Hanford Site


Hanford Site

The Hanford Site is a decommissioned nuclear production complex on the Columbia River in south-central Washington operated by the United States government. The site has been known by many names, including Hanford Works, Hanford Engineer Works, Hanford Nuclear Reservation or HNR, and the Hanford Project. Established in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project, it was home to the B-Reactor, the first full-scale plutonium production reactor in the world. [cite web | publisher = United States Department of Energy | title = B Reactor | url = http://www.energy.gov/about/breactor.htm | accessdate = 2007-01-29] Plutonium manufactured at the site was used in the first nuclear bomb, tested at the Trinity site, and in Fat Man, the bomb detonated over Nagasaki, Japan.

During the Cold War, the project was expanded to include nine nuclear reactors and five massive plutonium processing complexes, which produced plutonium for most of the 60,000 weapons in the U.S. nuclear arsenal.cite web | publisher = United States Department of Energy | title = Hanford Site: Hanford Overview | url=http://www.hanford.gov/?page=215 | accessdate = 2007-01-29] cite news | title = Science Watch: Growing Nuclear Arsenal | work = The New York Times | url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DEFD71F38F93BA15757C0A961948260 | date = April 28, 1987 | accessdate = 2007-01-29] Nuclear technology developed rapidly during this period, and Hanford scientists produced many notable technological achievements. However, many of the early safety procedures and waste disposal practices were inadequate. Government documents have since confirmed that Hanford's operations released significant amounts of radioactive materials to the air and to the Columbia River, which threatened the health of residents and ecosystems.cite web | publisher = Hanford Health Information Network | title = An Overview of Hanford and Radiation Health Effects | url = http://www.doh.wa.gov/hanford/publications/overview/overview.html | accessdate = 2007-01-29]

The weapons production reactors were decommissioned at the end of the Cold War, but the manufacturing process left behind 53 million U.S. gallons (204,000 m³) of high-level radioactive waste that remains at the site.cite web | publisher = Washington Department of Ecology | title = Hanford Quick Facts | url = http://www.ecy.wa.gov/features/hanford/hanfordfacts.html | accessdate = 2007-01-29] This represents two-thirds of the nation's high-level radioactive waste by volume.cite news | last = Harden | first = Blaine | coauthors = Dan Morgan | title = Debate Intensifies on Nuclear Waste | work = Washington Post | page = A02 | date = June 2, 2007 | url = http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A7951-2004Jun1.html | accessdate = 2007-01-29] Today, Hanford is the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States [cite news | last = Dininny | first = Shannon | title = U.S. to Assess the Harm from Hanford | publisher = The Associated Press | work = Seattle Post-Intelligencer | url=http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/310247_hanford04.html | date = April 3, 2007 | accessdate = 2007-01-29] cite news | last = Schneider | first = Keith | title = Agreement for a Cleanup at Nuclear Site | work = The New York Times | date = February 28, 1989 | accessdate = 2008-01-30 | url = http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DE2DF1230F93BA15751C0A96F948260] and is the focus of the nation's largest environmental cleanup. While most of the current activity at the site is related to the cleanup project, Hanford also hosts a commercial nuclear power plant, the Columbia Generating Station, and various centers for scientific research and development, such as the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the LIGO Hanford Observatory.

