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00000179-65ef-d8e2-a9ff-f5ef8d430000The Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington was home to Native Americans and later to settlers. It turned into an top-secret military workhorse during World War II and the Cold War. Now, it’s one of the most pressing and complex environmental cleanup challenges humanity is facing in the world.This remote area in southeast Washington is where the federal government made plutonium for bombs during WWII and the Cold War. It’s now home to some of the most toxic contamination on earth, a witch’s brew of chemicals, radioactive waste and defunct structures. In central Hanford, leaking underground tanks full of radioactive sludge await a permanent solution. Meanwhile, a massive $12 billion waste treatment plant, designed to bind up that tank waste into more stable glass logs, has a troubled history.00000179-65ef-d8e2-a9ff-f5ef8d440000Anna King is public radio's correspondent in Richland, Washington, covering the seemingly endless complexities of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Energy Secretary: Hanford Budget Will Be Enough To 'Get The Job Done'

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry toured the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Hanford site outside of Richland, Washington, Tuesday.

The Trump administration has proposed deep cuts for both PNNL and Hanford cleanup. Recent Senate and House budgets would put some of that money back, but Perry declined to give specifics on his thinking.

“I never get too spun up on initial budgets,” Perry said. “What my goal is to make sure we have funding that gets the job done.”

When asked whether he anticipates the level of funding to be below where it’s at currently, or above where it’s at currently, Perry responded, “What I can tell you is that my answer I gave you earlier is still a pretty good answer from my perspective, is: I’m not gonna craft a budget here today.”

Sen. Maria Cantwell accompanied Perry for much of his tour. She was there for many of the demonstrations by the PNNL about its different smart-grid and cyber security science programs.

Cantwell said having Perry come and see Richland’s national lab and Hanford cleanup projects is very important. She’s hoping to keep federal funding stable in Richland.

“Really, it’s almost like you’re helping to arm the Energy secretary to fight that battle within the administration,” Cantwell said. “So they end up spending more time with us—members of the Congress—getting educated and then they go back.”

In his remarks, Perry said he wanted Energy to focus its resources on “fundamental science.” Perry didn’t answer when asked if that included the national lab’s large climate science program.

Perry’s confirmation as Energy secretary was controversial earlier this year, as he had once pledged to dismantle the agency. In his confirmation hearings Perry did acknowledge that the agency should exist.

Many have criticized Perry’s lack of science degrees or work background, pointing to the hefty resumes of Steven Chu and Ernest Moniz before him. Perry earned a degree in animal science from Texas A&M University. But Republicans have called him a deft manager, who can handle the agency.   

Perry stated several times that he had been the governor of Texas and he knows how to manage. He served as governor from 2000 to 2015.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.