No new estimate of the multi-billion-dollar cost to finish Hanford cleanup will be released until Jan. 31, 2019.
The Department of Energy is being allowed by its regulators to skip a second year of an annual report usually required by the Tri-Party Agreement. It is called the Hanford Lifecycle Scope, Schedule and Cost Report.
The last estimate made public in a lifecycle report put the remaining cost of environmental cleanup of the nuclear reservation at $107.7 billion. The estimate released in early 2016 covered cleanup to be largely completed by 2060, plus some post-cleanup oversight.
It did not include revised plans for the Hanford vitrification plant, which are expected to raise the cost of the plant by at least $4.5 billion.
Every three years DOE is required to prepare a new estimate of costs related to 56 million gallons of tank waste in underground tanks. The costs include emptying the tanks and treating the waste for disposal, with treatment of much of the waste expected to be done at the vitrification plant.
The next three-year report is due in Oct. 31, 2017, too late for scope, cost and schedule to be updated by the January 2018 lifecycle report deadline.
DOE and its regulators — the Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington State Department of Ecology — agreed that resources should be focused on preparing the report due a year later.
Hanford, which covers 580 square miles, is contaminated from the production of plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program from World War II through the Cold War. A little more than $2 billion is spent most years on cleanup of the site.