Looking Ahead at Hanford in 2011

Looking Ahead at Hanford in 2011
RICHLAND -- At KEPR Action News we are keeping you ahead of the curve and looking ahead to the big stories you can expect to hear about in 2011.

And one of the questions that keeps coming up, what will happen when Hanford stimulus money goes away?

2010 was a year of milestones met. At the burial grounds, work was on hold for 15 years. But this year, crews started unearthing some of the most dangerous materials.

And this year, $100 million in stimulus money also started expanding the Hanford landfill known as ERDF.

And more buildings came tumbling down in the 300 Area.

But what about next year and beyond?

"One of our big concerns is the federal budget; it could be a hindrance to the site. We expect tightening of the belt at all the DOE complex sites," said Kayla Pratt of TRIDEC.

As a new Congress moves in ready to tackle the deficit, federal dollars for Hanford are on the line.

That plus local stimulus money that's about to dry up. Last year Benton County ranked third in the nation for stimulus spending, $2 million in Richland.

So what happens when that stimulus money is gone? Will our economic bubble burst?

"If Hanford workers who've been on the site for a long time come into retirement, our hope is that those retiree positions are replaced with stimulus workers so they can transition into more permanent positions," said Pratt.

But it's not going to be that easy, Pratt admits people will leave for good. But they're working to make sure it's not a mass exodus.

"We want to make sure we have a broad base of employers so we all have family wage jobs stay in the Tri-Cities," said Pratt.

TRIDEC is courting companies with a focus on turning Hanford into an energy park with wind, solar and hydro. But all that is down the line.

What's ahead now is more milestones for cleanup and more stimulus dollars spent to get Hanford out of business.

Another big story expected to play out in 2011: Yucca Mountain.

That's where our waste was supposed to go until the Obama administration put on the brakes.

But as it stands now, a federal court set a schedule to keep a lawsuit going that challenges the ending of the Yucca Mountain project.