Sorry, Hanford: Your radiation leaks aren’t as important as tax cuts

The maddening disconnect in politics goes on, as politicians who just two months ago slashed taxes are demanding more money for the increasingly unstable and dangerous Hanford nuclear-waste cleanup.

Probably no place in America shows more acutely how incoherent politics has become than our own Hanford nuclear reservation.

Consider this recent sequence of events at the Western Hemisphere’s most polluted spot:

• First, in November, a board that oversees Hanford nuclear-waste cleanup warned that the effort is so underfunded it has become shoddy and dangerous. More spending for better work and expertise “is the only way to help avert a major catastrophe.”

• Then on cue, in December, plutonium particles again contaminated dozens of workers and cars because of shoddy demolition work at a defunct bomb factory.

• Then the federal government put out the most eye-popping cost revision I’ve ever seen. It found that the cost of cleaning up tanks of old radioactive waste — the most serious pollution problem at Hanford — will now run to $111 billion, an extraordinary $61 billion more than predicted just three years earlier.

• Then on Monday the president’s budget recommended … slashing Hanford cleanup spending by 10 percent.

“It’s a big disconnect with reality, probably as big I’ve seen,” says Tom Carpenter, of the watchdog group Hanford Challenge.

Check out the local congressman for the Tri-Cities, Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside.

He made headlines Tuesday by vowing to fight to save the Hanford cleanup money: “Now is not the time to jeopardize worker safety or impede this vital cleanup,” he said.

But just last week, he cited rising deficits as an argument against more spending. Worse, in December, when the Hanford cost estimates were exploding and the cleanup melting down, Newhouse voted to cut federal taxes by $1.5 trillion.

Congressman: You don’t get to slash taxes, decry the deficits and demand…

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