Hanford

House budget would reduce proposed Hanford cuts

The U.S. House’s proposed budget for the Hanford vitrification plant would increase construction money in fiscal 2018 to $704 million. Usually $690 million is available.
The U.S. House’s proposed budget for the Hanford vitrification plant would increase construction money in fiscal 2018 to $704 million. Usually $690 million is available. Courtesy Bechtel National

The House budget proposal for the Hanford nuclear reservation next year would add almost $54 million to the amount requested by the Trump administration.

The additional money is the result of work by Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., along with two other Hanford supporters on the House Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee — Chairman Mike Simpson of Idaho and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., who represents the district downriver from the nuclear reservation.

“This legislation has rejected the president’s proposed cuts to the Richland Operations Office and was a top priority of mine to support funding for continued Hanford cleanup,” Newhouse said.

“Additionally, ensuring the Office of River Protection received strong funding was critical to continue progress in the tank farms at the Waste Treatment Plant.”

The proposal would still leave the budget for fiscal 2018 below current spending of about $2.4 billion, including money for safeguards and security, by about $60 million.

The Trump administration proposed a budget of $2.3 billion, including safeguards and securities. The Tri-City Development Council estimated that funding level would cost about 700 jobs at Hanford.

The House budget proposal would increase spending at the Office of River Protection, which is responsible for 56 million gallons of waste held in underground tanks and the massive vitrification plant being built to treat the waste for disposal.

$14 million proposed above administration request for Hanford Office of River Protection

$40 million proposed above administration request for Hanford Richland Operations Office

Current annual spending is just short of $1.5 billion. The Trump administration proposed increasing spending by about $5 million, and the House proposal would add another $14 million for construction at the vitrification plant.

The plant has been planned at a steady budget of $690 million annually, but the House budget would increase that to about $704 million to help make sure construction continues at a pace adequate to meet deadlines. The Department of Energy has legal deadlines to start treating some waste in 2023 and have the plant fully operating in 2036.

TRIDEC had recommended that the funding for vitrification plant construction be set at $850 million in fiscal 2018.

Department of Energy Hanford officials said at a public meeting that the president’s budget request to Congress for the Office of River Protection would be enough to meet legal requirements in fiscal 2018, but that a budget increase would be needed in fiscal 2019 for its work.

The House budget proposal for the Hanford Richland Operations Office would increase by a little less than $40 million, bringing its budget to almost $838 million. Current spending is roughly $75 million more.

The administration’s request of about $800 million, including safeguards and security, might not be enough to meet deadlines in the legally binding Tri-Party Agreement, according to the Washington State Department of Ecology, a Hanford regulator.

By responsibly funding these cleanup activities, we can prevent costly delays and ultimately save significantly more money in the long run.

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash.

TRIDEC had recommended a $1 billion budget for the Richland Operations Office to meet legal obligations.

The Richland Operations Office is responsible for remaining environmental cleanup along the Columbia River, all central Hanford cleanup not related to waste storage tanks, groundwater cleanup and overall operation of the nuclear reservation.

The money added in the House budget is intended to keep work on track for cleanup at the Hanford 324 Building, which sits above a spill of highly radioactive waste near the Columbia River and just north of Richland. It is so radioactive that it would be lethal within two minutes of contact, according to Hanford officials.

The House proposal also would provide some budget flexibility as officials address the PUREX tunnels, which are more than 50 years old and are used for long-term storage of equipment with highly radioactive contamination. The oldest of the two tunnels was discovered partially collapsed in May and the second tunnel has been determined to be at risk of a collapse.

The restored funding proposed in the House budget for Hanford would fulfill the federal government’s duty to prioritize Hanford cleanup, Newhouse said.

“By responsibly funding these cleanup activities, we can prevent costly delays and ultimately save significantly more money in the long run,” he said.

The House Appropriations Committee will consider the Department of Energy appropriations bill Wednesday.

Annette Cary: 509-582-1533, @HanfordNews

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