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Cleanup at Hanford must remain a priority

  • 1 min to read

Although the federal government will have a lot on its plate for the foreseeable future with the coronavirus pandemic, it can’t delay critical work such as the cleanup of radioactive waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Yet, an effort to scrimp on this essential cleanup operation was recently considered in a U.S. Senate committee. It was wisely rejected.

The Trump administration proposed reducing spending on Hanford cleanup in 2021. The administration has proposed cuts the past four years, as did the Obama administration before it. While the Obama cuts were more modest than Trump’s, they nevertheless were cuts.

But Congress has, to its credit, approved more than the executive branch has proposed.

Last week a Senate committee rejected the Trump administration’s skinny proposal and then forwarded a $2.6 billion proposal to the full Senate, which is $748 million more than Trump’s proposal.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., has made funding for nuclear cleanup a priority.

“Regardless of the administration, I won’t stop fighting to ensure the federal government is honoring its moral and legal obligation to Hanford cleanup, and this year’s spending bill reflects the Senate’s bipartisan commitment to seeing this critical priority through,” Murray said.

Murray and the entire state congressional delegation, Democrats and Republicans, have done extraordinary work over the years securing necessary funding for this cleanup effort. Getting it done is an environmental and safety concern for our region.

Walla Walla is less than 70 miles away from the nuclear reservation where 56 million gallons of radioactive nuclear waste are stored in tanks. In addition, 67 of the tanks — some with confirmed leaks — are buried relatively close to the Columbia River.

Cleaning up this radioactive nuclear waste is a federal responsibility.

The U.S. government established the Hanford Nuclear Reservation during World War II for national defense purposes.

Over the years, federal officials have balked at adequate funding contending that current, pressing needs should be funded first.

The problem with that approach is that nobody knows for certain when a full-blow radioactive catastrophe will occur.

The Senate committee made the right call forwarding the $2.6 billion proposal to the full Senate, where it should be approved.