Hanford

Proposed Hanford budget would cut an estimated 700 jobs

The Tri-City Development Council would like the Hanford vitrification plant’s current spending increased by $157 million to $850 million in the next fiscal year.
The Tri-City Development Council would like the Hanford vitrification plant’s current spending increased by $157 million to $850 million in the next fiscal year. Courtesy Bechtel National

More than 700 jobs would be lost at the Hanford nuclear reservation next year if the budget requested by the Trump administration is enacted as proposed, the Tri-City Development Council estimated.

The Hanford jobs would be in addition to more than 1,000 jobs previously estimated to be cut at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland under the administration’s proposal.

TRIDEC is asking for help from the congressional delegation representing Hanford and PNNL to increase budgets.

The administration makes a budget request in the amount it believes is needed for the federal government, but Congress sets the federal budget.

The annual Hanford budget meeting is 5:30 p.m. June 7 at the Richland Public Library, 955 Northgate Drive. Register to watch the meeting by webinar.

“We recognize the fiscal challenges our nation faces, but firmly believe that all our requests address compelling national needs and will result in a net benefit for the American taxpayer,” said the TRIDEC letter.

The public can learn more about the Hanford budget priorities at an annual public meeting and webinar at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Richland Public Library, 955 Northgate Drive. The meeting traditionally looks at budget priorities for the next two fiscal years.

The administration has proposed a $5 million increase for the next fiscal year over current spending for the Hanford Office of River Protection, which is responsible for 56 million gallons of radioactive waste stored in underground tanks and the vitrification plant being built at a cost of more than $17 billion to treat the waste for disposal.

The Richland Operations Office, responsible for all other Hanford cleanup and operations, would see a cut of about $124 million from current spending, according to initial budget information.

Initial information compared spending for the current fiscal year and the proposed spending for the next fiscal year without including certain line items for each, such as security, that were not immediately available.

Without additional line items, the Richland Operations Office proposed budget is about $716 million and with them it would be $800 million.

We have serious concerns.

Tri-City Development Council

TRIDEC is requesting an increase of about $75 million over current spending for the Richland Operations Office.

“We have serious concerns,” the letter said.

Significant progress has been made to clean up the 220 square miles of Hanford along the Columbia River, but extensive cleanup remains in the 75 square miles at the center of Hanford.

“The administration’s budget does not reflect this reality nor the events that have recently taken place at Hanford,” TRIDEC said.

The discovery May 9 of a partially collapsed tunnel storing radioactive waste in central Hanford “is a sobering reminder of why it is so important to adequately fund … cleanup and and infrastructure work,” TRIDEC said.

No radioactive contamination was airborne, no one was hurt and Hanford work was affected for only a few days.

“We may not be so lucky in the future with Hanford’s aging facilities and degraded infrastructure,” the letter said. Some facilities and infrastructure date back to World War II when Hanford began producing plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program, work that continued through the Cold War.

The proposed budget might put at risk progress on key projects that continue to pose a threat to the environment, workers and the public, the letter said.

$157MTRIDEC request above current funding for Hanford vitrification plant

$75MTRIDEC request above current funding for Hanford Richland Operations Office

$16MTRIDEC request above current funding for Hanford tank farms

$30M TRIDEC requests for Hanford, two other sites of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park

Projects include cleanup of a highly radioactive spill under the 324 Building just north of Richland, removal of radioactive sludge from the K West Basin near the Columbia River and cleanup of contaminated groundwater that moves toward the river.

To meet legal requirements in the Tri-Party Agreement, the Richland Operations Office would need $1 billion in fiscal 2018.

TRIDEC said goals of a Richland Operations Office cleanup plan, the 2020 Vision, could be met with $900 million and an additional $15 million to mitigate risks such as the partially collapsed tunnel.

TRIDEC sees a larger shortfall in the proposal for the Hanford Office of River Protection.

As the Department of Energy works to meet court-enforced deadlines at the vitrification plant, it will need $850 million next year for the plant, which about $157 million over current spending, TRIDEC said. DOE must start treating some waste in 2023 and have technical issues resolved and the plant fully operating in 2036.

TRIDEC requested $16 million more than current spending of $750 million at the tank farms, saying some legal deadlines are at risk. In addition, workers must be protected from chemical vapors, TRIDEC said.

TRIDEC also requested $30 million be added to the federal budget for the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park for use at historic sites at Hanford and in Los Alamos, N.M., and Oak Ridge, Tenn.

These cuts would decrease U.S. competitiveness, and would severely impact ongoing work at PNNL, including in important areas such as grid infrastructure, modernization and security; developing advanced biofuels and earth systems science.

Tri-City Development Council

At Hanford alone, $10 million is needed to repair the roof of historic B Reactor and to reduce hazards to allow the public to tour more of the world’s first production-scale nuclear reactor, TRIDEC said.

PNNL uses a different funding model than Hanford, with researchers obtaining money through grants and other scientific funding.

TRIDEC is asking for restoration of some deep cuts in broad federal programs that spend research dollars at PNNL.

“These cuts would decrease U.S. competitiveness, and would severely impact ongoing work at PNNL, including in important areas such as grid infrastructure, modernization and security; developing advanced biofuels and earth systems science,” the TRIDEC letter said.

Steven Ashby, the PNNL director, told workers last week that he does not expect cuts to be as deep as proposed in the administration’s budget request, but that the lab is planning for moderate cuts.

Annette Cary: 509-582-1533, @HanfordNews

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