Geography

The Hanford Site occupies convert|586|sqmi|km2|0 in Benton County, Washington (centered on coord|46|30|00|N|119|30|00|W|display=inline,title|region:US_type:landmark), roughly equivalent to half the total area of Rhode Island. This land is currently uninhabited and is closed to the general public. It is a semi-desert environment, covered mostly by shrub-steppe vegetation. The Columbia River flows along the site for approximately convert|50|mi|km|0, forming its northern and eastern boundary. [cite web | title=The Columbia River at Risk: Why Hanford Cleanup is Vital to Oregon | url=http://www.oregon.gov/ENERGY/NUCSAF/HCleanup.shtml | publisher=oregon.gov | date=2007-08-01 | accessdate=2008-03-31] The original site was convert|670|sqmi|km2|0 and included buffer areas across the river in Grant and Franklin counties. [cite book | last = Hanford Cultural Resources Program, U.S. Department of Energy | title = Hanford Site Historic District: History of the Plutonium Production Facilities, 1943-1990 | publisher = Battelle Press | year = 2002 | location = Columbus, OH | isbn = 1-57477-133-7 | page = 1.12] Some of this land has been returned to private use and is now covered with orchards and irrigated fields. In 2000, large portions of the site were turned over to the Hanford Reach National Monument. [cite news | last = Seelye | first = Katharine | title = Gore Praises Move to Aid Salmon Run | work = The New York Times | date = June 10, 2000 | url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9907E7D61E3FF933A25755C0A9669C8B63 | accessdate = 2007-01-29] The site is divided by function into three main areas. The nuclear reactors were located along the river in an area designated as the 100 Area; the chemical separations complexes were located inland in the Central Plateau, designated as the 200 Area; and various support facilities were located in the southeast corner of the site, designated as the 300 Area. [cite web | publisher = Columbia Riverkeepers | title = Site Map Area and Description | url = http://www.columbiariverkeeper.org/sitemap.htm | accessdate = 2007-01-29]

The site is bordered on the southeast by the Tri-Cities, a metropolitan area composed of Richland, Kennewick, Pasco, and smaller communities, and home to nearly 200,000 residents. Hanford is the primary economic base for these cities. [cite news | last = Lewis | first = Mike | title = In strange twist, Hanford cleanup creates latest boom | work = Seattle Post-Intelligencer | date = April 19, 2002 | url=http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/67172_boom19.shtml | accessdate = 2007-01-29]

Early history

The confluence of the Yakima, Snake, and Columbia Rivers has been a meeting place for native peoples for centuries. The archaeological record of Native American habitation of this area stretches back over ten thousand years. Tribes and nations including the Yakama, Nez Perce, and Umatilla used the area for hunting, fishing, and gathering plant foods.cite web | title = Hanford Reach National Monument| work = HistoryLink.org: The Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History | url=http://www.historylink.org/essays/output.cfm?file_id=7438 | accessdate = 2007-01-29] Hanford archaeologists have identified numerous Native American sites, including "pit house villages, open campsites, fishing sites, hunting/kill sites, game drive complexes, quarries, and spirit quest sites", [cite book | last = Hanford Cultural Resources Program, U.S. Department of Energy | title = Hanford Site Historic District: History of the Plutonium Production Facilities, 1943-1990 | publisher = Battelle Press | year = 2002 | location = Columbus, OH | isbn = 1-57477-133-7 | page = 1.12] and two archaeological sites were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.Hanford Island Archaeological Site (NRHP #76001870) and Hanford North Archaeological District (NHRP #76001871). cite web|url=http://www.nr.nps.gov/|title=National Register Information System|date=2007-01-23|work=National Register of Historic Places|publisher=National Park Service (See also the commercial site [http://www.nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com/wa/Benton/state.html National Register of Historic Places] .)] Native American use of the area continued into the 20th century, even as the tribes were relocated to reservations. The Wanapum people were never forced onto a reservation, and they lived along the Columbia River in the Priest Rapids Valley until 1943. [cite book | last = Hanford Cultural Resources Program, U.S. Department of Energy | title = Hanford Site Historic District: History of the Plutonium Production Facilities, 1943-1990 | publisher = Battelle Press | year = 2002 | location = Columbus, OH | isbn = 1-57477-133-7 | page = 1.12] Euro-Americans began to settle the region in the 1860s, initially along the Columbia River south of Priest Rapids. They established farms and orchards supported by small-scale irrigation projects and railroad transportation, with small town centers at Hanford, White Bluffs, and Richland. [cite book | last = Gerber | first = Michele | title = On the Home Front: The Cold War Legacy of the Hanford Nuclear Site | publisher = University of Nebraska Press | year = 2002 | location = Lincoln, NE | edition=2nd Ed. | isbn=0803271018 | page=16–22]

