Note: This story was last updated at 4:30 p.m.
Cleanup funding could be up for the U.S. Department of Energy under the budget request from the Trump administration for fiscal year 2018, and there could be benefits for Oak Ridge, according to budget documents.
President Donald Trump submitted his budget request to Congress on Tuesday, May 23. In that request, the DOE Office of Environmental Management, or EM, asked for $6.5 billion, the largest request in a decade. That would be $290 million above fiscal year 2016.
The funding request for Oak Ridge includes $390 million, or $78 million below fiscal year 2016, to continue deactivation and demolition of remaining facilities at East Tennessee Technology Park, continue preparing Building 2026 to support the processing of the remaining U-233 material at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and to support activities for the Mercury Treatment Facility at Y-12 National Security Complex.
It’s not clear whether that $390 million in the funding request includes part of the $225 million in funding requested for high-risk excess contaminated facilities at Y-12 and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. It’s also not clear whether the total funding for Oak Ridge cleanup programs would be up or down, compared to previous years. The DOE public affairs office in Washington, D.C., has not responded to about a dozen budget-related inquiries from Oak Ridge Today since May 23.
Among the highlights of the EM request for Oak Ridge, according to budget documents posted online by DOE and an EM press release:
- Completing design and starting construction of the Mercury Treatment Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge. Oak Ridge Today has previously reported that the president’s budget request includes $17 million for the Mercury Treatment Facility.
- Continuing demolition of the remaining facilities at the East Tennessee Technology Park in west Oak Ridge. ETTP is also known as the former K-25 site and Heritage Center. The last of the big five buildings that once enriched uranium there for nuclear weapons and commercial nuclear power plants was demolished last summer.
- Addressing high-risk excess contaminated facilities with the roughly $225 million in funding at Y-12 and Lawrence Livermore.
- Amping up activities to increase shipments of transuranic waste from EM sites such as Oak Ridge to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico for disposal.
A House appropriations bill was introduced last week for federal energy and water programs, but it’s not yet clear if that bill would provide as much money as EM has requested. The House bill includes $5.4 billion for defense environmental cleanup (see pages 34-35 here) and about $222 million for non-defense environmental cleanup (see page 25 here). But it’s not clear if spending from other programs or funds such as the House’s proposed $768 million from the Uranium Enrichment Decontamination and Decommissioning Fund are also considered part of EM’s budget.
DOE said Environmental Management funding is used for the cleanup of millions of gallons of liquid radioactive waste, thousands of tons of spent (used) nuclear fuel and nuclear materials, disposition of large volumes of transuranic and mixed/low-level waste, huge quantities of contaminated soil and water, and deactivation and decommissioning of excess facilities. The program manages the cleanup resulting from five decades of nuclear weapons development and production and government-sponsored nuclear energy research, DOE said.
So far, EM has completed cleanup activities at 91 sites in 30 states and in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. EM is currently responsible for cleaning up the remaining 16 sites in 11 states.
“Over the years, we have made a huge amount of progress across the EM program,” Acting EM Assistant Secretary Sue Cange said in a May 23 press release. “The strength of those steady sustained achievements provides the solid foundation upon which we are building. We’re excited about the next steps of progress we’ll be able accomplish with the resources our fiscal year 2018 budget request will provide, building upon our strong track record to date. We know how to do this work and we are getting the job done.”
The next fiscal year starts October 1.
See a DOE budget brief for fiscal year 2018 here. You can read about Oak Ridge EM funding on pages 6-7.
DOE has provided more budget information, including with links to more documents, on this page.
See the House appropriations bill here.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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