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Newhouse Grills Energy, Ag Secretaries on
Breaching Snake Dams, Hanford and New Nuclear

by Annette Cary
Tri-City Herald, April 29, 2022

Congressman Newhouse called on the Biden administration to listen to the people
of the Tri-Cities area and follow the science related to dam breaching.

The secretaries of Energy and Agriculture addressed Tri-Cities area concerns Thursday, including the importance of saving the lower Snake River dams, funding at the Hanford nuclear reservation and plans for an advanced new nuclear plant.

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., used his position on the U.S. House Appropriations Committee to make sure the national leaders were aware of how Biden administration policies and international issues could affect Central Washington as hearings on proposed fiscal 2023 budgets are beginning.

He said he's concerned about the White House Council on Environmental Quality's interest in breaching the four lower Snake River dams.

The Tri-Cities area relies on them for low-cost electricity and farmers depend on them as part of the Columbia River system that is used to transport more than 50% of the wheat exported from the United States.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said he won't be telling the Council on Environmental Quality what to do concerning the dams, but USDA has an advisory role and based on the decision will figure out ways to help farmers mitigate the consequences of its actions.

"Breaching dams would significantly, negatively and adversely impact the industry," Newhouse told Vilsack at a hearing of a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Biden administration's fiscal 2023 budget request for the Department of Agriculture.

Wheat exports are just one example of the importance of the four lower Snake dams from from Ice Harbor Dam, near the Tri-Cities upriver to Lower Granite Dam near Lewiston, Idaho, Newhouse said after the hearing.

With the significant supply chain challenges the United States is experiencing -- including a shortage of containers, rail cards and truck drivers, further disruptions to the Columbia and Snake river system would harm the nation's food supply and the energy security of the Pacific Northwest, according to a statement from Newhouse's office.

Newhouse earlier condemned a White House blog post this spring that followed a consultation with the Tribes of the Columbia River Basin that included discussions of restoring endangered salmon.

It mentioned Native American support for breaching the four dams to restore a more natural flow and the need to replace services provided by the dams.

Newhouse said the blog proved the White House is ignoring the "the devastating impacts that breaching the Lower Snake River dams would have on the people of Central Washington and the entire Pacific Northwest. It's clear that they will continue to cherry pick opinions to force their ideological outcome -- regardless of the facts.

He called on the Biden administration to listen to the people of the Tri-Cities area and follow the science related to dam breaching.

He pointed out that two multi-year, multi-million studies by both Republic and Democratic administrations had not found breaching the dams to be the best course forward.


At a second subcommittee hearing to discuss the Department of Energy budget with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Newhouse criticized the Biden administration's proposal to cut the Hanford nuclear reservation budget for fiscal 2023 by $172 million.

Proposed cuts to the Hanford site budgets leave Newhouse and Sens. Murray and Cantwell, D-Wash., working to convince their colleagues to restore environmental cleanup spending for the site.

Newhouse pointed out at the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee hearing that Granholm told Murray shortly after becoming secretary that she saw no silver bullet to address the estimated future costs of up to $640 billion to complete most Hanford cleanup by about 2078.

Now Hanford receives about $2.5 billion for environmental cleanup a year, but projected costs would require about $11 billion a year, he said.

"So we need that silver bullet," Newhouse said.

He recommended that the federal government consider reclassifying some waste now considered high level radioactive waste, to move forward with a test of turning waste held in underground tanks into concrete-like grout and disposing of it out of state and encourage a proactive engagement with the state of Washington, a regulator at Hanford.

"The funding issue is just a tough one," Granholm said. Hanford already is given more than a third of the DOE environmental cleanup budget, and has greater needs, while budgets must be balanced across the nation's cleanup sites, she said.

But she's interested in talking through how to do cleanup efficiently, but safely, and address the Tri-Cities community concerns, she said.

The 580-square-mile Hanford site in Eastern Washington was used from World War II through the Cold War to produce almost two-thirds of the plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons program.

She plans to reschedule her first visit to the Hanford nuclear reservation after canceling a planned visit in February as Russia prepared to invade Ukraine.


The war also is affecting plans to develop and operate what could be the nation's first commercial advanced nuclear power reactor near Richland, Newhouse told Granholm.

With DOE financial support, X-Energy, of Rockville, Md., is working with Energy Northwest of Richland and Grant County PUD on an 80-megawatt reactor on land already leased by Energy Northwest at Hanford.

However, the project and other advanced nuclear power reactors needs high-assay low-enriched uranium, or HALEU, fuel that is now available only from Russia, Newhouse said.

Several years ago Congress asked DOE for a plan for a domestic supply of HALEU but that plan has not been produced, Newhouse said.

Annette Carycovers Hanford, energy, the environment, science and health for the Tri-City Herald. She's been a news reporter for more than 30 years in the Pacific Northwest.
Newhouse Grills Energy, Ag Secretaries on Breaching Snake Dams, Hanford and New Nuclear
Tri-City Herald, April 29, 2022

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