Local enviromental group worried about Hanford cuts

RICHLAND, WA - The Department of Energy says three radioactive structures on the Hanford Site are at high risk of collapsing, at the same time the Trump Administration is proposing a $700 million budget cut for Hanford clean-up... and one local environmental organization is speaking out. 

Columbia Riverkeeper, an organization that focuses on Hanford cleanup and the surrounding environment, says Trump's proposal to cut funding could have some huge damaging effects. 

On Tuesday, The U.S. Department of Energy released a statement saying the three structures at high risk are two underground trenches and an tank at the plutonium finishing plant. They could be stabilized by filling them with a concrete-like grout within the next year, the federal government said.

The D.O.E has concluded the structures on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation could fall and release radioactive contamination. 

Dan Serres, director of Columbia Riverkeeper, said he's concerned especially because of the site's high contamination and aging infrastructure. 

"It's aging over time and one of the concerns that folks have been raising is that some of this equipment, whether it's a ditch or a crib or a trench, this type of stuff that could have quite a bit of plutonium or other dangerous material, that this could actually collapse," Serres said.

Trump's proposal, if approved, would cut the annual Hanford cleanup budget from $2.5 billion to about $1.8 billion. 

Serres said a lot of Hanford's budget is used to maintain the site and make sure radioactive waste stored there doesn't reach the groundwater or go into the Columbia River. 

"It is a real concern; Hanford is one of the most contaminated places in the world and the idea of cutting back on the cleanup effort now just runs it directly in conflict with the priorities of this region," Serres said. 

A 30-day public comment period will run from March 23 through April 24, 2020. A public meeting will be held March 26, 2020, at 5:30 p.m. at the Courtyard Marriott hotel, 480 ColumbiaPoint Drive, Richland, WA.