State and federal regulators have agreed to a new cleanup strategy at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation that will save taxpayers $1 billion without cutting corners on health and safety, an assistant energy secretary said Thursday.
“This is a major change in the way we do business at Hanford,” Assistant Energy Secretary Thomas Grumbly said.
The U.S. Energy Department, Environmental Protection Agency and state of Washington agreed to the strategy within the confines of their existing Tri-Party Agreement, said Grumbly, assistant secretary for environmental management.
The projected savings will be achieved over three years, primarily by postponing construction of new nuclear waste storage facilities, streamlining regulations, hiring out for more work and shrinking the size of existing major contractors at the site near Richland, Grumbly said.
As much as $100 million will be saved by “reducing paperwork and procedures,” he said. A large accounting firm will be hired to track the savings, he said.
“We’ve gotten the regulators to agree that substantial additional regulatory flexibility is necessary within the confines of the existing agreement,” Grumbly told reporters during a teleconference call Thursday.
“Nobody has cut any corners. But what everybody realizes is … we don’t have to do Cadillacs when Ford Escorts will do,” he said.
The new strategy does not change earlier projections that 4,400 jobs will be eliminated at the Hanford site over the next two years, Grumbly said.
“That is still the course we are on. We believe by cutting those jobs, primarily at Westinghouse (Hanford), we’ll be able to turn the corner on productivity,” he said.
The Washington state Department of Ecology embraced the deal as “an excellent agreement,” state department spokesman Jerry Gilliland said.
“We recognize there is a need to work together to drive the costs down and we think this can work to reduce costs while not reducing the scope of the cleanup of Hanford,” Gilliland said Thursday.
“Our great interest is in getting this site cleaned up. We think this may provide an avenue to do that,” he said.
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