YAKIMA, Wash. -- Supporters call an initiative on the Washington state ballot a no-brainer: Bar the federal government from shipping nuclear waste to the Hanford nuclear site until all the existing waste there is cleaned up.
But opponents of Initiative 297 argue that interfering with the Energy Department's national plan for nuclear waste disposal could spell doom, especially if other states follow Washington's lead.
The 586-square-mile facility in south central Washington, created decades ago as part of the Manhattan Project, remains the most contaminated site in the nation.
At issue is the federal government's plans for disposing waste from Cold War-era nuclear weapons production. The Energy Department chose Hanford to dispose of some mildly radioactive waste and mixed low-level waste.
Initiative 297 would block the Energy Department from sending more waste to Hanford until the existing waste at the site is cleaned up. A petition sent the initiative to the Legislature early this year. Lawmakers declined to act on it, sending the measure to the ballot.
Gerald Pollet, executive director of the watchdog group Heart of America Northwest and sponsor of the initiative, said voters would be foolhardy not to protect themselves.
"Don't add more waste to a site that has leaking landfills or hazardous waste that isn't stored in compliance with existing standards," he said.