Manhattan Project

During World War II, the Uranium Committee of the federal Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) sponsored an intensive research project on plutonium. The research contract was awarded to scientists at the University of Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory (Met Lab). At the time, plutonium was a rare element that had only recently been isolated in a University of California laboratory. The Met Lab researchers worked on producing chain-reacting "piles" of uranium to convert it to plutonium and finding ways to separate plutonium from uranium. The program was accelerated in 1942, as the United States government became concerned that scientists in Nazi Germany were developing a nuclear weapons program. [cite book | last = Hanford Cultural Resources Program, U.S. Department of Energy | title = Hanford Site Historic District: History of the Plutonium Production Facilities, 1943-1990 | publisher = Battelle Press | year = 2002 | location = Columbus, OH | isbn = 1-57477-133-7 | page = 1.10]

ite selection

In September 1942, the Army Corps of Engineers placed the newly formed Manhattan Project under the command of General Leslie R. Groves, charging him with the construction of industrial-size plants for manufacturing plutonium and uranium. [cite book | last = Hanford Cultural Resources Program, U.S. Department of Energy | title = Hanford Site Historic District: History of the Plutonium Production Facilities, 1943-1990 | publisher = Battelle Press | year = 2002 | location = Columbus, OH | isbn = 1-57477-133-7 | page = 1.12] Groves recruited the DuPont Company to be the prime contractor for the construction of the plutonium production complex. DuPont recommended that it be located far away from the existing uranium production facility at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The ideal site was described by these criteria: [cite book | last = Gerber | first = Michele | title = Legend and Legacy: Fifty Years of Defense Production at the Hanford Site | publisher = Westinghouse Hanford Company | year = 1992 | location = Richland, Washington | page = 6]

*A large and remote tract of land
*A "hazardous manufacturing area" of at least convert|12|mi|km|0 by convert|16|mi|km|0
*Space for laboratory facilities at least convert|8|mi|km|0 from the nearest reactor or separations plant
*No towns of more than 1,000 people closer than convert|20|mi|km|0 from the hazardous rectangle
*No main highway, railway, or employee village closer than convert|10|mi|km|0 from the hazardous rectangle
*A clean and abundant water supply
*A large electric power supply
*Ground that could bear heavy loads.

In December 1942, Groves dispatched his assistant Colonel Franklin T. Matthias and DuPont engineers to scout potential sites. Matthias reported that Hanford was "ideal in virtually all respects," except for the farming towns of White Bluffs and Hanford. [cite conference | first = Matthias | last = Franklin | | title = Hanford Engineer Works, Manhattan Engineer District: Early History | booktitle = Speech to the Technical Exchange Program | | date = January 14, 1987] General Groves visited the site in January and established the Hanford Engineer Works, codenamed "Site W". The federal government quickly acquired the land under its eminent domain authority and forcefully removed some 1,500 residents of Hanford, White Bluffs, and nearby settlements, as well as the Wanapum and other tribes using the area. [cite book | last = Hanford Cultural Resources Program, U.S. Department of Energy | title = Hanford Site Historic District: History of the Plutonium Production Facilities, 1943-1990 | publisher = Battelle Press | year = 2002 | location = Columbus, OH | isbn = 1-57477-133-7 | page = 1.12]

Construction begins

The Hanford Engineer Works (HEW) broke ground in March 1943 and immediately launched a massive and technically challenging construction project.cite web | last=Oldham | first=Kit | title=Construction of massive plutonium production complex at Hanford begins in March 1943 | work=History Link | url=http://www.historylink.org/essays/output.cfm?file_id=5363 | date=2003-03-05 | accessdate=2008-04-06] Nearly 50,000 workers lived in a construction camp near the old Hanford townsite, while administrators and engineers lived in the government town established at Richland Village.cite book | last = Thayer | first = H. | title = Management of the Hanford Engineer Works in World War II | publisher = American Society of Civil Engineers Press | year = 1996 | location = New York, NY] Construction of the nuclear facilities proceeded rapidly. Before the end of the war in August 1945, the HEW built 554 buildings at Hanford, including three nuclear reactors (105-B, 105-D, and 105-F) and three plutonium processing canyons (221-T, 221-B, and 221-U), each convert|250|m|foot|0 long.

