RICHLAND — Sen. Patty Murray secured what could be the highest level of funding in recent years for the Hanford nuclear reservation in the Senate's proposed fiscal 2020 budget for the Department of Energy.
The proposed budget includes about $420 million more than requested by the Trump administration for a total Hanford budget that would be a little more than $2.5 billion.
The proposed budget passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee, on which Murray, D-Wash., serves. Next it will be considered by the full Senate.
More than 9,000 people work at Hanford.
"The Tri-Cities sacrifices so much to help our nation come through one of the darkest chapters in our history, and it is only right that the federal government honors its commitment to take care of the community by investing the necessary resources in cleaning up Hanford -- a complex, long-term project," Murray said.
The Senate budget proposed higher spending for Hanford than does the House's Hanford budget in fiscal 2020.
The Hanford budget that passed out of the House Appropriations Committee was for $2.4 billion.
It restored $381 million of the cut proposed by the administration thanks to the work of Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., but still would fall about $37 million short of current spending.
"The funding levels in the Senate bill are great for Hanford," said David Reeploeg, vice president for federal programs for the Tri-City Development Council. "They will allow the site to make substantial progress with the tank waste treatment mission, and to continue important remediation and risk reduction work."
The budget for the DOE Office of River Protection would be set at $1.6 billion under the Senate bill.
The office, one of two DOE offices at Hanford, is responsible for the 56 million gallons of radioactive waste held in underground tanks and the $17 billion vitrification plant being built to treat much of the waste.
The waste is left from the past production of plutonium from World War II through the Cold War for the nation's nuclear weapons program.
The report accompanying the Senate bill requires some of the money to be spent on facilities that will handle high level radioactive waste.
Now DOE is focused on facilities that will handle the low activity radioactive waste as DOE faces a federal court-enforced deadline to start treating that waste in 2023.
DOE has until 2033 to start treating high level radioactive waste, but has notified regulators it is at risk of missing that deadline.
The proposed budget also includes $10 million for the Test Bed Initiative, a pilot project to turn 2,000 gallons of low activity radioactive waste into a concrete-like form and ship it to a private repository for government waste in Texas for disposal.
The vitrification plant was not planned to be large enough to treat all 56 million gallons of tank waste.
The other Hanford DOE office, the Richland Operations Office, would receive $900 million, or $242 million above the administration budget request. It would be $35 million above current spending.
The Richland Operations Office is responsible for providing all services for the 580-square-mile site and digging up buried waste, tearing down contaminated facilities and cleaning up contaminated groundwater and soil.
The proposed budget includes $8.5 million for the HAMMER training center at Hanford, maintenance at the Hanford portion of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park and the Hanford Workforce Engagement Center.