Hanford faces possible funding cuts in 2020 budget; Sen. Cantwell tours impacted areas

By:  Kaitlin Knapp
Source: YakTriNews.com

HANFORD, Wash. - Federal funding cuts are hitting close to home. The Trump Administration has proposed cuts to Hanford. 

$416 million could be taken from the nuclear cleanup. On Wednesday, Sen. Maria Cantwell toured the areas facing the potential cuts.

"We clearly want to make sure that Hanford remains a priority," Cantwell said. "There are going to be unexpected things. That's why we have to plan with a budget that we're confident will meet the milestones in the agreement."

Cantwell says the 18% cut to the overall funding would affect cleanup progress and worker safety.

"We want to make sure that funding is there to clean up Hanford and to make sure we meet our obligations and do so for the workers in a safe fashion," Cantwell explained.

One of the first areas the senator stopped at was one of the radioactive tank farms. Out of 177 tanks, 18 are empty. Most of the radioactive waste piped to radioactive tanks underground, which is what the workers are trying to clean up.

"I think the challenges for us become -- it use to be that cleanup across the nation was packaged together and it became easier to get a coalition of people," Cantwell said. 

The senator also made her way to the Vit plant, specifically the melter face area. Inside are two melters, about 300 tons each. Currently, workers are mixing low-activity waste with materials to make glass. It will then be stored in large containers. Because it'll be converted to glass, it won't corrode. 

The Department of Energy expects to start filling the containers with glass in 2022, about one year ahead of the 2023 deadline.

After the tour, Cantwell hosted a roundtable discussion about the proposed cuts. Funding for the Richland Operations Office would be cut by 27% while the Office of River Protection would see a 13% decrease.

"We're going to keep hammering on science and milestones as the focus of what it takes to clean up," Cantwell said. "And if we do that, I think we'll continue to make good progress."

Others in attendance at the roundtable included representatives from the Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council, Washington State Department of Ecology, Central Washington Building Trades Council and more. 

Cantwell says they'll be starting an earnest in the next month to address shortcomings in the proposal.