Tuesday, November 2, 2004; Last updated 10:51 p.m. PT

Voters approve measure barring more nuclear waste at Hanford


SEATTLE -- By a roughly 2-to-1 margin, voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved an initiative to bar the federal government from sending nuclear waste to the Hanford nuclear site.

Initiative 297 would block the U.S. Department of Energy from sending more waste to the Hanford nuclear site until all the existing waste there is cleaned up.

The initiative received support from 772,426 voters, or 68 percent, to 368,420 voters, or 32 percent, who opposed it, with 27 percent of precincts reporting.

The 586-square-mile reservation in south-central Washington, which was created in World War II as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb, remains the most contaminated site in the nation.

Supporters called the initiative a no-brainer: Don't add more waste until the existing waste is cleaned up. The roughly $1 million cost of the initiative was largely funded by its sponsor, Seattle-based Heart of America Northwest, a Hanford watchdog group.

"It's clear that the rule of the people of the state of Washington is that Hanford needs to be cleaned up before more waste can be dumped there," said Gerald Pollet, executive director of Heart of America. "We are overwhelmed in terms of the size of our victory."

Opponents feared that barring waste shipments to Hanford could backfire if other states take similar steps to ban imports of Hanford waste.

The Energy Department took no official position on the measure. Agency spokeswoman Colleen French said the Energy Department would be studying the initiative and evaluating its options over the next 30 days. The initiative would go into effect 30 days after its passage.

Opponents have said the initiative is likely to end up in court because they believe it is illegal on several fronts: It pre-empts the federal government's nuclear waste and interstate commerce policies, imposes a tax on the federal government and addresses more than one issue, which would violate the state constitution.


TNSI Note : Supporters are confident the measure will withstand a court challenge. The reason: Hanford is a contaminated site while the proposed sites in Nevada and New Mexico - states slated to receive Hanford waste - are nuclear waste repositories.

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