The Tri-Cities community has many reasons to be proud of its legacy of achievement at the Hanford Site, beginning with the Manhattan Project and continuing through the Cold War. That national security mission has now transitioned to one of the largest and most complex cleanup projects in the world, but the legacy of achievement continues.
Today, more than 11,000 Tri-Citians are going to work every day making critical cleanup progress and solving technical challenges unlike those found anywhere else. Despite these incredible efforts, however, federal funding has fallen short of what is needed to keep Hanford cleanup on schedule. That’s why we are jointly seeking infrastructure funding from Congress to help meet these needs.
Although there have been significant disagreements between numerous Tri-City community leaders and the Washington State Department of Ecology, we all agree on one important point – every dollar invested in cleanup now will save money in the long run and shave years off the total time needed to complete the work.
Federal investments in sitewide risk mitigation, tank waste retrieval technology development, cross-site waste transfer lines, the high-level waste treatment facility and the high-level waste effluent management facility represent a major opportunity to advance cleanup. These projects are necessary to accomplish the cleanup mission, and an infusion of infrastructure funding to expedite them would be a game-changer for the Hanford Site and local communities.
More than a decade ago, during the Great Recession, the federal government provided one-time funding increases that propelled the Hanford mission forward. The investment was an incredible success, saving nearly $4 in long-term costs for every $1 spent while significantly reducing the overall cleanup timeline. Since Hanford is on the cusp of transitioning from construction to operation of the low-activity waste vitrification facility, funding from Congress now could have an even greater impact than in 2008.
Investing in Central Washington has always been a good idea. Throughout the decades of plutonium production and now cleanup, the Hanford Site and the Tri-Cities have become a place of world-class ingenuity and technological innovation.
Successfully completing the cleanup will require an equal measure of commitment and innovation, combined with adequate funding. Thankfully, our progress to date has shown that we can accomplish it in a safe and effective manner – if we have the resources.
Here in the Tri-Cities, we are blessed with a congressional delegation that is wholly committed to the cleanup effort. Their support has been invaluable, and we are grateful for their efforts to fight for every dollar. We must now seize this opportunity to advance the Hanford cleanup further through the federal infrastructure bill. For a fraction of what was spent to protect our national security, we can ensure that our community and the Columbia River will remain protected for generations to come.
David Bowen is the Nuclear Waste Program Manager for the Washington State Department of Ecology.
David Reeploeg serves as Vice President for Federal Programs at TRIDEC and Executive Director of Hanford Communities