Budget cuts threaten work at leaking Hanford nuke tanks

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by KING 5 News and Associated Press

KING5.com

Posted on March 5, 2013 at 1:16 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 5 at 6:12 PM

OLYMPIA, Wash.  -- Federal officials say budget cuts may disrupt efforts to close the radioactive waste tanks currently leaking at Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

In a letter to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday, the Department of Energy said it will have to eliminate $92 million in funding for the Office of River Protection at Hanford, which will result in furloughs or layoffs impacting about 2,800 contract workers.

The Energy Department recently found that six tanks at Hanford are leaking radioactive waste, perhaps as much as 1,000 gallons a year. Those tanks have long surpassed their intended lifespan and officials are now searching for a solution to stop the leaking.

Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman wrote in his letter that the layoffs and furloughs may curtail progress related to closing the tanks.

Inslee issued a statement on Tuesday, saying this state needs to be cleaned up for making such a sacrifice to its environment.

"The federal government has a commitment to the people of Washington State to clean up Hanford and the governor will do everything possible to make that happen,” he said.

The announcement not only hurts thousands of current employees, but others, including a chemist who was hoping to get on the Hanford payroll.

"I don't know exactly where they’re going to cut or what. It's not going to do me a whole lot of good when I go out there and look for a job,” he said.

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