RICHLAND, Wash. – Major portions of the cleanup work at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation could stall if budget cuts known as the sequester start in March. The impasse comes just as two tanks at the southeast Washington site may be leaking.
A report by the Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee estimates that the budget cuts beginning in March would furlough more than 1,000 workers at Hanford for about six weeks. The document also says that pumping radioactive tank waste out of suspect underground tanks to newer vessels would be delayed.
That’s a weighty issue, given that two tanks at the site appear to be seriously compromised. One double-hulled tank has an internal leak. And just last week, Hanford managers announced that another single-hulled tank might be leaking up to 300 gallons of waste a year into the soil not far from the Columbia River.
All of this puts already-tight legal deadlines between the federal government, the State of Washington and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in question.
Sequestration would also cut back work to clean up radioactive waste in Idaho, according to Energy Secretary Steven Chu.