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Proposed budget would slash Hanford budget by $190 million for Richland Operations
In Senate hearing, Murray expressed deep concern over whether federal government could meet legally binding commitment to cleanup with proposed budget

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, questioned Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz on the Administration’s proposed budget for cleanup of nuclear waste at the Hanford site for fiscal year 2017. The proposed budget would cut $190 million from Richland Operations, which has more work to do on several high-risk cleanup projects along the Columbia River and on the Central Plateau of Hanford. She pressed Secretary Moniz on how the Administration would meet its legally binding commitment to the Tri-Cities community, and also asked officials about the Columbia River Treaty.


“I’ve found the President’s budget to be short-sighted and inadequate when it comes to Hanford. This is really troubling – because the federal government has a legal and moral obligation to cleanup Hanford and other nuclear waste sites across the nation,” Senator Murray said.


As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Murray is the leading advocate for federal funding for Hanford cleanup work. Last month when the proposed budget cuts were announced, Senator Murray called the proposed budget “short-sighted” and “inadequate.”


Below are the 2017 funding levels for Hanford cleanup work proposed by the Obama Administration:


$2.299 billion for Hanford cleanup, a $104.7 million cut from fiscal year 2016 funding

  • $800 million for Richland Operations, a $190.6 million cut from fiscal year 2016 funding


  • $1.499 billion for Office of River Protection, a $85.9 million increase from fiscal year 2016 funding
  • $721.4 million for tank farm activities
  • $693 million for the Waste Treatment Plant
  • $73 million for low activity waste pretreatment plant
  • $12.5 million for Infrastructure Recapitalization


Below is a transcript of the exchange between Senator Murray and Secretary Moniz:


Murray: Secretary Moniz, let me start with the Hanford site in Central Washington.


Year after year, I’ve found the President’s budget to be short-sighted and inadequate when it comes to Hanford.


This is really troubling – because the federal government has a legal and moral obligation to cleanup Hanford and other nuclear waste sites across the nation.


Now I do appreciate your focus on the tank farms, Waste Treatment Plant, and implementing direct feed Low Activity Waste to begin processing waste possibly as early as 2022…


But I find it unacceptable that the President’s budget essentially robs Richland Operations (RL) to pay for the Office of River Protection’s waste treatment mission.


It is really critical that we finish the job on all fronts.


I have a hard time seeing how that will get done when the Administration has once again cut RL by $190 million – nearly double the amount cut last year.


With those kinds of significant cuts, how will the Administration meet its legally binding commitments to the Tri-Cities community?


Moniz: Well certainly as you say Senator Murray, first of all within a limited total budget we are trying to make sure we address the priorities, including those areas that we think have the highest risk which especially is liquid waste at a variety of sites.


Now coming to Richland, first of all, and I think you would agree, we have made very substantial progress in the last year, certainly along the River Corridor for example. And the FY 17 budget will have major progress to complete the demolition of the Plutonium Finishing Plant, and move sludge from the K Area away from the river and the Plateau…a lot of progress on the landfill.


Murray: I appreciate that but several of the high risk projects that are close to the Columbia River and the City of Richland, specifically the 324 Building and 618-10 burial grounds – they are underfunded in the President’s budget, despite this Subcommittee’s clear support for completing them.


So I want to ask you for your commitment that these critical projects will be funded and if you can give me a detailed plan on how you are going to do that.


Moniz: Sure I will certainly do so. But I do want to emphasize that Building 324, we are doing the procurements we need, and will in FY 17 for the novel robotics technologies that we’re going to need. So we can’t just go in and move the dirt out until we develop the robotics, so…we hear you and we will respond to that.


Murray: We made a decision to focus cleanup on the reactors and 300 Area closest to the Columbia River and City of Richland, and have made great strides.


But I really fear this budget overall really foreshadows a decision by DOE to claim victory at RL and walk away from all the other cleanup RL is responsible for on the Central Plateau.


RL still has a long list of cleanup on the Central Plateau – about 1,000 waste sites, 500 facilities, and contaminated groundwater - all pose risks to the public, environment, and workforce. And every year that those aren’t addressed, DOE spends millions on surveillance and maintenance.


So it’s really critical that we know we have a commitment to that and not set it aside as we try and get that critical work done on that.


I wanted to make that clear to you today.


Moniz: We are trying to prioritize the risks, but let’s work together on that and come back with a plan.


Murray: Okay. And finally I wanted to ask you about the Columbia River Treaty.


In December 2013, the Administration was presented a regional consensus to modernize the Columbia River Treaty. It was a multi-year process involving Northwest tribes and stakeholders.


The entire Northwest Delegation urged the Administration to begin formal negotiations with Canada, but not a lot of progress has been made.


My constituents are really concerned about the impacts a change in Administration will have on these negotiations.


I wanted to urge you today to push the Administration to begin these formal negotiations with Canada, and I really hope that you proactively raise the Columbia River Treaty when Prime Minister Trudeau visits the United States this week.


Moniz: If I may say, Senator Murray, we agree with you – and as you know Bonneville is our lead negotiator on that. I met with Secretary Kerry last week and we both agreed about the importance of pushing this along. There is a negotiator –


Murray: We’ve had a negotiator for a while. We need this to get started, because we can’t afford to wait once a new Administration gets in, whoever it is, to reeducate everybody, have new people appointed, and get it started. It needs to get started now.


Moniz: Agreed.


Murray: Thank you.