Morning Briefing - February 24, 2020
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February 24, 2020

Energy Department Releases More Detail on Environmental Management Spending Plan

By ExchangeMonitor

The Department of Energy on Monday said it would “leverage past experience” and apply best practices to make remediation of 16 nuclear sites more cost-effective in upcoming fiscal year.

The language is found in the introduction to the detailed 415-page report for the $6.1 billion budget proposed for the Office of Environmental Management in fiscal 2021, down from the nearly $7.5 billion enacted for the current fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.

The budget proposal includes $660 million toward Bechtel’s continued construction of the Waste Treatment Plant at the Hanford Site in Washington state, which should start converting low-activity radioactive waste into a glass-like form by 2023. That would be down from $831 million in the current fiscal year, although many facilities at the vitrification plant are entering the testing phase.

In total, DOE is requesting about $2 billion being for the former plutonium processing complex, which received almost $2.5 billion in the current year.

The Energy Department said deployment of the “end state” contracting method for remediation sites will provide vendors with financial incentives to accomplish cleanup milestones quicker than under existing “cost plus fee award” agreements with the Office of Environmental Management.

The document also notes during the 2019 calendar year the cleanup office issued its new interpretation of high-level radioactive waste (HLW), which should open the door to “risk-based” disposal, meaning some less dangerous high-level waste can be dispositioned at sites licensed for low-level radioactive waste. The federal government currently lacks a deep geologic repository for HLW.

The Energy Department for the current fiscal 2020 requested about $6.5 billion for Environmental Management. Congress then tacked on nearly another $1 billion. A similar process could play out in coming months on Capitol Hill – several lawmakers around the Hanford Site in Washington state are already pledging to increase its funding beyond the requested total.

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