To receive the radioactive wastes from the chemical separations process, the HEW built "tank farms" consisting of 64 single-shell underground waste tanks (241-B, 241-C, 241-T, and 241-U). [cite book | last = Hanford Cultural Resources Program, U.S. Department of Energy | title = Hanford Site Historic District: History of the Plutonium Production Facilities, 1943-1990 | publisher = Battelle Press | year = 2002 | location = Columbus, OH | isbn = 1-57477-133-7 | page = 1.21–1.23] The project required convert|386|mi|km|0 of roads, convert|158|mi|km|0 of railway, and four electrical substations. The HEW used 780,000 cubic yards (600,000 m³) of concrete and 40,000 short tons (36,300 MT) of structural steel and consumed $230 million between 1943 and 1946. [cite book | last = Gerber | first = Michele | title = On the Home Front: The Cold War Legacy of the Hanford Nuclear Site | publisher = University of Nebraska Press | year = 2002 | location = Lincoln, NE | edition=2nd Ed. | isbn=0803271018 | page = 35–36]

Plutonium production

The B-Reactor (105-B) at Hanford was the first large-scale plutonium production reactor in the world. It was designed and built by DuPont based on an experimental design by Enrico Fermi, and originally operated at 250 megawatts. The reactor was graphite moderated and water cooled. It consisted of a 28- by 36-foot (8.5- by 11-meter), 1,200-ton graphite cylinder lying on its side, penetrated through its entire length horizontally by 2,004 aluminum tubes.cite book | last = Hanford Cultural Resources Program, U.S. Department of Energy | title = Hanford Site Historic District: History of the Plutonium Production Facilities, 1943-1990 | publisher = Battelle Press | year = 2002 | location = Columbus, OH | isbn = 1-57477-133-7 | page = 1.15, 1.30] nowrap|Two hundred short tons (181 MT) of uranium slugs the size of rolls of quarters and sealed in aluminum cans went into the tubes. Cooling water was pumped through the aluminum tubes around the uranium slugs at the rate of convert|30000|USgal|L per minute.Construction on the B-Reactor began in August 1943 and was completed just over a year later, on September 13, 1944. The reactor went critical in late September and, after overcoming nuclear poisoning, produced its first plutonium on November 6, 1944. [cite book | last = Hanford Cultural Resources Program, U.S. Department of Energy | title = Hanford Site Historic District: History of the Plutonium Production Facilities, 1943-1990 | publisher = Battelle Press | year = 2002 | location = Columbus, OH | isbn = 1-57477-133-7 | page = 1.22–1.27] Plutonium was produced in the Hanford reactors when a Uranium-238 atom in a fuel slug absorbed a neutron to form Uranium-239. U-239 rapidly undergoes beta decay to form Neptunium-239, which rapidly undergoes a second beta decay to form Plutonium-239. The irradiated fuel slugs were transported by rail to three huge remotely operated chemical separation plants called "canyons" that were located about convert|10|mi|km|0 away. A series of chemical processing steps separated the small amount of plutonium that was produced from the remaining uranium and the fission waste products. This first batch of plutonium was refined in the 221-T plant from December 26, 1944, to February 2, 1945, and delivered to the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico on February 5, 1945. [cite book | last=Findlay | first=John | coauthors=Bruce Hevly | title=Nuclear Technologies and Nuclear Communities: A History of Hanford and the Tri-Cities, 1943-1993 | Publisher=Hanford History Project, Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest, University of Washington | place=Seattle, WA | year=1995 | page=50]

