President Donald Trump’s proposed budget includes a cut of about $120 million for the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, despite two recent incidents that raised concern about worker safety at the former nuclear weapons production site.
Hanford for decades made plutonium for nuclear weapons, and it now is engaged in a massive environmental cleanup that costs more than $2 billion per year.
“The Tri-Cities community sacrificed a lot to help our country win World War II and the Cold War,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, a member of the appropriations committee, on Tuesday. “The president’s proposed budget for Hanford, despite urging from both sides of the aisle, is a real disappointment.”
The 2018 budget proposal still must go through Congress.
The budget calls for spending $6.5 billion across the nation to clean up the legacy of nuclear weapons production. That is the agency’s largest budget request in a decade for environmental cleanup, the agency said.
At Hanford, the president’s budget calls for a cut of more than $120 million for the agency’s Richland Operations Office, which deals with many nuclear waste sites and facilities on the sprawling site. It leaves spending nearly flat for the Office of River Protection, which deals specifically with the contents of 177 underground nuclear waste storage tanks that contain some of the most toxic wastes.
In the past two weeks, Hanford, located near Richland, saw the partial collapse of a tunnel that contains nuclear waste and a possible new leak from one of the huge double-walled storage tanks built in the 1970s. Last week, a robotic crawler inserted into the space between the two walls of Tank AZ-101 came out of the tank with unexpected radioactive contamination. Hanford officials are trying to determine the cause.
On May 9, the tunnel that contained nuclear waste from a shuttered plant partially collapsed, prompting evacuation of nearby workers. The 360-foot long (110-meter) rail tunnel was built in 1956 from timber, concrete and steel. Radioactive waste was stored inside, and the entrance was sealed in 1965. The tunnel contains about 780 cubic yards (596 cubic meters) of waste — a mixture of radioactive and chemical waste and irradiated equipment, including eight contaminated rail cars.
The Energy Department has said no workers were injured and no airborne radiation escaped into the environment as a result of the roof collapse.
The cleanup of all Hanford’s waste is expected to last until 2060 and cost an additional $100 billion over the $19 billion already spent.