Cleanup Funding Request at Los Alamos Would Be Needed Increase

DOE Environmental Management released the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) Congressional Budget Request and asked for a $107.5 million increase over last year for legacy cleanup at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The FY22 EM funding request for cleanup at LANL totaled $333.5 million, which was a record request for cleanup at the Lab.

The Budget Request gives lifecycle costs. LANL has spent $3.8 billion on cleanup from 1997 to 2020. The high estimate is $4.6 billion for FY21 to FY90. This gives a total lifecycle cost of $8.4 billion from 1997 through 2090. The assumption included with these estimates is that most of the waste will remain buried at LANL. This is the first time DOE has mentioned legacy cleanup lasting until 2090. Last year the completion date was given as 2036.

Is legacy cleanup completion being pushed back to prioritize pit production? If DOE starts spending more on cleanup like this year in the future, shouldn’t cleanup take less time? The numbers work out to DOE only spending an average of $50 million between now and 2090, so DOE must not have plans to spend $330 million annually through 2090.

New in LANL’s cleanup budget this year’s funding request is $58.3 million for characterization, decontamination and demolition of high-risk excess facilities. The Department identified the Ion Beam Facility at TA-3 as the facility with the highest risk to missions, the workforce, the public, and the environment at LANL. The budget states that this account will not be funded after the Ion Beam Facility is taken down. This is too bad because LANL has many excess facilities that need to come down, including the old CMR building. Costs for demolition of these high-risk facilities are not included in the lifecycle cost estimate until demolition starts, so DOE’s estimate for cleanup through 2090 will be low.

Soil remediation, closure of Material Disposal Areas, and groundwater remediation fall under the regulatory jurisdiction of a renegotiated (2016) Consent Order between DOE and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED). The New Mexico Environment Department has since filed suit (February 2021) contending that DOE is not meeting its obligation under the Consent Order and has asked the court to require DOE to enter into court mediated renegotiation of the Consent Order, or pay a fine of $330,000 and comply with the cleanup activities and deadlines requested by the New Mexico Environment Department as listed in the compliant. Will the $333.5 million request this year please the NMED?

Scott Kovac, Research and Operations Director, stated, “We’re glad to see the needed increase in cleanup funding, but DOE must continue to maintain this level moving forward while adding funding for more high-risk excess facilities, also.”

The budget request can be found here:

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