Hanford budget gets big boost

By Annette Cary, Herald staff writerOctober 1, 2009 

The final version of the Hanford budget for the fiscal year that starts today includes $87 million more than the budget proposed by the Obama administration.

That gives Hanford a budget of almost $2.1 billion for the year.

It's a "big win," Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a senior member of the Energy and Water Appropriations Committee, said in a statement. "This bill moves us toward the consistent budgets we need each year to deliver on cleanup goals."

The $87 million added by Congress was in addition to a $24 million increase included in the proposed administration budget over the fiscal 2009 budget.

In addition to its annual budgets, Hanford also is receiving $1.96 billion in economic stimulus funding to spend over the next two years. That money already has created more than 3,000 jobs, both part time and full time, although some jobs support Hanford cleanup with manufacturing or other work outside the Mid-Columbia.

The stimulus money, combined with the 2010 budget, "will allow us to continue to safeguard jobs and address big cleanup priorities like ground water protection and waste treatment," Murray said.

The Senate had passed a budget that was $120 million more than the proposed administration budget and the House had passed a budget that was $51.8 million below the proposed budget. The bills were reconciled in a conference committee Wednesday to set the final budget of $87 million over the administration's proposal.

Much of the additional $87 million would be used for ground water cleanup and work toward treating and disposing of K Basins radioactive sludge.

The vitrification plant receives full funding of $690 million, and Hanford officials also will have more leeway on how money is spent. In recent years money has been appropriated separately for the four main buildings and the group of support buildings at the facility.

This year money is divided into just two appropriations -- for the Pretreatment Facility and for everything else. That will allow the Department of Energy more flexibility in construction and work force scheduling across the vit plant campus.

The tank farms will receive $408 million, up from $320 million from the year just ended.

DOE's Hanford Richland Operations Office, which handles all work except the vit plant and tank farms, will receive $990 million. That includes the $87 million increase over the administration budget request.

"TRIDEC is extremely pleased with an increase of $87 million over the administration's request," said Gary Petersen, vice president of Hanford programs for the Tri-City Development Council.

It's a particularly good number considering that some other programs and sites had their budgets reduced, he said.

"This makes the third year in a row that Sen. Murray has managed to help maintain a consistent budget for Hanford cleanup," Petersen said. Credit in the House goes to Republican Rep. Doc Hastings and Democratic Reps. Norm Dicks and Rick Larsen, he said.

"The final funding level for next year will enable Hanford cleanup to continue moving forward with real progress," Hastings said in a statement.

The Energy and Water Appropriations Bill, which included the Hanford budget, also has a significant cut for nuclear waste disposal.

The Obama administration has terminated the Yucca Mountain, Nev., nuclear waste repository, House and Senate appropriation leaders said in a news release.

The conference committee agreement provides $197 million, which is $92 million below 2009, to continue activities to inform future policy decisions on national nuclear waste disposal and to establish a blue ribbon commission to evaluate alternatives for nuclear waste disposal.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; More Hanford news at hanfordnews.com.

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