WA Department of Ecology and other agencies send letter to Biden for Hanford funding

HANFORD, Wash. — Washington and Oregon and a number of other organizations met to create a letter to President Joe Biden Tuesday. They are calling for increased funding at the Hanford Nuclear Site.

Signees of the letter include:

  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee
  • Oregon Gov. Kate Brown
  • Washington Department of Ecology
  • Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs
  • Tri-Cities Development Council
  • Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Hanford Communities
  • Hanford Challenge
  • Columbia Riverkeeper
  • Central Washington Building Trades Council
  • The UA Local Union 598 Plumbers and Steamfitters

“We need to have a unified voice with a diverse group of people, whether it’s environmental justice, whether it’s economic development, agriculture, environment,” said David Bowen, the Department of Ecology’s Nuclear Waste Program Manager.

A key component to pulling this together has been the support from Washington Governor Jay Inslee. He initially visited the site in June to learn more about the site.

READ: Inslee visits the Hanford Site advocating for more funding

Bowen said, “Everybody wants to have the site cleaned up, they want it done efficiently and safely. And (Governor Inslee) was able to emphasize that message.”

During the visit, Inslee also met with tribal leaders. After organizations sent a letter to the President, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation also sent its own letter Tuesday.

The Department of Ecology is requesting at least $3.76 billion for Fiscal Year 2024 in order to maintain cleanup efforts at the site.

According to a representative from the Department of Ecology, Hanford has been underfunded by more than $4 billion in the last 8 years.

Continued underfunding will cost billions more and add decades to the cleanup.

Bowen said, “No matter how we clean up the site, and what treatment methods are used, the project is gonna need more money or it’s gonna go into the 2100s before it gets done. And we just can’t—it’s not acceptable to do.”

There are reasons, Bowen said, why the site has been underfunded. One is the lack of the instant gratification we are used to today.

“Here we’re asking for billions of dollars, and it takes decades to get the cleanup done. You have no instant gratification. So, you have to be on the same page when you’re asking for funding; show that that community and all the stakeholders are interested in getting this done,” Bowen said, “You really have to focus on that unified message because there’s no instant gratification. It’s hard as an elected official to spend billions of dollars on something that yeah, in 10 years, we’re going to show you some progress. In 40 years—we’ll be done.”

They said they’re not asking for billions of dollars in funding for no reason. Bowen said, “We just want to figure out how we can accelerate that work on site so that we can keep the people safe, environment safe, and protect the future of the Columbia River and the people that live along it.”

To prevent the risk of a ‘catastrophic infrastructure failure or release of contamination,’ they are looking to increase funding.

“It’s the largest contaminated site in North America. It’s a complex project,” said Bowen. The Hanford Site produced two-thirds of the nation’s plutonium stockpile during World War II and the Cold War. “It’s the largest environmental management site for the Department of Energy. So, we take a lot of funding, and we appreciate the funding we get.”