New Hanford cleanup price tag is $113.6B

An estimated $113.6 billion is the new price tag for completing the remaining Hanford nuclear reservation environmental cleanup, plus some post-cleanup oversight.

If the cost were spread evenly among everyone living in the United States today, each person would have to come up with $359.

The new estimate of cleanup costs was included in the 2014 Hanford Lifecycle Scope, Schedule and Cost Report released this week. It's the fourth such report released since they became an annual requirement added to the legally binding Tri-Party Agreement in 2010.

The estimate is based on completing most cleanup work in 2060 and then some continuing oversight and monitoring until 2090. That oversight, called long-term stewardship, is listed as costing $5.4 billion.

The total estimated cleanup cost has gone down from last year's estimate of $114.8 billion after a year of cleanup work under a budget of roughly $2 billion and some adjustment of estimates.

However, the report is required to be based on completing work to meet all of its regulatory and cleanup obligations and that results in some unrealistic annual budget projections.

In most recent years, the Hanford budget has been a little more than $2 billion and large increases seem unlikely given the federal budget climate.

But the lifecycle cost report projects budgets of more than $3 billion each of the next six years, including a budget of $4 billion in 2019.

Projections show spending needs to remain above $2 billion -- and most years above $2.5 billion -- until 2046 to meet cleanup goals. Spending then would drop quickly to below $1 billion in 2049.

Many decisions on how to clean up Hanford remain to be made. For those projects, the report is required to make a plausible, upper-range estimate.

Some estimates are based on projected costs that are expected to change. For instance, DOE has said that the costs for the $12.3 billion vitrification plant are likely to increase as technical issues are worked through, but a definite number has not been calculated to include in the latest lifecycle report.

In the past the lifecycle reports have taken an in-depth look at a single project, but this year DOE and its regulators decided not to do that after considering the effort required to conduct those analyses and the benefits and insights gained from them.

A link to the new lifecycle cost report is posted at www.hanford.gov on the rotating banner.

Comments will be accepted until April 18. They may be emailed to LCSSC@rl.gov or mailed to Stephen Korenkiewicz, Lifecycle Report Project Manager, DOE Richland Operations Office, P.O. Box 550, MSIN: A5-16, Richland, WA 99352.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @HanfordNews