OMB discusses proposed Hanford budget cut

March 5, 2014 

Work continues to clean up the Hanford 300 Area along the Columbia River.

TRI-CITY HERALD FILE

— Spending at Hanford and other Department of Energy cleanup sites is proposed to be cut in part because some work is being completed, said the director of the Office of Management and Budget at a Senate Budget Committee hearing Wednesday.

But Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the chairwoman of the committee, told OMB director Sylvia Mathews Burwell that “we have really serious challenges in making progress at these nuclear sites across the country.”

Burwell did not specify what work was being completed.

The Obama administration’s proposed fiscal 2015 budget was released Tuesday and called for DOE to cut cleanup costs nationwide by $135 million, Murray said.

That includes a cut of almost $100 million for the DOE Hanford office that is responsible for cleanup of contaminated groundwater, burial grounds and structures along the Columbia River and in central Hanford. The other DOE Hanford office, the Office of River Protection, would receive an increase of almost $25 million. It is responsible for 56 million gallons of waste held in underground tanks and the vitrification plant being built to treat the waste.

Murray told Burwell that the Office of Management and Budget and DOE need to work with her to create a long-term, sustainable plan for paying for Hanford cleanup. A comprehensive plan is needed to make sure the needs for Hanford cleanup are being met, Murray said.

“I’ve been very clear in conversations with you and the Department of Energy, I expect the federal government to meet its milestones at defense environmental cleanup sites,” Murray said.

The proposed budget would meet deadlines and the Obama administration is committed to making cleanup progress at Hanford and other sites, Burwell said.

The total budget proposed by the Obama administration for Hanford in fiscal 2015 is just less than $2.15 billion, down from about $2.2 billion this year when all spending is considered, including security and nondefense spending for the Fast Flux Test Facility.

However, the just-released 2014 Hanford Lifecycle Scope, Schedule and Cost report put the budget needs of Hanford at about $3.2 billion in fiscal 2015 to meet cleanup obligations. The report is a requirement of the Tri-Party Agreement to inform budget planning.

Details have not been released on which projects of the Richland Operations Office are proposed to lose funding under the administration’s budget request.

The Hanford Richland Operations Office has been working toward a plan to complete much of the cleanup along the Columbia River in 2015. However, some work, including cleanup of the high-risk 618-11 Burial Ground, will not be finished.

A high-level radioactive spill under the 324 Building also is not expected to be cleaned up and radioactive sludge will continue to be held in underwater containers at the K West Reactor basin.

In addition, the K East and K West Reactors will not be cocooned, or put in long-term storage.

As cleanup advances along the Columbia River, Hanford officials have planned to shift more resources to central Hanford where limited work has been done to clean up contamination left from the chemical processing of irradiated uranium fuel to produce weapons plutonium.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @HanfordNews

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