Hanford

Trump administration proposes smaller Hanford budget

Employees at the Hanford nuclear reservation’s Waste Treatment Plant, or vitrification plant, lower a rebar curtain into the Effluent Management Facility. The facility will be needed to start treating low-activity radioactive waste as soon as 2022.
Employees at the Hanford nuclear reservation’s Waste Treatment Plant, or vitrification plant, lower a rebar curtain into the Effluent Management Facility. The facility will be needed to start treating low-activity radioactive waste as soon as 2022. Courtesy Bechtel National

The White House is proposing spending more money in the next fiscal year on cleaning up the nation’s nuclear weapons production sites

Just not at Hanford.

The administration released its request to Congress for fiscal 2019 on Monday, calling for a $230 million cut to Hanford nuclear reservation spending.

“The president’s proposed cuts to Hanford cleanup are extremely disappointing, especially in the wake of recent events highlighting the hazards that must still be addressed and the risks this cleanup poses to workers, the public and the environment,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Hanford must be fully funded so work can be done on time.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

In the past year, a radioactive waste storage tunnel at the Hanford PUREX plant was discovered partly collapsed.

Radioactive particles also spread during demolition of the site’s Plutonium Finishing Plant, with more than 30 workers inhaling or ingesting small amounts of radioactive contamination.

The proposed cuts could mean that legal deadlines for environmental cleanup might not be met and “safety could be shortchanged,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

“Hanford must be fully funded so work can be done on time,” she said.

The budget for projects under the Department of Energy’s Hanford Office of River Protection would be $1.4 billion, a drop of $61 million from current spending, under the administration’s fiscal 2019 funding request.

DOE’s Hanford Richland Operations Office would see its budget drop by $169 million to $747 million.

The total Hanford budget would be just under $2.2 billion, according to DOE.

The department’s nationwide budget for environmental management — or nationwide nuclear weapons production site cleanup activities — would increase $182 million to $6.6 billion. All but about $30 million of that is for the deactivation and decommissioning of facilities that were not previously in the DOE cleanup budget.

The information released Monday morning is a starting point, said David Reeploeg, vice president of federal programs for the Tri-City Development Council.

Higher budget caps were set by Congress earlier this month under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, but it’s not clear that additional money that could be available for DOE would go to environmental cleanup work.

At these funding levels it would be extremely difficult to keep Waste Treatment Plant construction on track, proactively work to prevent incidents like last year’s PUREX tunnel collapse from happening in the future, and to meet cleanup milestones.

David Reeploeg, vice president of federal programs for the Tri-City Development Council

The initial budget numbers still are concerning, Reeploeg said.

“At these funding levels it would be extremely difficult to keep Waste Treatment Plant construction on track, proactively work to prevent incidents like last year’s PUREX tunnel collapse from happening in the future, and to meet cleanup milestones,” he said.

Office of River Protection

The Office of River Protection is responsible for managing underground tanks holding 56 million gallons of radioactive waste from the past production of plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program.

It also is building the vitrification plant, formally called the Waste Treatment Plant, at a cost expected to exceed $17 billion to treat much of the waste for disposal.

The $1.4 billion proposed for the office would include $705 million for the vitrification plant and $678 million for the tank farms.

In addition, $56 million would be budgeted for a smaller pretreatment system being built to allow the vitrification plant to start treating low activity radioactive waste as soon as 2022 while construction continues on parts of the plant that would handle high level radioactive waste, including the plant’s large Pretreatment Facility.

Murray’s staff compared the administration’s budget request for fiscal 2019 to the request for fiscal 2018.

The latest request is a drop of $35 million for the tank farms and $37 million for the pretreatment system.

It would be an increase of $7 million for the vitrification plant.

I refuse to let Hanford workers and the Tri-Cities community be punished because the Trump administration doesn’t understand or respect the federal government’s obligation to clean up the site.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Congress did not pass a Hanford budget for fiscal 2018 so Hanford continues to operate on the fiscal 2017 spending level.

Richland Operations Office

The Richland Operations Office is responsible for all other projects at Hanford, including operating the site, groundwater cleanup, demolition of the Plutonium Finishing Plant, stabilizing the PUREX waste storage tunnels and cleaning up the highly radioactive spill beneath the 324 Building just north of Richland.

The administration did not release a project-by-project breakdown of the budget request for the Richland Operations Office on Monday.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said the Hanford budget proposal is “downright dangerous for everyone who lives near the Columbia River.”

The Columbia River runs through the Hanford nuclear reservation before it reaches Oregon.

“I refuse to let Hanford workers and the Tri-Cities community be punished because the Trump administration doesn’t understand or respect the federal government’s obligation to clean up the site,” Murray said.

As I have done each and every budget cycle that has sought to reduce funding for Hanford, I will work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to restore funding for the Hanford cleanup.

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash.

She said she was confident that Democrats and Republicans would set aside the administration’s budget proposal “and then we can get back to the work of making sure Hanford has the resources needed to continue critical cleanup work, meet legal deadlines and ensure strong worker safety protections at all times.”

“As I have done each and every budget cycle that has sought to reduce funding for Hanford, I will work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to restore funding for the Hanford cleanup,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash.

He will not let the federal government abandon its legal and moral obligations to finish cleanup at Hanford, he said.

“Now is not the time to jeopardize worker safety or impeded this vital cleanup effort,” he said.

The White House proposes budgets to Congress, but Congress sets budgets.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

The proposed budget for the DOE Office of Science would match current spending of $5.4 billion

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland is an Office of Science lab, but draws funding from many government agencies.

Some cutbacks could affect research at the lab.

The budget for the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability would drop nationwide from $230 million to $61 million under the proposed budget, according to Murray’s staff.

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy budget would be cut from current spending of almost $2.1 billion to $696 million.

PNNL depends on the Biological and Environmental Research program within the Office of Science to pay for two facilities at PNNL used by researchers around the world, the Environmental Molecular Science Laboratory and the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement climate research facility.

The Biological and Environmental Research budget would drop from $612 million to $500 million under the administration’s proposed budget.

Annette Cary: 509-582-1533, @HanfordNews

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