For decades, the Hanford Nuclear Reservation made plutonium for nuclear weapons. The site is now engaged in cleaning up a large volume of radioactive and hazardous wastes that were left over from plutonium production.
The Trump Administration is proposing a $230 million cut in cleanup spending in fiscal year 2019. The budget request, which was released today, would cut $61 million from the budget for Hanford’s Office of River Protection, and $169 million from the United States Department of Energy’s (DOE) Richland Operations Office. However, the two offices would still receive about $2.1 billion combined for the fiscal year.
The department’s nationwide budget for environmental management, or nationwide nuclear weapons production site cleanup activities, would increase $182 million to $6.6 billion. All but about $30 million of that is for the deactivation and decommissioning of facilities that were not previously in the DOE cleanup budget. Washington State Senator, Patty Murray, had this to say of the proposed cuts:
The President’s proposed cuts to Hanford cleanup are extremely disappointing, especially in the wake of recent events highlighting the hazards that must still be addressed and the risks this cleanup poses to workers, the public and the environment.
Critics have said that Hanford’s budget must be increased to some $3 billion per year to achieve legal cleanup milestones. David Reeploeg, VP of federal programs for the Tri-City Development Council, worried that the proposed funding levels would make it extremely difficult to keep waste treatment plant construction on track. He noted that they are proactively working to prevent incidents like last year’s Purex tunnel collapse from happening in the future, and to meet cleanup milestones.