After decades of languishing under a cloud of  nuclear waste, people living near the old Hanford nuclear testing site may--eventually--get a breath of fresh air. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) recently wrote $6.4 billion for the cleanup at the Hanford Site into the Senate economic stimulus bill, which will be voted on next week.

Eventually the $6.4 billion the subcommittee added the Senate bill is going to have to be reconciled with the measly $500 million the House stimulus bill has set aside for nuclear cleanup. Murray's office told PubliCola a committee will probably have to meet once the bill is approved to get a compromise on the numbers, but that she's confident the number will skew her way. 

“Our government has a legal and moral obligation to clean up nuclear waste and at a time when our economy is struggling we also have a commitment to put people back to work," said Murray in a statement. "This bill is a win-win for the Tri-Cities and a big step toward making a real investment in Hanford in the final economic recovery package.”

A government investment of this magnitude would have the power to create thousands of new jobs, although Murray's office said that the money from the Senate bill would be distributed to cleanup projects throughout the country.

"Job creation, first and foremost, is the priority of this bill," Murray spokesperson Matt McAlvanah says. "But it will also put people in the Tri-Cities, who were working in Hanford, back to work."

The Hanford Site, located near the Tri-Cities on the Columbia River, was the major plutonium production facility for the Manhattan Project and continued to supply nuclear material for the U.S. government throughout the Cold War. The site has since been decommissioned, but it left an astounding amount of environmental damage and a large unemployed work force in its wake.

Cleanup efforts at the facility have long been delayed, and tanks of nuclear waste continue to contaminate the Columbia River and the surrounding area. The U.S. Government Accountability Office presented a report to Murray's subcommittee last year outlining problems with the cleanup.
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