Hanford

Rep. Newhouse asks Obama for solid Hanford funding

A decontamination cell weighing at least 20,000 pounds is lifted out of a trench at the Hanford 618-10 Burial Ground. It’s believed to have come from Hanford's 327 Radiometallurgy Laboratory.
A decontamination cell weighing at least 20,000 pounds is lifted out of a trench at the Hanford 618-10 Burial Ground. It’s believed to have come from Hanford's 327 Radiometallurgy Laboratory. DOE

A reduction in nationwide spending for Department of Energy environmental cleanup would be a problem for Hanford, Rep. Dan Newhouse told President Obama as the administration prepares to ask Congress for fiscal 2017 funding.

The federal budget request to Congress is scheduled to be released Feb. 9.

Newhouse wants to avoid a repeat of last year.

For fiscal 2016, the Obama administration proposed a $93 million cut for the Richland Operations Office, which is in charge of all Hanford environmental cleanup except the tank farms and the vitrification plant being built to treat the tank waste, Newhouse, R-Wash., pointed out.

The cut would have caused cleanup delays, missed legal deadlines for cleanup along the Columbia River and increased total project costs, he said.

There are no technical reasons why work must stop within the river corridor at cleanup sites like the 324 Building and the 618-10 Burial Ground.

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash.

It largely was not implemented, thanks to the work of Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., with help from Newhouse. Congress approved an overall Hanford nuclear reservation appropriation for fiscal 2016, which started Oct. 1., of $2.3 billion, which was $79 million more than the Obama request.

Cleanup of Hanford along the Columbia River is near completion and “truly among the brightest success stories” of the nationwide DOE defense site cleanup program, Newhouse said.

“There are no technical reasons why work must stop within the river corridor at cleanup sites like the 324 Building and the 618-10 Burial Ground,” Newhouse said in the letter.

A reduction in funding for fiscal 2017 would be “extremely detrimental to cleanup progress and would diminish the ability of DOE to meet the legal commitments that govern the Richland Operations Office,” Newhouse said.

Formulating a workable budget for the Office of River Protection by next week could be challenging, given technical issues that must be resolved at the vitrification plant and a federal lawsuit about deadlines for emptying certain leak-prone tanks and building and starting operations at the vit plant, Newhouse acknowledged.

The Obama administration proposed a $93 million funding cut in fiscal 2016 for the Richland Operations Office, which is in charge of all Hanford environmental cleanup except the tank farms and the vitrification plant being built to treat the tank waste.

However, at a minimum, the budget request should include stable funding for the vitrification plant and money for a pretreatment system that could allow the plant to start treating low-activity radioactive waste by 2022, Newhouse said. All parts of the plant may not be treating waste until 2039, according to a DOE projection.

The tank farm budget should include money for ongoing work to empty leak-prone tanks, make improvements to better protect workers from potentially harmful chemical vapors, and empty waste from a double-shell tank with waste leaking between its shells, Newhouse said.

Newhouse said he is committed to securing adequate budgets not just for Hanford environmental cleanup, but also for cleanup at DOE’s other defense sites across the nation.

“While many activities of the federal government are not legally required, cleanup of our nation’s defense nuclear waste is not optional,” Newhouse said in the letter.

Annette Cary: 509-582-1533, @HanfordNews

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