Hanford can expect reasonably level funding for the foreseeable future, said Matt McCormick, manager of the Department of Energy Richland Operations Office.
However, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory could face a possible decrease in federal money for its research programs in the near term, which could require some small-scale layoffs.
McCormick and Roger Snyder, manager of the DOE Pacific Northwest Site Office, discussed federal budget issues at the Tri-Cities Regional Economic Outlook forum Wednesday in Kennewick.
The general trend is down in the fiscal year that started in October for budgets covering the array of research programs that Pacific Northwest National Laboratory depends on for funding. The fiscal 2012 omnibus appropriation bill was approved in late December.
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The DOE national lab in Richland may be able to manage staff reductions to a certain extent through attrition of employees, Snyder said.
But PNNL also has been working with DOE to create a work force restructuring plan based on the current budget and possible projections for the fiscal 2013 budget in case more reductions are needed. The plan is close to being completed and approved, and will be released for public comment if it includes more than 100 staff reductions over 12 months.
In the past 12 months, PNNL eliminated about 70 jobs, about 40 percent of them through voluntary layoffs.
It now employs about 4,800 workers, including about 450 who work at offices outside Richland, including in Sequim, Seattle, Portland and the Washington, D.C., area. That is up from the 4,000 people it employed about four years ago.
The Obama administration is due to release its budget request for Hanford for the next fiscal year in early February, and McCormick is expecting a request of about $2.2 billion.
That is similar to the amount included in the omnibus appropriations bill signed in late December for the current fiscal year and about the amount he expects in future years based on cleanup needs.
Employment at Hanford, including federal employees and employees of contractors and major subcontractors, is at 10,300 after layoffs of about 2,000 workers last year, he said.
Many of those layoffs came after spending the last of $1.96 billion in federal economic stimulus money. But as some of those new workers retained their jobs, the average age of the Hanford worker has dropped a couple of years to the late 40s, he said.
Environmental cleanup of Hanford from the past production of plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons program will continue until 2050 or 2060. But work is progressing to shrink the area of the 586-square-mile nuclear reservation requiring cleanup to the highly contaminated industrial area at its center by 2015.
A large part of Hanford will be set aside for conservation and preservation of one of the key shrub steppe areas remaining in the state. Increased public access is planned, including possibly a bike race that would loop around Hanford roads, starting and ending at the 300 Area just north of Richland, McCormick said.
Adding a campsite so kayakers could take two days to travel the Hanford Reach on the Columbia River also is being considered. And the National Park Service should be close to including Hanford's historic B Reactor in its system, he said.
DOE has supported a proposal to transfer 1,600 acres long planned for industrial development and expects to act on the proposal in a year, he said.
The Tri-City Economic Development Council joined with other local agencies to request the parcel of uncontaminated Hanford land to recruit industry and create jobs.