Two identical reactors, the D-Reactor and the F-reactor, came online in December 1944 and February 1945, respectively. By April 1945, shipments of plutonium were headed to Los Alamos every five days, and Hanford soon provided enough material for the bombs tested at Trinity and dropped over Nagasaki. [cite book | last = Hanford Cultural Resources Program, U.S. Department of Energy | title = Hanford Site Historic District: History of the Plutonium Production Facilities, 1943-1990 | publisher = Battelle Press | year = 2002 | location = Columbus, OH | isbn = 1-57477-133-7 | page = 1.27] Throughout this period, the Manhattan Project maintained a top secret classification. Until news arrived of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, fewer than one percent of Hanford's workers knew they were working on a nuclear weapons project. [cite book | last = Hanford Cultural Resources Program, U.S. Department of Energy | title = Hanford Site Historic District: History of the Plutonium Production Facilities, 1943-1990 | publisher = Battelle Press | year = 2002 | location = Columbus, OH | isbn = 1-57477-133-7 | page = 1.22] General Groves noted in his memoirs that "We made certain that each member of the project thoroughly understood his part in the total effort; that, and nothing more." [cite book | last = Groves | first = Leslie | title = Now It Can Be Told: The Story of the Manhattan Project | publisher = Da Capo Press | year = 1983 | location = New York, NY | page = xv]

Technological innovations

In the short time frame of the Manhattan Project, Hanford engineers produced many significant technological advances. As no one had ever built an industrial-scale reactor before, scientists were unsure how much heat would be generated by fission during normal operations. Seeking the greatest margin of error, DuPont engineers installed ammonia-based refrigeration systems with the D and F reactors to further chill the river water before its use as reactor coolant. [cite book | last = Sanger | first = S. L. | title = Working on the Bomb: an Oral History of WWII Hanford | publisher = Continuing Education Press, Portland State University | place = Portland, Oregon | page = 70]

Another issue the engineers struggled with was how to deal with radioactive contamination. Once the canyons began processing irradiated slugs, the machinery would become so radioactive that it would be unsafe for humans ever to come in contact with it. The engineers therefore had to devise methods to allow for the replacement of any component via remote control. They came up with a modular cell concept, which allowed major components to be removed and replaced by an operator sitting in a heavily shielded overhead crane. This method required early practical application of two technologies that later gained widespread use: Teflon, used as a gasket material, and closed-circuit television, used to give the crane operator a better view of the process. [cite book | last = Sanger | first = S. L. | title = Working on the Bomb: an Oral History of WWII Hanford | publisher = Continuing Education Press, Portland State University | place = Portland, Oregon | page = interview with Generaux]

Cold War expansion

In September 1946, the General Electric Company assumed management of the Hanford Works under the supervision of the newly created Atomic Energy Commission. As the Cold War began, the United States faced a new strategic threat in the rise of the Soviet nuclear weapons program. In August 1947, the Hanford Works announced funding for the construction of two new weapons reactors and research leading to the development of a new chemical separations process. With this announcement, Hanford entered a new phase of expansion. [cite book | last = Hanford Cultural Resources Program, U.S. Department of Energy | title = Hanford Site Historic District: History of the Plutonium Production Facilities, 1943-1990 | publisher = Battelle Press | year = 2002 | location = Columbus, OH | isbn = 1-57477-133-7 | page = 1.42–45]

By 1963, the Hanford Site was home to nine nuclear reactors along the Columbia River, five reprocessing plants on the central plateau, and more than 900 support buildings and radiological laboratories around the site. Extensive modifications and upgrades were made to the original three World War II reactors, and a total of 177 underground waste tanks were built. Hanford was at its peak production from 1956 to 1965. Over the entire 40 years of operations, the site produced about convert|63|ST|MT|0 of plutonium, supplying the majority of the 60,000 weapons in the U.S. arsenal.

