Sequester Energy Cuts Could Affect Nuclear Waste Cleanup At Sites Including Hanford via Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — Cleanup of radioactive waste at nuclear sites across the country – including one in Washington state where waste tanks may be leaking 1,000 gallons per year – would be delayed under automatic spending cuts set to take effect Friday.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu says the cuts would delay work at the department’s highest-risk sites, including the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Wash., where six tanks are leaking radioactive waste left over from decades of plutonium production for nuclear weapons.
The federal government built the Hanford facility at the height of World War II as part of the Manhattan Project, which built the atomic bomb. The site, along the Columbia River, holds at least 53 million gallons of highly radioactive waste – enough to fill dozens of Olympic-size swimming pools. Many of the tanks are known to have leaked in the past. An estimated 1 million gallons of radioactive liquid already leaked there.

Other high-risk sites facing work delays are the Oak Ridge Reservation in Tennessee, Savannah River Site in South Carolina and the Idaho National Laboratory.

The Energy Department is facing an estimated $1.9 billion in spending cuts, including about $400 million for the Office of Environmental Management, which oversees the cleanup at Hanford and other former military sites.

The automatic cuts also would slice $900 million from the National Nuclear Security Administration, which is responsible for maintaining and securing the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile.

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