Hanford

New Hanford budget agreement comes in at $2.3 billion

The new fiscal 2016 budget proposal for Hanford includes $690 million for the vitrification plant, including the High Level Waste Facility shown here.
The new fiscal 2016 budget proposal for Hanford includes $690 million for the vitrification plant, including the High Level Waste Facility shown here.

A Hanford budget of $2.3 billion for the fiscal year that began in October has been proposed as part of the bipartisan appropriations bill worked out by congressional leaders overnight Tuesday.

It is $78.7 million more than requested by the Obama administration for fiscal 2016 and higher than the current Hanford budget.

“This was a positive signal and a nice Christmas present,” said Gary Petersen, Tri-City Development Council vice president of Hanford programs. “Thank you, Patty and Dan.”

This was a positive signal and a nice Christmas present.

Gary Petersen, TRIDEC

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., got some money that had been planned to be cut put back into the House version of the Hanford budget earlier this year. Then Murray “did the yeoman’s lift” to get the proposed budget to its current level, Petersen said.

“The federal government has a legal and moral obligation to clean up Hanford, which is why I fight year in and year out to make sure that commitment is maintained and Hanford gets the resources it needs to get the job done,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., in a statement.

“It wasn’t easy this year between President Obama underfunding Hanford in his budget and additional cuts proposed in the House, but I was proud to fight hard to make sure this final deal increases our commitment to this local and national priority,” she said.

The federal government has a legal and moral obligation to clean up Hanford, which is why I fight year in and year out to make sure that commitment is maintained and Hanford gets the resources it needs to get the job done.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

The Hanford budget was a “win” said staff for Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. Consistent funding of Hanford will save money in the long-run, according to a statement from her office.

“For every dollar not spent on cleanup, additional funds must be allocated to the upkeep of facilities,” the statement said. “By acquiring appropriate funding for this year, we ensure cost savings and a more expeditious return of Hanford to a usable state.”

The proposed budget could be voted on by the House and Senate in the next few days, possibly on Friday.

It includes $922.6 million for the Hanford Richland Operations Office, which is responsible for Hanford cleanup other than underground tanks holding 56 million gallons of radioactive waste and the vitrification plant being built to treat the waste for disposal. Those projects are the responsibility of the Hanford Office of River Protection.

The Richland Operations Office would receive all of the increase above the president’s request, although its budget would remain a little below the current budget.

Much of the increase above the administration’s request would go to cleanup along the Columbia River, including at the 618-10 Burial Ground and the highly radioactive spill beneath the 324 Building just north of Richland.

The restoration of $5 million to the community and regulatory support category is good news.

Jim Beaver, Benton County Commission

Language accompanying the proposed budget requires DOE to provide Congress a report within 90 days on the five-year plan for cleanup along the river, explaining any deviations from previously made agreements. Congressional leaders have repeatedly questioned DOE leaders at hearings on plans for the 618-10 Burial Ground and the 324 Building.

Some of the increase above the president’s budget also would be used to restore community and regulatory support to its usual level of about $20 million.

“The restoration of $5 million to the community and regulatory support category is good news,” Benton County Commissioner Jim Beaver said in a statement. “We hope that it will make it possible for DOE to fund the second half of PILT payments for 2015.”

PILT, or payment in lieu of taxes, are passed out to local governments to make up for the loss of tax revenue since Hanford land was taken off county tax rolls in 1943.

The community and regulatory support category also covers regulator costs borne by the federal government, emergency preparedness and the Hanford Advisory Board.

The proposed budget also includes $555 million for Richland Operations Office work in central Hanford and $77 million to continue work on a new structure needed to remove radioactive sludge in underwater containers at the K West Basin. The sludge will be moved to central Hanford for eventual treatment and disposal.

It is essential to get on with pumping leaking tanks and getting the Waste Treatment Plant operational as soon as possible.

Bob Thompson, Hanford Communities

Pam Larsen, executive director of the Hanford Communities, a coalition of Hanford-area governments, said she hoped that the funding would allow DOE to proceed with the transfer of radioactive cesium and strontium capsules to dry storage from its present underwater storage in central Hanford.

The budget for the Office of River Protection is proposed to be $1.4 billion, which is equal to the president’s budget request and $146 million more than proposed by the House. It is about $200 million more than was included in the current annual budget.

“It is essential to get on with pumping leaking tanks and getting the Waste Treatment Plant operational as soon as possible,” Bob Thompson, chairman of the Hanford Communities, said in a statement.

The spending bill includes $690 million for the vitrification plant, which is its usual funding level, and $74 million to be used for a new project that could allow part of the vitrification plant to start treating low activity radioactive waste as treatment of high-level radioactive waste is delayed by technical issues.

The proposed budget also includes $649 million for work at the Hanford tank farms, which is equal to the president’s budget request.

The language accompanying the report does not defer any planned activities of the Office of River Protection as had been directed in language with the original House version of the bill.

House Appropriations Committee leaders had asked for more information about the vitrification plant, including the delays and extra work caused by unresolved technical issues.

Annette Cary: 509-582-1533, @HanfordNews

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