Almost $2.8 billion would be required in fiscal 2014 to keep environmental cleanup on pace at the Hanford nuclear reservation, according to the first look at the budget released Thursday.
That's up from about $2.2 billion in both the current Hanford budget and also the Obama administration's request for next year's Hanford budget.
However, big questions remain, including the effects of possible sequestration triggered by the failure of a special congressional deficit committee to reach agreement and a proposal to create a new cost and schedule for the Hanford vitrification plant based on lower spending.
As sequestration stands now, $1.2 trillion would be held back from federal spending to use for deficit reduction during a decade. It is set to cut defense spending, which could include defense cleanup programs like Hanford, 10 percent starting three months into fiscal 2013.
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"DOE has done no scenarios or analyses for any sequestration," said Stacy Charboneau, deputy manager of the Department of Energy Hanford Office of River Protection, at a public meeting to discuss the fiscal 2014 Hanford budget proposal Thursday in Richland.
However, she personally believes that those deep cuts will be so unacceptable that Congress will not let them happen, she said.
The budget proposal that Hanford officials will submit to DOE Headquarters that meets legal obligations for environmental cleanup for the nuclear reservation would include $1.5 billion for the Office of River Protection, including $890 million for the vitrification plant and the rest for the tank farms.
However, DOE is looking at creating a new baseline, or cost and schedule plan, for the vitrification plant that would drop spending back to $690 million a year for the vitrification plant.
If that new plan is adopted, a new baseline also would have to be created for the tank farms, where 56 million gallons of waste are stored until much of it can be treated for disposal at the vitrification plant.
The $1.5 billion also includes money for work on improvements to the Effluent Treatment Facility to treat secondary radioactive waste created as the vitrification plant operates and for work toward building a temporary storage facility since the nation has no repository yet for the vit plant's high-level radioactive waste.
The $1.5 billion is more than the approximately $1.2 billion expected to be spent on the tank farms and vitrification plant this year and is again requested by the administration for fiscal 2013.
At the proposed fiscal 2013 level, which rolls back spending to $690 million for the vitrification plant, the state is extremely concerned about DOE's ability to meet legal requirements, said Jane Hedges, manager of the Nuclear Waste Program Office for the Washington State Department of Ecology.
The remainder of Hanford, all under the DOE Hanford Richland Operations Office, would require almost $1.3 billion in fiscal 2014 to meet legally binding Tri-Party Agreement deadlines that year and to keep cleanup on track to meet future deadlines.
That's up from just more than $1 billion this year and in the administration's budget request for fiscal 2013.
The Richland Operations Office would focus in 2014 on work needed to finish cleanup along the Columbia River by 2015 and would put more resources into protecting and cleaning up contaminated ground water, said J.D. Dowell, DOE assistant manager for central Hanford.
Fiscal 2014 also would be the peak spending year for cleanup of the Plutonium Finishing Plant and spending would increase to move radioactive sludge from the K West Basin to central Hanford for temporary storage.
The state is concerned that even with the budget increase for the Richland Operations Office, work will slip to treat radioactive strontium in ground water near the Columbia River from N Reactor. It's also concerned that DOE will fall behind on retrieving temporarily buried transuranic waste -- typically debris contaminated with plutonium -- making it difficult to meet a 2016 deadline, Hedges said.
The state and participants at the meeting also were concerned about having enough money for community and regulatory support. This year, $19.5 million will be available to pay for state regulatory activities, the Hanford Advisory Board and payments in lieu of taxes to Hanford-area county governments, among other support.
That would drop to $15 million next year.
After Hanford officials send their proposal for the fiscal 2014 Hanford budget to Washington, D.C., in the next few months, there will be no more public discussion or information until the annual federal budget administration request to Congress in February.
But in the meantime Congress will continue to work on the creating a Hanford budget for next year based on the 2013 budget request from the administration last month.