Rep. Dan Newhouse secured a key commitment during debate on the U.S. House floor to help ensure that adequate money is available in the next fiscal year for work at the Hanford tank farms and vitrification plant.
The House passed the Hanford budget for next year Friday as part of the Fiscal 2016 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill by a vote of 240 to 170. Next, the Senate must take up the Hanford budget.
The House version of the budget restores much of the money the Obama administration proposed cutting from completion of cleanup along the Columbia River at Hanford. But that appeared to come partly at the expense of money that the administration requested for the Hanford vitrification plant and tank farms.
“The restoration of funds for cleanup along the Columbia River Corridor, which is legally required and a priority for the Mid-Columbia region, puts those projects on a very strong path forward,” Newhouse said on the House floor.
But as the final bill is developed, he wants to continue to work with Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, “to ensure that all the work that the federal government is legally obligated to do is realized,” he said.
“I am particularly concerned with ensuring that work is able to progress on retrieving Hanford’s tank waste and preparing to feed an operational Waste Treatment Plant, while providing sufficient reso urces to meet near-term regulatory requirements in the tank farms,” Newhouse told Simpson.
Simpson is the chairman of the House Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee and would have a seat at the table when a conference committee reconciles any differences between House and Senate versions of the budget.
Simpson thanked Newhouse “for his strong advocacy for these important cleanup activities, and I agree that they are probably the most important in the country,” he said.
“I look forward to working with (Newhouse) to ensure that the activities at Hanford’s tank farms and at the Waste Treatment plant receive the funding required to move forward safely, efficiently and in a timely manner,” Simpson said.
The House budget includes nearly $1.3 billion for the tank farm and vitrification plant work, and $923 million for the rest of the work at Hanford, not including money for security.
The budget would restore about $78 million of the administration’s proposed cut for the Richland Operations Office, but decrease the administration’s requested budget for the vit plant and tank farms by $146 million.
The Department of Energy has not provided Congress with a cost estimate of its plan to start processing some low-activity waste at the vitrification plant while technical issues are being resolved elsewhere at the plant, the House budget report said. It also has not provided information about the delays and extra work caused by unresolved technical issues.
The House version would put vitrification plant spending at its traditional $690 million a year, while the administration called for spending $765 million. The $690 million in the House budget also would have to cover work toward a new facility proposed for outside the vit plant to prepare low-activity radioactive waste for treatment before the plant is ready to treat all waste.
The House budget would increase tank farm spending from the current $522 million to $578 million, an increase of $56 million. However, the budget would be $71 million short of the amount proposed by the administration.
DOE needs to make progress removing radioactive waste from underground tanks to protect the environment while also making the upgrades needed to feed waste to and support the vitrification plant.