DOE working on reprogramming proposal for Bechtel

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldApril 25, 2013 

The Department of Energy is aggressively working with the Office of Management and Budget to get a reprogramming proposal to Congress, said David Huizenga, DOE senior adviser for environmental management.

Bechtel National workers have been warned that they might be furloughed -- required to take paid or unpaid time off -- for two weeks this summer because of a possible lack of money. However, that could be avoided if money is reprogrammed, or shifted from projects where it is not needed to other work.

Huizenga talked Thursday at the first of the 2013 Nuclear Cleanup Caucus briefings organized in Washington, D.C., by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., and then a meeting of Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board leadership.

The advisory board meeting had been planned for the Tri-Cities but was held as a virtual meeting on the internet because of a tight federal budget.

At both meetings, Huizenga was asked about reprogramming.

He did not give a projected date, but said he hopes the proposal will be available soon.

DOE would like to move some money budgeted for the vitrification plant's Pretreatment Facility to other buildings at the plant, which would avoid furloughs, he said.

Construction has stopped on the Pretreatment Facility until technical issues are resolved.

DOE also would like to move some of the Pretreatment Facility budget to work at the tank farms because of concerns about leaking tanks, Huizenga said. Six underground storage tanks recently were discovered to be leaking radioactive waste into the ground.

The administration's 2014 budget request of $2.2 billion for Hanford also was discussed, with DOE officials saying the request would cover enforceable legal deadlines in fiscal 2014.

The proposal would be largely flat for Hanford compared to the fiscal 2012 budget. The current budget is lower due to forced federal budget cuts, called sequestration. Whether sequestration would continue in fiscal 2014 is uncertain.

DOE also proposes spending $24 million in fiscal 2014 for technology development, most of which could be applied at Hanford.

Research is being conducted that would allow more glassified waste to be included in each canister that eventually will be produced at the Hanford vitrification plant, Huizenga said. It will reduce the number of glassified low-activity waste canisters produced and possibly also the number of high-level radioactive waste canisters.

Computer modeling of groundwater is being improved to better understand the direction and rate at which the water is moving, he said. The information can be used to position wells used to pump up contaminated water for treatment.

Work also is under way on waste separation technology for Hanford, he said. The Pretreatment Facility is designed to separate up to 56 million gallons of radioactive waste into low-activity and high-level radioactive waste streams for separate treatment.

With delays at the Pretreatment Facility, DOE is interested in bypassing the facility with some low-activity waste, but that will require other separation technology to be developed.

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