Decommissioning

Most of the reactors were shut down between 1964 and 1971, with an average individual life span of 22 years. The last reactor, the N-reactor, continued to operate as a dual-purpose reactor, being both a power reactor used to feed the civilian electrical grid via the Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS) and a plutonium production reactor for nuclear weapons. The N-Reactor operated until 1987. Since then, most of the Hanford reactors have been entombed ("cocooned") to allow the radioactive materials to decay, and the surrounding structures have been removed and buried. [cite web | publisher = City of Richland | title = Cocooning Hanford Reactors | date = 2003-12-02 |url=http://www.ci.richland.wa.us/richland/hanford/index.cfm?PageNum=12 | accessdate=2008-01-31] The B-Reactor has not been cocooned and is accessible to the public on occasional guided tours. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992,NRHP site #92000245. cite web|url=http://www.nr.nps.gov/|title=National Register Information System|date=2007-01-23|work=National Register of Historic Places|publisher=National Park Service|accessdate = 2008-04-06| (See also the commercial site [http://www.nationalregisterofhistoricplaces.com/wa/Benton/state.html National Register of Historic Places] .)] and some historians advocate converting it into a museum. [cite web | publisher = B Reactor Museum Association | title = B-Reactor Museum Association | month = January | year = 2008 | url = http://www.b-reactor.org | accessdate = 2007-01-29] [cite news | title=Big Step Toward B Reactor Preservation | publisher=KNDO/KNDU News | url=http://www.kndu.com/Global/story.asp?s=8007629 | date=2008-03-12 | accessdate=2008-04-06] B reactor was given "Landmark Status" in 2008, being designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service. [Chemical & Engineering News Vol. 86 No. 35, 1 Sept. 2008, "Hanford's B Reactor gets LANDMARK Status", p. 37]

Contemporary Hanford

The United States Department of Energy assumed control of the Hanford Site in 1977. Although uranium enrichment and plutonium breeding were slowly phased out, the nuclear legacy left an indelible mark on the Tri-Cities. Since World War II, the area had developed from a small farming community to a booming "Atomic Frontier" to a powerhouse of the nuclear-industrial complex. [cite book | last = Hevly | first = Bruce | coauthors = John Findlay | title = The Atomic West | publisher = University of Washington Press | year = 1998 | location = Seattle, WA] Decades of federal investment created a community of highly skilled scientists and engineers. As a result of this concentration of specialized skills, the Hanford site was able to diversify its operations to include scientific research, test facilities, and commercial nuclear power production.

Some of the facilities currently located at the Hanford Site:

* The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, owned by the Department of Energy and operated by Battelle Memorial Institute
* The Fast Flux Test Facility (FFTF), a national research facility in operation from 1980 to 1992 (in cold standby as of 2007)
* LIGO's Hanford Observatory, an interferometer searching for gravitational waves
* Columbia Generating Station, a commercial nuclear power plant operated by Energy Northwest.

Environmental concerns

A huge volume of water from the Columbia River was required to dissipate the heat produced by Hanford's nuclear reactors. From 1944 to 1971, pump systems drew cooling water from the river and, after treating this water for use by the reactors, returned it to the river. Before being released back into the river, the used water was held in large tanks known as retention basins for up to six hours. Longer-lived isotopes were not affected by this retention, and several terabecquerels entered the river every day. By 1957, the eight plutonium production reactors at Hanford dumped a daily average of 50,000 curies of radioactive material into the Columbia. [cite web | publisher = Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility | title = Hanford History | url = http://www.wpsr.org/history/ | accessdate = 2007-01-29] These releases were kept secret by the federal government. Radiation was later measured downstream as far west as the Washington and Oregon coasts. [cite news | title = Radiation Flowed 200 Miles to Sea, Study Finds | work = The New York Times | url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0CE0D8173FF934A25754C0A964958260 | date = July 17, 1992 | accessdate = 2007-01-29]

The plutonium separation process also resulted in the release of radioactive isotopes into the air, which were carried by the wind throughout southeastern Washington and into parts of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and British Columbia. Downwinders were exposed to radionuclides, particularly iodine-131, with the heaviest releases during the period from 1945 to 1951. These radionuclides filtered into the food chain via contaminated fields where dairy cows grazed; hazardous fallout was ingested by communities who consumed the radioactive food and drank the milk. Most of these airborne releases were a part of Hanford's routine operations, while a few of the larger releases occurred in isolated incidents. In 1949, an intentional release known as the "Green Run" released 8,000 curies of iodine-131 over two days. [cite book | last = Gerber | first = Michele | title = On the Home Front: The Cold War Legacy of the Hanford Nuclear Site | publisher = University of Nebraska Press | year = 2002 | location = Lincoln, NE | edition=2nd Ed. | isbn=0803271018 | page=78–80] Another source of contaminated food came from Columbia River fish, an impact felt disproportionately by Native American communities who depended on the river for their customary diets.

