RICHLAND — The Trump administration is proposing big cuts to the cleanup budget for the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

The Tri-City Herald reports the administration on Monday proposed cutting Hanford’s budget by $416 million.

Hanford for decades made plutonium for nuclear weapons and the site is now engaged in cleaning up the resulting highly radioactive as well as chemical wastes.

Hanford’s annual budget would drop from about $2.5 billion this year to $2.1 billion next year under the budget request submitted to Congress, which sets the budget.

The Trump administration last year also proposed to cut Hanford site cleanup, a proposal that was vigorously opposed by Northwest members of Congress.

“Now is not the time to jeopardize worker safety or impede this vital cleanup,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, in a statement released in response to last year’s budget cuts.

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Congress rejected the Trump administration proposal. The final spending bill passed last year by Congress ended slightly increasing the budget for the fiscal year that began last Oct. 1 compared to a year earlier.

Hanford is the most contaminated nuclear site in North America. A major focal point of the cleanup is the development of a waste-treatment complex, the largest of its kind in the world, which broke ground in 2002 on 65 acres of the nuclear reservation.

The goal is to transform some 56 million gallons of chemical and radioactive waste into glass rods that can be safely put into long-term storage. The process requires a hugely complex engineering effort due — in part — to the wide range of waste materials currently stored in 177 underground tanks, more than a third of which have leaked over the years.

The new Trump administration proposal to slash cleanup spending comes as a new estimate at least triples the estimated cost of Hanford cleanup.

A report released in January puts the remaining cleanup costs for Hanford at $323 billion under a best-case scenario. At worst it could be $677 billion.

Seattle Times staff reporter Hal Bernton also contributed to this story.

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