News Releases

Murray Celebrates Progress Cleaning up Hanford Nuclear Facility

Aug 19 2004

Murray, who reversed Bush's cuts to Hanford cleanup, joins community leaders as new waste treatment equipment is moved into place

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – A longtime champion of Hanford, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash) celebrated yesterday another progressive step in Hanford's clean up efforts by witnessing a new 275-ton stainless steel waste receipt tank placement.

Beginning in the 1990's, Murray has leveraged her hierarchy in committee and on the Senate floor to reverse both the Clinton and Bush Administration's proposed inadequate budgets for Hanford clean up. Instrumental in the creation of the Senate Nuclear Cleanup Caucus in 2001, Murray has aggressively fought to protect a steady flow of funding for Hanford.

In FY 2002, the Bush Administration attempted to cut Hanford funding by $57 million. Murray refused to accept the cut and combated the proposal by hitting the Senate floor to deliver $145 million more for Hanford than the President's budget had intended. Murray also questioned the President's Budget Director on plans to cut funding by chairing a hearing of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee to review the Bush Administration's work at both Hanford and national nuclear clean up sites.

The Bush Administration further attempted to cut Hanford funding by $300 million in FY 2003 by threatening to hold clean-up dollars hostage unless Washington State would jump through unnecessary hoops. With Murray's support, the Senate rejected the White House's misguided attempts to dissuade funds. Murray's work on the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee resulted in reversing a proposed Bush Administration's $300 million cut to providing an additional $433 million for Hanford.

The placement of the water treatment tanks is evidence of the progress being made in protecting the people of the Tri-Cities from radioactive waste permanently. In partnership with the people of the Tri-Cities, Murray will continue to fight in the United States Senate for funding Hanford's protective clean up measures.

Senator Murray's remarks as prepared for delivery follow:

Thank you all so much for being here today. I'd also like thank, Congressman Doc Hastings for his tireless efforts on the Hanford cleanup, Roy Schepens, Tom Hash, and Jim Henschel for the tour of the facility. I was here was for the groundbreaking in 2001, and it is stunning to see the progress that's been made since then. It shows just how much we can accomplish when people work together to help our state.

You know, this is an issue and a community I've had a close relationship with for a long time. My grandfather settled in the Tri-Cities in 1916, and my dad grew up here. My dad, who was a World War II veteran, saw how much these communities sacrificed to help our nation win the war and continue to have a strong military. Because of that sacrifice, he believed, that our country has an obligation to make those communities whole, and I've been honored to support that cause in the United States Senate.

We know that storing liquid waste in 60-year-old tanks will never be “safe.” The only way to protect the Columbia River and the surrounding communities and ecosystems is to get the waste out of the tanks, immobilize it, and dispose of it. Yet I know we face significant challenges in making this happen. And of late, there have been a number of policy and management issues that have attracted a great deal of media attention – and with good reason.

The Hanford cleanup is a very costly undertaking.

The work directly affects the health and economic well-being of the community, and nearly every decision presents both short- and long-term consequences. The process should be open, and there should always be vigorous scrutiny and discussion about how we proceed with the cleanup. We must press forward with our cleanup efforts, but we also have to do this in concert with the Department of Energy, federal and state regulators and the local community.

And I'm proud to say that that's just what we've been doing.

This collaboration has resulted in significant cleanup accomplishments that deserve more attention than they've been given in the recent past. While there are countless individual cleanup actions that will occur at Hanford, the three big threats to the site have been the plutonium finishing plants, the spent-fuel basins, and the tank waste.

Today, we can say the plutonium is stabilized and safe and ready for shipment to South Carolina. We can say the K-basins will soon have all the spent fuel removed and will be safely stored in the 200 Area. And we can say we are well on our way to stabilizing all our single-shell tanks and constructing the largest treatment facility of its kind in the world.

The waste treatment plant is the cornerstone of future Hanford cleanup efforts, and I'm so glad to see the progress that's being made.

The public has demanded action, and these new tanks are evidence that’s exactly what they're getting. Setting the tanks represents the first step in putting the tank waste problem to rest and protecting the people of the Tri-Cities from radioactive waste once and for all.

I'm so glad to hear that the total project is now more than one-third completed, and that we're on track to meet all the tri-party agreement requirements and deliver a safe, productive plant in 2011.

And, this project is also a great economic engine here in the Tri-Cities.

The WTP currently has 1,800 workers at the site, and 2,200 employees back in the Richland offices. These are good, family-wage jobs, and they're union jobs. They're just the kinds of jobs this community needs to keep growing economically.

That's another reason why I'm so proud to have secured money for this project as a member of the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee. I created the Senate Nuclear Waste Cleanup Caucus with my colleague Mike Crapo because I know that this is a moral and legal obligation that the federal government must meet. And I've let my colleagues in Washington, D.C. know that this project should be at the top of the list of projects that deserve funding – and they've listened.

But the money alone is not enough to make this project happen. We've been able to put together such a great team, and every player has been instrumental from Congress, to state and local government, to business, to labor and to regulators.

Our state has a strong history of cooperative efforts just like this one, and I'm so proud to have been able to contribute to it. As your partner in the United States Senate, I'm going to continue to fight for what's right for the people of the Tri-Cities.