Beginning in the 1960s, scientists with the U.S. Public Health Service published reports about radioactivity released from Hanford, and there were protests from the health departments of Oregon and Washington. By February 1986, mounting citizen pressure forced the Department of Energy to release to the public 19,000 pages of previously unavailable historical documents about Hanford’s operations. The Washington State Department of Health collaborated with the citizen-led Hanford Health Information Network (HHIN) to publicize data about the health effects of Hanford’s operations. HHIN reports concluded that residents who lived downwind from Hanford or who used the Columbia River downstream were exposed to elevated doses of radiation that placed them at increased risk for various cancers and other diseases. A class-action lawsuit brought by two thousand Hanford downwinders against the federal government has been in the court system for many years. [ [http://www.downwinders.com Hanford Downwinders Litigation Website] . Downwinders.com. Retrieved on 2008-04-06.] The first six plaintiffs went to trial in 2005, in a bellwether trial to test the legal issues applying to the remaining plaintiffs in the suit. [cite news | last=McClure | first=Robert | title = Downwinders' court win seen as 'great victory' | work = Seattle Post-Intelligencer | url=http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/225306_downwinders21.html | date = May 21, 2005 | accessdate = 2007-01-29]

Cleanup era

In 1989, the Washington Department of Ecology, the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Energy entered into the Tri-Party Agreement, which provides a legal framework for environmental remediation at Hanford. The agencies are currently engaged in the world's largest environmental cleanup, with many challenges to be resolved in the face of overlapping technical, political, regulatory, and cultural interests. The cleanup effort is focused on three outcomes: restoring the Columbia River corridor for other uses, converting the central plateau to long-term waste treatment and storage, and preparing for the future. [cite web | publisher=United States Department of Energy | title = Hanford Site Tour Script | month = October | year = 2007| url = http://www.hanford.gov/hanford/files/PublicTourScript.pdf |format=PDF| accessdate = 2007-01-29] The cleanup effort is managed by the Department of Energy under the oversight of the two regulatory agencies. A citizen-led Hanford Advisory Board provides recommendations from community stakeholders, including local and state governments, regional environmental organizations, business interests, and Native American tribes. [cite web | publisher=United States Department of Energy | title = Hanford Site: Hanford Advisory Board | url = http://www.hanford.gov/?page=397 | accessdate = 2007-01-29] In recent years, the federal government has spent about $2 billion annually on the Hanford project. About 11,000 workers are on site to consolidate, clean up, and mitigate waste, contaminated buildings, and contaminated soil. Originally scheduled to be complete within thirty years, the cleanup was less than half finished by 2008.cite news | last=Stiffler | first=Lisa | title=Troubled Hanford cleanup has state mulling lawsuit | publisher = Seattle Post-Intelligencer | url=http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/355924_hanford21.html | date= March 20, 2008 | accessdate=2008-05-08]

While major releases of radioactive material ended with the reactor shutdown in the 1970s, parts of the Hanford site remain heavily contaminated. Many of the most dangerous wastes are contained, but there are concerns about contaminated groundwater headed toward the Columbia River. There are also continued concerns about workers' health and safety.

The most significant challenge at Hanford is stabilizing the 53 million U.S. gallons (204,000 m³) of high-level radioactive waste stored in 177 underground tanks. About a third of these tanks have leaked waste into the soil and groundwater. [cite news |last=Wald |first=Matthew |title=Panel Details Management Flaws at Hanford Nuclear Waste Site |work=The New York Times | url=http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F04E3D71638F935A25752C0A96E958260 |date=January 16, 1998 | accessdate = 2007-01-29] As of 2008, most of the liquid waste has been transferred to more secure double-shelled tanks; however, 2.8 million US gallons (10,599 m³) of liquid waste, together with 27 million US gallons (102,206 m³) of salt cake and sludge, remains in the single-shelled tanks. That waste was originally scheduled to be removed by 2018. The revised deadline is 2040. Nearby aquifers contain an estimated 270 billion US gallons (1 billion m³) of contaminated groundwater as a result of the leaks.cite news |last=Wolman |first=David|title=Fission Trip |work=Wired Magazine |date=April 2007
page=78
] As of 2008, 1 million US gallons (3,785 m³) of highly radioactive waste is traveling through the groundwater toward the Columbia River. This waste is expected to reach the river in 12 to 50 years if cleanup does not proceed on schedule. The site also includes 25 million cubic feet (707,921 m³) of solid radioactive waste.

