VOICES LIKE CIMON'S NEEDED AT HANFORD

February 15, 2002 12:00 am

The Northwest and particularly the people who live near the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in south-central Washington owe a great deal of thanks to people like Shelley Cimon.

For 17 years, Cimon of La Grande has been heavily involved in raising the bar of public understanding and concern over cleanup issues at the nuclear reservation. Now Cimon, chairwoman of the Oregon Hanford Waste Board, is growing weary of the long battle to bring the necessary federal funding to the Hanford cleanup process, and is preparing to step down.

In the early 1980s, the public had little knowledge of how much nuclear waste was being stored at the reservation, and the threat that this waste could pose to the environment. Since then, the government has stepped up to take more responsibility at Hanford, recently committing more than $1 billion a year to cleanup and containment efforts.

As a volunteer, Cimon has worked diligently to help people understand the seriousness and complexity of cleaning up nuclear waste that had accumulated at Hanford since the 1940s.

Much work has been accomplished at Hanford. The Tri-Party Agreement, forged by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the State of Washington has come up with a blueprint and timetable for cleanup work. Projects include moving spent nuclear fuel out of the K Basins, hauling contaminated dirt away from the Columbia River, and closing off and cleaning up buildings.

While the investment in cleanup has been sizable, other major tasks remain to be done at Hanford, including dealing with millions of gallons of spent waste that is being stored in 177 tanks at the reservation. This waste could be dealt with in a process called vitrification, but that project will take a huge commitment of time and money to complete.

It would be good if Cimon could continue working to keep Hanford in the spotlight. But after 17 years, she deserves a break. Others, with a similar passion to make Hanford safe for future generations of Washingtonians and Oregonians, will need to step up and carry this banner.

STAGE COMES ALIVE

The lights dimmed and the orchestra began to play. Soon Maria, played by Chelsea Martin, began to describe how the hills were alive as The Sound of Music was produced Wednesday and Thursday on the La Grande High School stage.

The cast and everyone else should be pleased with how the production went. The voices sounded great, the costumes were magnificent, the set was appealing and the message about a nation under attack was stirring.

LHS choral director J. Michael Frasier picked an excellent year to produce the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, and all involved should be proud of what theyve accomplished.