction, proposing to build a limited-purpose interim plant that would process some waste while problems on the main plant were resolved. Washington state officials want that interim plant built as quickly as possible.

Whatever the problems and their solutions, Ferguson said, the state would no longer accept delays. “Each and every delay does damage to the state of Washington,” he said. “They increase the risk of further contamination.”

AFP Photo/Atta Kenare

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  • 1.Why did Trump choose to hide certain specific files and not others at Mar-a-Lago? What were the criteria that Trump used to keep some files concealed and not others? Who selected those files? Did Trump consult or direct anyone in his selection of secret files? Trump was notorious for being too impatient to read his briefing papers, even after they had been drastically shortened and simplified. Is there the slightest evidence that he spirited these papers away so that he could consult or study them? Who besides Trump knew of the presence of the files he had concealed at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 2. Mar-a-Lago has an infamous reputation for being open to penetration even by foreign spies. In 2019, the FBI arrested a Chinese woman who had entered the property with electronic devices. She was convicted of trespassing, lying to the Secret Service, and sentenced and served eight-months in a federal prison, before being deported to China. Have other individuals with possible links to foreign intelligence operations been present at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 3. Did members of Trump's Secret Service detail have knowledge of his secret storage of the files at Mar-a-Lago? What was the relationship of the Secret Service detail to the FBI? Did the Secret Service, or any agent, disclose information about the files to the FBI?
  • 4. Trump's designated representatives to the National Archives are Kash Patel and John Solomon, co-conspirators in the investigations into Russian interference in the presidential election of 2016, the Ukraine missiles-for-political dirt scandal that led to the first impeachment in 2019, and the coup of 2020. Neither has any professional background in handling archival materials. Patel, a die-hard Trump loyalist whose last job in the administration was as chief of staff to the Acting Secretary of Defense, was supposedly involved in Trump’s “declassification” of some files. Patel has stated, “Trump declassified whole sets of materials in anticipation of leaving government that he thought the American public should have the right to read themselves."
  • The White House counsel failed to generate the paperwork to change the classification markings, but that doesn’t mean the information wasn’t declassified.” If Pat Cipollone, the White House legal counsel, did not “generate the paperwork,” was he or anyone on his staff aware at all of the declassifications? The White House Staff Secretary Derek Lyons resigned his post in December 2020. Did his successor, who held the position for a month, while Trump was consumed with plotting his coup, ever review the material found in Trump’s concealed files for declassification? Or did Patel review the material? Can Patel name any individual who properly reviewed the supposed declassification?
  • 5. Why did Trump keep his pardon of Roger Stone among his secret files? Was it somehow to maintain leverage over Stone? What would that leverage be? Would it involve Stone's role as a conduit with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers during the coup? Or is there another pardon in Trump’s files for Stone, a secret pardon for his activities in the January 6th insurrection? Because of the sweeping nature of the pardon clause, pardons can remain undisclosed (until needed). Pardons are self-executing, require no justification and are not subject to court review beyond the fact of their timely execution. In other words, a court may verify the pardon was valid in time but has no power to review appropriateness. A pardon could even be oral but would need to be verifiable by a witness. Do the files contain secret pardons for Trump himself, members of his family, members of the Congress, and other co-conspirators?
  • 6.Was the FBI warrant obtained to block the imminent circulation or sale of information in the files to foreign powers? Does the affidavit of the informant at Mar-a-Lago, which has not been released, provide information about Trump’s monetization that required urgency in executing the warrant? Did Trump monetize information in any of the files? How? With whom? Any foreign power or entity? Was the Saudi payment from its sovereign wealth fund for the LIV Golf Tournament at Trump’s Bedminster Golf Club for a service that Trump rendered, an exchange of anything of value or information that was in the files? If it involved information in the files was it about nuclear programs? Was it about the nuclear program of Israel? How much exactly was the Saudi payment for the golf tournament? The Saudi sovereign wealth fund gave Jared Kushner and former Trump Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin $2 billion for their startup hedge fund, Affinity Partners. Do the Saudis regard that investment as partial payment for Trump’s transfer of nuclear information? Were Kushner or Mnuchin aware of the secret files at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 7.Did Trump destroy any of the files? If so, when? Did those files contain incriminating information? Did he destroy any files after he received the June subpoena?
  • 8.Were any of the secrets of our allies compromised? Has the U.S. government provided an inventory of breaches or potential breaches to our allies?
  • 9.Does the resort maintain a copying machine near the classified documents that Trump hid? Were any of the documents copied or scanned? Are Trump’s documents at Mar-a-Lago originals or copies? Were any copies shown or given to anyone?
  • 10.Trump’s lawyer Christina Bobb has revealed that a video surveillance system covers the places where Trump hid the files at Mar-a-Lago, and that the system is connected to a system at his other residences at the Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey and Trump Tower in New York City. According to Bobb, Trump and members of his family observed the FBI search and seizure of his files at Mar-a-Lago, “actually able to see the whole thing” through their surveillance system. Who has that surveillance system recorded entering the rooms where the files were kept?

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