Under the Tri-Party Agreement, lower-level hazardous wastes are buried in huge lined pits that will be sealed and monitored with sophisticated instruments for many years. Disposal of plutonium and other high-level wastes is a more difficult problem that continues to be a subject of intense debate. As an example, plutonium has a half-life of 24,100 years, and a decay of ten half-lives is required before a sample is considered to be safe. [cite paper | first = Laura A. | last = Hanson | publisher = University of Idaho | title = Radioactive Waste Contamination of Soil and Groundwater at the Hanford Site | date = November 2000 | url = http://www.agls.uidaho.edu/etox/resources/case_studies/HANFORD.PDF |format=PDF| accessdate = 2008-01-31] [cite book | last = Gephart | first = Roy | title = Hanford: A Conversation About Nuclear Waste and Cleanup | publisher = Battelle Press | year = 2003 | location = Columbus, OH | isbn = 1-57477-134-5] The Department of Energy is currently building a vitrification plant on the Hanford site. Vitrification is a method designed to combine these dangerous wastes with glass to render them stable. Bechtel, the San Francisco based construction and engineering firm, has been hired to construct the vitrification plant, which is currently estimated to cost approximately $12 billion. Construction began in 2001. After some delays, the plant is now scheduled to be operational in 2019, with vitrification completed in 2047. It was originally scheduled to be operational by 2011, with vitrification completed by 2028. [cite news | last=Dininny | first=Shannon | title = Hanford plant now $12.2 billion | work = Seattle Post-Intelligencer | url=http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/284334_hanford08.html | date = September 8, 2006 | accessdate = 2007-01-29]

In May 2007, state and federal officials began closed-door negotiations about the possibility of extending legal cleanup deadlines for waste vitrification in exchange for shifting the focus of the cleanup to urgent priorities, such as groundwater remediation. Those talks stalled in October. In early 2008, the Bush administration proposed a $600 million cut to the Hanford cleanup budget. Washington state officials expressed concern about the budget cuts, as well as missed deadlines and recent safety lapses at the site, and threatened to file a lawsuit alleging that the Department of Energy is in violation of environmental laws. They appeared to step back from that threat in April after another meeting of federal and state officials resulted in progress toward a tentative agreement. [cite news | url=http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/environment/archives/135723.asp | title=State steps back from brink of Hanford suit | last=Stiffler | first=Lisa | publisher=Seattle Post-Intelligencer | date=April 3, 2008 | accessdate=2008-05-08]

ite Tours

According to the Department of Energy website, there are tours of Hanford. Dates are posted on a website and are limited to U.S. citizens. Tours are expected to bring up to 2,000 people to the site. Many sites including Reactor B are visited during the tour [ [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24666721/ Nuclear tourism: Hanford lures visitors - US and Canada - MSNBC.com ] ] .

Historic photos

References

External links

* [http://www.hanford.gov Official Hanford website] Department of Energy
* [http://hanford-site.pnl.gov/envreport/ Hanford Site Environmental Report] Detailed annual report on radioactive concentrations measured at the Hanford site
* [http://www.hanfordnews.com Hanford News] Current news from the "Tri-City Herald"
* [http://www.atomicheritage.org Atomic Heritage Foundation] Historic Preservation of Manhattan Project Sites at Hanford
* [http://www.b-reactor.org/ B Reactor Museum Association] A collection of Hanford-related documents from a group fighting to preserve the B-100 Reactor at Hanford
* [http://www.hoanw.org Heart of America Northwest] Hanford watchdog group, based in Seattle
* [http://www.hanfordchallenge.org/ Hanford Challenge] Hanford watchdog group, based in Seattle
* [http://alsos.wlu.edu/qsearch.aspx?browse=places/Hanford,+Washington Annotated bibliography for the Hanford site] The Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues


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