Cantwell Blasts Cuts to Hanford Cleanup Budget, Criticizes Energy Department’s Mixed Messages and Missed deadlines

Missing tank waste deadline would jeopardize entire tank waste cleanup program

WASHINGTON, DC – Thursday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) denounced under-funding of toxic waste cleanup on the Hanford site, and questioned Energy Secretary Sam Bodman on a recent audit that stated the Department will miss a key cleanup deadline.

"Cutting cleanup funds is too risky for the people of the Columbia River basin," said Cantwell, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "Short-changing the cleanup is short-sighted. The job needs to get done now."

An October Department of Energy Inspector General report found that the department will miss a September 2006 deadline for waste cleanup at Hanford’s C-Tank Farm. The report found that the Department of Energy did not base its project cost and retrieval plan on past experience and currently available data. The audit also found that the Department had not taken action to ensure that resources were available for cleanup.

The Department of Energy cut funding for Hanford tank waste cleanup activities by $89 million, or 22 percent in its Fiscal Year 2006 request. Overall the administration cut $297 million from Hanford cleanup compared to last years funding level.

"Sixty-seven toxic waste tanks at the Hanford site are either leaking or suspected of leaking," said Cantwell. "With tank waste threatening the Columbia River, we can’t afford to slash funding and miss deadlines. We need action, not mixed messages from the Department of Energy."

The 1989 cleanup agreement between the Department of Energy, the Washington State Department of Ecology, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agen0cy (EPA), established firm milestones for completing the retrieval of the waste from the 149 single-shell tanks located at the Hanford Site in Richland, Washington. One of the important benchmarks in the Agreement was the retrieval of waste from all of the 16 single-shell tanks located at the Hanford’s C-Tank Farm by the end of Fiscal Year 2006. Removal of waste from the 16 tanks was to be completed by September 2006, at an approximate cost of $90 million. Recently, the Department of Energy admitted that it will not meet this deadline, and will not complete waste removal activities at the C-Tank Farm until 2007. In addition, waste retrieval costs have increased to $215 million, more than doubling the initial estimate.