Morning Briefing - April 25, 2019
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April 25, 2019

Hanford Cleanup Plans at Serious Risk, Advisory Board Says

By ExchangeMonitor

Cleanup plans for the Hanford Site in Washington state, along with remediation milestones established under the Tri-Party Agreement, are in “serious jeopardy,” the Hanford Advisory Board said Wednesday in its annual budget advice letter to the Department of Energy.

“The HAB views the combined lack of compliant budget appropriations, the unanticipated problems at Hanford, and the extreme increase in estimated funding levels identified in the lifecycle cost report with great concern,” the board told DOE. Those factors will result in cleanup taking longer and costing more, putting workers, the environment, and the public at increased risk, the letter says.

“They will also result in additional discussion about reducing standards or potentially conducting a lesser quality cleanup,” according to the board.

Unanticipated problems in work at the former plutonium production complex have included the spread of radioactive contamination at the Plutonium Finishing Plant demolition in 2017 and the May 2017 collapse of the older of two PUREX Plant radioactive waste storage tunnels.

The Energy Department has addressed the issues, but the costs and schedule impacts from these and other unanticipated setbacks could compound the challenge of meeting milestones set under the legally binding Tri-Party Agreement on Hanford cleanup, the budget letter said.

The latest Hanford Lifecycle Scope, Schedule and Cost Report, released in January, “is particularly concerning,” the board said. It put the remaining cost of Hanford cleanup and the initiation of long-term stewardship at $323 billion to $677 billion, and said work could continue beyond this century. The amount of funding needed annually would increase to $4 billion starting in fiscal 2020 and later could peak as high as $16 billion in 2088 under the worst-case scenario.

“Receiving appropriation for even the low-range annual funding estimates will be extremely challenging, thereby putting the cleanup mission in further jeopardy,” the letter said.

For fiscal 2020, which begins Oct. 1, DOE is seeking $2.1 billion for the two offices at Hanford. That would be a $400 million reduction from current funding levels.