Hanford will need $2.9 billion in fiscal 2013 to meet legal requirements and keep environmental cleanup on track, according to the first look Wednesday at that year's budget proposal prepared by Hanford officials.
However, getting that much money might be a tall order in the current economic climate facing the nation.
"Austerity is the word of the day for the federal budget," said Stacy Charboneau, acting deputy manager of the Department of Energy Hanford Office of River Protection.
But Ines Triay, the DOE assistant secretary of environmental management, has been spreading the message that the work done at Hanford is not discretionary, Charboneau said.
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DOE Hanford officials are submitting a budget request that includes $1.5 billion for the Office of River Protection and $1.4 billion for the Richland Operations Office for fiscal 2013.
That's up from a combined $2.2 billion in the administration's budget proposal for the current fiscal year and almost $2.4 billion in the administration's budget proposal for fiscal 2012.
There is no current budget to compare it to because Congress has not passed one for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. Congress has just started to look at the administration's proposal released in February for fiscal 2012.
DOE also released its funding profile Wednesday for Hanford through 2017 as required by a new law. It calls for a budget of almost $3 billion in fiscal 2014, $2.8 billion in fiscal 2015, $2.9 billion in fiscal 2016 and $2.7 billion in fiscal 2017.
Cleanup of DOE's radioactive tank waste left from weapons production, including construction of the Hanford vitrification plant, is the top priority for DOE's environmental cleanup program and that is reflected in budgeting for the Office of River Protection.
The peak construction year for Hanford's $12.2 billion vitrification plant will be in fiscal 2013 and the budget request includes $970 million for the plant that year.
The construction of the plant had been planned on steady funding of $690 million a year, but contingency funding needs to be moved from the final construction years to the peak construction years, Charboneau said.
The budget proposal also includes $519 million for work at the Hanford tank farms, up $100 million from the administration's proposal for this year. The increase, which also is included in the administration's proposal for fiscal 2012, is planned to continue the infrastructure improvements started with federal economic stimulus money.
Proposed budgets for the Richland Operations Office, which handles Hanford work except the tank farms and vitrification plant, are tighter.
In addition, the work they propose paying for is based on the assumption that Congress agrees to the budgets proposed for the current fiscal year and fiscal 2012 by the Democratic administration. The Republican House wants cuts to DOE cleanup programs in the current fiscal year and has yet to release its proposed budget amount for fiscal 2012.
The fiscal 2012 administration's budget proposal for the Richland Operations Office is less than the fiscal 2011 budget proposal, but the Hanford request for fiscal 2013 would increase the budget by about $389 million from 2011 to get projects back on track and continue cleanup being done with federal economic stimulus money. Plans call for most economic stimulus money to be spent by Oct. 1.
Under the fiscal 2012 proposal, cleanup work that ramped up with federal economic stimulus money at the Plutonium Finishing Plant would stop. DOE had proposed saving overhead costs by finishing cleanup of the plant early but that would not be possible under the fiscal 2012 proposal.
Ramping the project back up in fiscal 2013 will require six to nine months of training for workers and the delay will add two to three years to the schedule and cost $100 million to $200 million more, according to Rich Holten, deputy assistant manager for central Hanford.
In addition, temporarily buried waste planned to be sent to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico for disposal would not be retrieved or treated under the fiscal 2012 proposal.
Although the fiscal 2012 proposed budget level for the Richland Operations Office was not unexpected, it is a concern, said Jane Hedges, manager of the Nuclear Waste Program of the state Department of Ecology.
"We are going to have some tough choices to make," said Dave Einan, environmental engineer with the Environmental Protection Agency.
-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; email@example.com