UW News

September 23, 1997

Public workshops to help U.S. Department of Energy improve information access

“By DOE estimates, there are 3.4 to 4.1 million pages of classified information about Hanford. The cost to declassify this material using today’s procedures could be hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of person-years of labor … the sheer enormity of this task requires a new approach.”
–The Hanford Summit II,
Compliance Working Group Report, 1994
To address the enormous task of declassifying Hanford documents and to improve public access to information, the U.S. Department of Energy is turning to the public for assistance. “The Hanford Openness Workshops,” a series of four meetings to be held in Washington and Oregon during the next year, will begin Wednesday, Oct. 8, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in room 1B40 of the Bechtel Hanford building, 3350 George Washington Way in Richland, Wash.

Funded by the DOE and hosted by the Consortium for Risk Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation (CRESP) at the University of Washington, the workshops will involve representatives from Tribal Nations, local government, medical and technical communities and citizen activist groups. Members of the public are encouraged to attend and participate.

“For many years, DOE effectively banned the public from seeing documents that describe radioactive and chemical releases to the environment from Hanford,” explained Mary Lou Blazek, administrator of the nuclear safety division at the Oregon Office of Energy. “These workshops are an opportunity for the public to work with DOE on changing the agency’s approach to public access to documents.”

Specific goals of the workshop include:
— Suggesting ways in which the DOE Richland Operations Office can ensure staff and contractors are attaining the goals of openness;
— Identifying improvements to DOE systems, orders, rules and procedures used to access Hanford records; and
— Identifying document declassification priorities.

“DOE is proud to be actively supporting this collaborative effort,” said John Wagoner, manager of the DOE’s Richland Operations Office. “Hanford has fully embraced DOE’s commitment to openness, and we’re pleased to see this new approach to providing access to Hanford information. I have high hopes for what this group will be able to do.”

“The Richland office is providing leadership to the entire DOE organization with its commitment to these workshops,” said Dr. Gilbert Omenn, co-founder of CRESP and former dean of the UW School of Public Health and Community Medicine. “CRESP is pleased to be a part of this endeavor to enable and empower Stakeholders and Tribal Nations through improved access to critical risk-related information.” CRESP is a university-based national organization providing the Department of Energy with information needed for risk-based environmental cleanup of the nation’s nuclear weapons production sites.