Nov. 4, 2005
Congressional budget negotiators and the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) have
agreed to a massive cut of $340 million in funding for cleanup of the Hanford
Nuclear Reservation in 2006. Over a million gallons of High-Level Nuclear Waste
have leaked from tanks at Hanford and another million gallons was deliberately
dumped in the soil. Contamination has spread faster than previously believed and
is moving towards the Columbia River.
The region's leading Hanford Clean-Up wastdog group, Heart of America Northwest,
warned that the massive budget cuts will increase serious safety risks and
threats to the Columbia River.
"Every year of delay increases the spread of contamination and the risk to the
safety of clenaup workers and the public," said Gerald Pollet, Executive
Director of Heart of America Northwest. "The federal Energy Department's
priority is to push to use Hanford as a national radioactive and toxic waste
dump, rather than fund cleanup and safety. The massive budget cuts show why
Washington's voters were wise to pass Initiative 297 one year ago to require
cleanup before more waste can be dumped," said Pollet, who was the chief sponsor
of the initiative on the 2004 ballot which passed with the largest vote total
for an initiative in state history.
In February, President Bush and USDOE proposed to cut $295 million from Hanford
Clean-Up work in 2005 (including spending an additional $28 million of cleanup
funds on security for Plutonium held for the nuclear weapons program). Today's
Congressional agreement by negotiators from the Houce and Senate, with USDOE
support, cut an additional $100 million from construction of the treatment
plants to convert liquid High-Level Nuclear Wastes to glass (vitrification). $50
million was moved from vitrification to slightly reduce the impact of other
budget cuts. Much of those funds will be consumed by large cost overruns in
controversial projects (especially USDOE's alternative to full vitrification,
which it calls "bulk vitrification").
The total reduction in funding for actual cleanup work for 2006, compared to
2005, will be $340 million - when costs for security of Plutonium and other
non-cleanup efforts are not included in the Hanford Clean-Up budget figure.
Funding cuts will likely delay: retrieval of High-Level Nuclear Waste from tanks
which have leaked over a million gallons of waste; safety for workers and
characterizing leaks around those tanks; cleanup of massive sol contamination
spreading from unlined burial grounds and liquid waste discharge sites; and,
halt work to cleanup safety risks at the Plutonium Finishing Plant. Heart of
America Northwest and Gerald Pollet have performed the lead regional analyses of
Hanford Clean-Up funding and contract costs since 1988.