Hanford spending could create 12,400 jobs
Hiring at Hanford should begin soon thanks to $2 billion from the economic stimulus bill, and a plan to use cleaned up land for an energy park should help sustain jobs here, Tri-City leaders said during a Thursday visit by Sen. Maria Cantwell. The Department of Energy plans to spend enough money from the economic stimulus bill to pay wages for more than 4,000 workers, Cantwell, D-Wash., said at the Richland Labor Temple. That will pump enough money into the Tri-City area economy to create 12,400 jobs in total, she said. "It helps sustain the economy and keeps skilled work force in the state," Cantwell said, crediting Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., with key work to get DOE cleanup funds included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed into law this week. The Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council plans to start hiring about 1,000 workers as soon as April, said Fred McClure, HAMTC vice president. Many of the workers will be doing decommissioning and demolition work and the largest percentage of the HAMTC new hires will be assigned to the new central Hanford contractor, CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co., McClure said. Many of the new jobs also will be with subcontractors hired by the primary cleanup contractors for DOE. The project also will require more engineers and other professionals. DOE projects that spending about $2 billion at Hanford will create 4,414 jobs, more than at any other cleanup site in the nation. However, not all those jobs will be new. Some of the money will be used to retain possibly several hundred jobs that are dependent on adequate money in annual budgets and to pay overtime costs. In addition, the money would cover the costs of rehiring recently laid off workers. The additional money for Hanford cleanup is planned to shrink the contaminated area of Hanford to 75 square miles in the center of the 586- square-mile nuclear reservation by 2015. "This will save taxpayers an estimated $750 million in future cleanup costs, while allowing the Department of Energy ... to more rapidly pursue its plans to convert contaminated areas into a clean energy park," Cantwell said. About 60 square miles of land at Hanford will be made available for industrial use, said Gary Petersen, Tri-City Development Council vice president for Hanford programs. That includes land in southern Hanford where Energy Northwest already operates a nuclear power plant and the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, conducts research. In addition, some unused land east of the 200 East Area in central Hanford could be suitable for use. An environmental study already includes the option for industrial development on those large tracts of land, potentially saving 12 to 24 months in developing an energy park, Petersen said. The Tri-City area already has a wide array of research, education, training, business and labor organizations in place needed to create a new green energy economy for the region and state, said Keith Klein, executive director of the Tri-City Local Business Association. Work can start with attracting and developing new technologies at the Tri-Cities Research District adjacent to Hanford and then work could spread to Hanford as land becomes available, creating a major new business line for the region, he said. Because the economic stimulus is a one-time infusion of money to Hanford, that could help produce jobs as the Hanford money is spent over several years. The money comes at an ideal time to stabilize the Hanford work force, McClure said. The average age of HAMTC workers is 54 to 55 so the work force will be facing a transition in the next six years. "This will allow us to train new workers who will be the future of Hanford," he said. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory also should benefit from the economic stimulus bill, which will provide billions of dollars to federal agencies that support scientific research. The national lab in Richland could see additional funding for research of energy efficiency technologies for buildings, carbon sequestration, climate science measurement and power grid enhancements, said Greg Koller, PNNL spokesman. Money also could be available for research equipment. PNNL leads the nation in "smart grid" technology to make the nation's power transmission more flexible and efficient, and that should generate more jobs at the lab, Cantwell said. As the new chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee, Cantwell is in an ideal position to help the Tri-Cities develop its clean energy industry, Petersen said. Cantwell said she'd also use the position to focus on Hanford cleanup. She wants to make sure that DOE creates and funds a long-term cleanup plan and will expect answers on how the plan will be implemented, she said. She's also invited new Energy Secretary Steven Chu to tour Hanford and has been assured he plans to visit soon, she said.