House Hanford budget has funds for groundwater, cleanup near river

Budgets proposed by the House and Senate for Hanford next year would include money for environmental cleanup along the Columbia River, such as at the 618-10 Burial Ground.
Budgets proposed by the House and Senate for Hanford next year would include money for environmental cleanup along the Columbia River, such as at the 618-10 Burial Ground. Tri-City Herald

The House Appropriations Committee has approved a proposed Hanford budget for fiscal 2017 that would restore some funding for groundwater treatment and to help finish environmental cleanup along the Columbia River.

The proposal budget would restore $38 million of a $191 million cut by the Obama administration to spending by the Department of Energy’s Hanford Richland Operations Office.

“I was encouraged by the restoration of funds that that had been slated for cuts,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., in a statement.

“While the House request is an improvement over the administration’s request there is more work to be done,” he said. “It is critical to continue to invest in cleanup efforts because in the long run stop-and-start cleanup would cause needless delays and end up costing the taxpayers even more.”

Language accompanying the House budget specifies that $17 million of the restored funds be used to treat uranium in the groundwater. The remaining money would be available to expedite cleanup along the Columbia River.

Although individual projects near the river were not listed, work remains to clean up a highly radioactive spill beneath the 324 Building just north of Richland near the Columbia River and to finish cleanup of the high-hazard 618-10 Burial Ground near the river about six miles north of Richland.

The inclusion of full funding for the Office of River Protection is critical to ensure work is able to progress on retrieving Hanford’s tank waste and preparing to feed an operational Waste Treatment Plant.

Rep. Dan Newhouse

The House would require information to be submitted to Congress after a planned independent review is completed on the removal of radioactive sludge from underwater storage in the K West Basin. The sludge would be moved to central Hanford for eventual treatment for disposal.

The House also would restrict some spending on a new facility to prepare some low-activity radioactive waste for treatment at the Hanford vitrification plant until an independent cost estimate is performed. The new facility would do some limited pretreatment to allow waste vitrification to start as soon as 2022 while technical issues at the vitrification plant’s full-scale Pretreatment Facility are resolved.

The House proposed budget would match the administration’s proposed budget for the Hanford Office of River Protection. Nearly $1.5 billion would be available to spend at the tank farms, where 56 million gallons of radioactive waste are held in underground tanks, and on the vitrification plant being built to treat the waste.

The Senate will continue to consider its version of the Hanford budget Thursday.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., succeeded in getting $114 million of the proposed cut to the Richland Operations Office restored in the Senate’s proposed Hanford budget. It would match the administration’s proposal for the Office of Richland Operations for a total budget of $2.4 billion.

$170 million House bill’s proposed spending to advance Yucca Mountain repository

“I am also pleased that the (House) bill provides funds to continue the Department of Energy’s statutorily required activities for the Yucca Mountain license application,” Newhouse said.

The House budget would include $150 million to support the proposed Yucca Mountain, Nev., repository, which had been planned to receive Hanford’s high-level radioactive waste and used nuclear fuel until the Obama administration shut down the project.

The House budget also would provide $20 million for continued work by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on the Yucca Mountain license application. No money could be spent to close the Yucca Mountain license application or take actions that would irrevocably remove Yucca Mountain as an option for a national repository.

The Senate appropriation bill proposes no money for Yucca Mountain.

If both House and Senate bills are approved, a joint committee would reconcile differences.

Annette Cary: 509-582-1533, @HanfordNews