More than 4,700 workers at America’s most contaminated nuclear site are facing furloughs or layoffs under $171 million in U.S. budget cuts, Alison Vekshin of Bloomberg reports.The Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state has 177 tanks holding millions of gallons of radioactive waste from the production of plutonium for nuclear weapons from 1944 to 1987.
All of the tanks — buried 200 miles southeast of Seattle along the Columbia River — have outlived their 20-year life expectancy.
Six of the them are already leaking, and the Energy Department says “this decreased funding and the resulting contractor employment actions may curtail our progress.”
The complex work has already been hampered by setbacks as the cost of the cleanup project has tripled to $13.4 billion since 2000 while its scheduled completion date has slipped by eight years to 2019.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called the combination of the leak and the budget cuts the “perfect radioactive storm,” according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Vekshin notes that the sequester may cut $104 million of funding for the Savannah River nuclear site in South Carolina, forcing furloughs or layoffs of more than 2,100 contractors. Leaks are feared there as well.
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